You might not be a polyglot (yet), but in the 21st century, the language barrier is barely a barrier at all. And now, assisting in our communication efforts is Skype, which announced Tuesday that it has added Arabic to its Skype Translator. This means that there are now a total of eight languages that the video chatting service can automatically translate as you converse — the other seven are English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish.
Given that Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world, its addition to the Skype service is a major milestone for the company, which has been working on its Translator since 2014. In a blog post announcement, the Skype team notes that while “each of Skype Translator’s language releases has been very important … bringing us one step closer to breaking down language barriers for people across the world … The Arabic language release is especially important.” This, the company says, is the result of the diversity among the Arabic-speaking population across the globe.
While there are many different dialects of Arabic, Skype Translator will support Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), considered “a standard form of the Arabic language.” Understood throughout the Arab-speaking world and utilized in both written and formal communications, MSA is “taught in schools and used by journalists,” Skype notes, making it the natural choice for translation purposes.
Currently, the language support feature is available only to Skype for Windows users, so if you’re a Mac enthusiast, you’re going to have to sit this one out for a while longer. But even Windows patrons may not be fully satisfied with the translations at present. As Jordan Novet of Venturebeat noted in his trial of the service, “… when [an Arabic speaker] was trying to say, ‘I have some work to do,’ the translation at first came out, ‘I have a bad worker.'” That said, Novet continues, “With enough patience, I usually got the message.”