Microsoft Previews Translating Tool

March 6, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. language barrier /ˈlæŋ gwɪdʒ ˈbær i ər/ (n.) – a difficulty in communication due to the difference in language used
ExampleLanguage barrier is a common problem faced by multi-cultural families.

2. translator /trænsˈleɪ tər/ (n.) – a program that changes words from a foreign language to one’s native language
Example: I installed a translator on my smartphone.

3. contact /ˈkɒn tækt/ (n.) – a person one often communicates with
Example She’s one of the contacts in my phonebook.

4. sneak peek /snik pik/ (n.) – a chance to view something before its official release
Example: The developers released a sneak peek of the new software a month before its launching.

5. mishear /mɪsˈhɪər/ (v.) – to fail in hearing the words correctly
Example: He misheard the teacher’s instructions and submitted a different assignment.


Read the text below.
A new translator program for Skype aims to decrease problems on language barriers.

In December 2014, Microsoft launched the preview version of Skype Translator. The software makes conversations with foreign language speakers possible by translating a user’s voice input into text and audio.

Currently, the program is still in its early stages. The audio translation for the preview version features only Spanish and English. However, instant messaging conversations can be translated to more than 40 languages. Users just have to select the native language of their contacts before starting a conversation. People can avail a trial of the program by requesting an invite on Skype’s website.

In July 2014, Microsoft’s team gave a sneak peek of the program’s capability. The video featured Skype conversations between elementary students in Mexico and those in the United States. The kids were able to exchange questions and answers seamlessly despite the difference in languages used.

New York Times tech reporter Quentin Hardy wrote a review about Skype Translator Preview. He used the program to talk with his friend in Colombia. Their conversation had a difficult start because of the words misheard by the computer. But as the conversation went on, Hardy noted that the software had improved its voice recognition.

A month after the preview of Skype Translator was released, Google launched an update of its translator app for mobile. Google Translate now allows instant speech-to-text translation of known languages. The software can translate text into more than 90 languages. Also, the app can now translate text found on digital photos.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you like to be tutored using Skype Translator? Why or why not?
·         How do you think the program will affect language schools?

Discussion B

·         What are the advantages of learning multiple languages?
·         If you were to invent a new technology that can solve the problem on language barriers, what would it be? Briefly describe your invention.

March 6, 2015