Skype Translator can now call mobiles and landlines

12 Dec 2016

Woman using mobile phone. Image: mimagephotography/Shutterstock

Skype is beginning to threaten the livelihoods of translators, as it reveals that from today, it is rolling out live translating for calls from PCs to mobiles and landlines.

It is almost two years to the day that Microsoft unveiled Skype Translator, allowing people who speak two different languages to communicate with a digital assistant that would be able to translate each other’s conversations on the fly.

Despite gradually introducing improvements – such as new language options – the service never reached widespread use, as it required both people to talk using a desktop or laptop computer.

But now the Skype team has unveiled its latest update, in what it hopes will enable more practical use for those who might want to contact regions of the world where internet access is limited, but standard phone access isn’t.

In a blog post, Skype has said that those signed up to the Windows Insider Program and who have Skype Preview can now call a person’s mobile or landline, and Skype’s software will translate what both parties are saying.

For the person answering the call on a mobile or landline, they will be notified that their call is being recorded and translated.

Additionally, a person can start a call if someone is a Skype contact with a mobile or landline stored in the profile.

Nine languages available

However, the person making the call must be on a desktop computer and must also have Skype credit in order to make calls to non-Skype numbers.

So far, nine languages are supported through Skype Translate including: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic, and Russian.

As the translation software relies on machine learning, Skype has advised people making the call to wear a headset to improve its ability to learn languages faster.

“The more Skype Translator is used, the higher the quality of translations,” the blog said.

“We’re excited about this next milestone as it expands to getting more people using Skype Translator.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic