An American Point Of View

Skype Languages Away, Star Trek Style

skype translator

Remember that time you got 35 unwanted phone calls from Russian bots, on Skype, because you accidentally went to sleep leaving the Skype window open (and how do you even change Skype settings anyway?) I know I do, I also know I have yet to figure out how to turn those annoying notifications off. Soon enough, those bots will be able to blow yours and my mind away by telling us all there is to know about their virtual legs, in a language that we would probably understand. Ours, that is! All thanks to a new tool the was announced earlier this year: Skype Translator.

At the moment, Skype Translator is available in English and Spanish. What does that mean exactly? Well, if you can’t speak Spanish, but really really want to impress that guy you met during your experience as an exchange weekend warrior in Tijuana with something more than your moves, great news for you: now you can! You can skype with him in English and, at the same time, a voice will translate what you say in Spanish, vice versa, what is said in Spanish will be translated in English, making a potential idilliac love possible, while you find ways to actually learn Spanish.

Not only will your live call be translated, but also transcripted. So, the words you’re saying will be transcripted first and then immediately translated. Too shy to call? Just use the Skype text service that will allow you to pretend to speak over 40 languages. It does sound cool, doesn’t it?

How could that be applied to real life though? Not everybody is a Tijuana weekend warrior and, all jokes aside, not everybody is interested in speaking with people they couldn’t normally talk to, using Skype. By everybody, I mean I probably wouldn’t be interested. Sure, it could definitely be fascinating to speak to your foreign in laws and finally understand them for a change, but, besides that, how could this tool be used to improve everyday quality of life?

Skype Translator could be the future of business conversations, making the figure of a live translator actually obsolete. That also means, though, the accuracy of Skype Translator would be even more fundamental, than it would be during the translation of a pleasure conversation. Doubts are, indeed, arisen when it comes to the accuracy of such a tool, that wouldn’t be able to keep track of necessary conversation elements, like facial expressions, tone of voice and so on. At least that’s what Mark Ballam, head of CIBER, at San Diego State University, told techmagazine TechNewsWorld. So, could Skype Translator actually replace a real translator? Personally, I find it hard to believe.

Gurdeep Poll, VP of Skype and Lync, claims Skype might not be the smartest translator there is as of now, but it will become stronger and stronger, learning more and more, as more people start using it, thanks to data that are collected while conversations happen. In conclusion, conversations are stored, analyzed and later matched with words. Do you think Skype Translator would catch your accent? I have doubts it would catch mine.

Skype Translator is currently available for users of Windows 8.1, the latest version of Microsoft Windows and, if you’re really dying to try it, you can register as a preview user on Skype’s website and let me know if it’s really worth it. In case it is, I will try to find a Spanish speaking bot from Tijuana to talk to when my Skype rings in the middle of the night and I have nothing better to do.

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