The Internet is of course amazing if you want to send messages across borders. But different languages can still put a wrinkle in your conversational flow, even with all the handy translation apps also on tap to help turn zut alors into shucks!
So Microsoft -owned SwiftKey is probably still onto something with a new feature launching today in its Android app that bakes two-way translation right into the keyboard — which should save a lot of tedious copy-pasting, at least if you’re frequently conversing across language barriers.
It’s not clear whether the translation feature will be coming to SwiftKey on iOS too (we’ve asked and will update with any additional details).
Microsoft Translator is the underlying technology powering the core linguistic automagic. So SwiftKey’s parent is intimately involved in this feature addition.
Microsoft’s tech does continue to exist in a standalone app form too, though. And that app is getting a cross-promotional push, via the SwiftKey addition, with the company touting an added benefit for users if they install Microsoft Translator — as the keyboard translation feature will then work offline.
(SwiftKey had some 300M active users at the time of its acquisition by Microsoft, three years ago, so the size of that promotional push for Translator is potentially pretty large.)
The translation option is being added to SwiftKey via a relatively recently launched Toolbar that lets users customize the keyboard — such as by adding stickers, location or calendar.
To access the Toolbar (and the various add-ons nested within it) users tap on the ‘+’ in the upper left corner.
With translation enabled, users of the next word predicting keyboard can then switch between input and output languages to turn incoming missives from one of more than 60 languages into another tongue at the tap of a button, as well as translate their outgoing replies back the other way without needing to know how to write in that other language.
Supported languages include Italian, Spanish, Germany, Russian and Turkish, to name a few.
And while the machine translation technology is doing away with the immediate need for human foreign language expertise, there’s at least a chance app users will learn a bit as they go along — i.e. as they watch their words get rendered in another tongue right before their eyes.
As tech magic goes, translation is hard to beat. Even though machine translation can often still be very rough round the edges. But here, for helping with everyday chatting on mobile messaging apps, there’s no doubt it will be a great help.
Commenting on the new feature in a statement, Colleen Hall, senior product manager at SwiftKey, said: “The integration of Microsoft Translator into SwiftKey is a great, natural fit, enhancing the raft of language-focused features we know our users love to use.”