Corvinus Executive MBA

Executive MBA at Corvinus University of's all about excellence

Translating Still Uniquely Human

2014. december 18. - Kevin Jackson

Microsoft’s purchase of Skype for a hefty $8.5 billion back in 2011 left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why? Fast forward to today where Microsoft and Skype have announced the launch of software capable of translating languages in real time. Could it be that learning languages in the future won’t be necessary? Not so fast….

Skype created a pretty cool video of school kids in the U.S. using the translator to talk directly to school kids in Mexico ( This translator currently only works for two spoken languages, English and Spanish, but additional languages will be available in 2015. More than 40 instant messaging languages, however, are available to those who have signed up for the Skype translator package and use Windows 8.1 on their desktops or devices. There is always a catch.

With all of the hype surrounding Skype and its real time translator, it is easy to forget how amazing the human brain actually is. Neuroscientists for decades have been trying to understand how the human brain is able to perform simultaneous translation. It turns out that the human brain is capable of coordinating the activities of different parts of the brain in a highly efficient way. Some translators are actually able to do simultaneous translations and a crossword puzzle at the same time. There are some tricks that come into play, however, like the ability to predict what a person will say before they say it. The human brain, nonetheless, possesses incredible abilities that are constantly evolving.

Is it time for us to stop using our brains, kick up our feet, and rely on translators to do our talking for us? Not even close. The Skype translator is a useful development that can help facilitate a dialogue between those who do not speak each other’s languages. There are so many other factors, however, that influence communication besides word-for-word translations. This tool should be seen more as an inspiration to learn a language rather than not.

For more information on the Skype’s translator and the human brain, please refer to the following articles:

Inside the Weird Brains of Real-Time Translators, Gizmodo, Geoff Watts, Mosaic, November 19th, 2014 (   

Skype Translator Preview – An Exciting Journey to a New Chapter in Communication, Skype Blog, Gurdeep Pall, December 15th, 2014 (

Skype's newest app will translate your speech in real time, The Verge, Tom Warren, December 15th, 2014, (

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