Microsoft Translator has released Levantine, an Arabic dialect spoken in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, as its latest AI-powered speech translation language. It will help businesses, educators, travelers, and non-profits communicate across the language barrier with Levantine speakers during meetings, presentations, and Skype calls.



credit: Photo of Beit ed-Dine in Lebanon by Oida666 from Wikimedia Commons

Levantine, our 11th speech language, is a spoken dialect of Arabic which has over 32 million native speakers. Since it’s a spoken language that is rarely written, it lacks the large amount of parallel data required to train a usable machine translation system. As with any AI system, without the appropriate amount of data to train the neural machine translation model, the system won’t be able to produce translations that are good enough for real-life use.

However, our researchers developed a novel approach which utilizes monolingual data to train a system for any spoken dialect. This allowed the team to build a working Levantine to English translation system despite this lack of parallel data.



“We adapted a system trained on standard Arabic-to-English translation to be used on a spoken Arabic dialect (Levantine) using only monolingual data of the spoken dialect. We developed an approach to generate synthetic parallel data from monolingual data.” - Hany-Hassan Awadalla, Principal Research Scientist

Levantine is now available as a supported speech translation language through the Translator apps, Presentation Translator for PowerPoint, the Skype Translator feature in Skype for Windows 10, and the unified Speech translation service, an Azure Cognitive Service. With this service, developers can also customize speech transcriptions, translations, and text-to-speech, before integrating them into their apps, workflows, and websites.

Recently, Microsoft has partnered with the No Lost Generation Tech Task Force, led by NetHope, and one of its members - Norwegian Refugee Council - to co-create an AI-powered solution linking youth affected by Syrian and Iraqi conflicts with educational resources. Their goal is to enable conflict-affected youth to discover and access learning resources anywhere and anytime.

“Many of the conflict-affected youth lack access to learning resources which restricts their opportunities for higher education and dignified work. Levantine support in Microsoft Translator opens up opportunities for them to learn in their native language through real-time translation of online courses and remote mentoring." - Leila Toplic, NLG Tech Task Force Lead, NetHope

Start and join live, multilingual conversations with up to 100 people

Using the Translator app’s live conversation feature, users can have live, real-time conversations with people who speak other languages, on their own device, in their chosen language.

Let’s say you’re a Lebanese business person travelling to Italy and want to have a conversation with an Italian partner. You can speak Levantine into your phone or PC, and the Levantine audio will be translated into Italian text and speech on your partner’s phone or PC. This also works in reverse: the Italian speaker can speak into their device and have real-time multilingual conversations, and the listener receives the response in Arabic. This scenario is not limited to two devices or two languages. It can support up to 100 devices, across 11 speech translation languages, and over 60 text translation languages. To learn more about the Translator live feature go to http://translate.it or watch this how-to video.

Use your phone as a personal, Levantine translator

Levantine speakers can also have translated, bilingual conversations using only one device by tapping the microphone icon and using the split-screen conversation feature in the app. Simply select your speech languages, German and Levantine for instance, and use the app’s microphone button to speak in your chosen language. Translated text appears on the split-screen in each language.

Download the Microsoft Translator app.

Present in PowerPoint in Levantine and add translated subtitles in over 60 languages

Presentation Translator allows users to offer live, subtitled presentations straight from PowerPoint. As you speak, the add-in powered by the Microsoft Translator live feature, allows you to display subtitles directly on your PowerPoint presentation in any one of more than 60 supported text languages. This feature can also be used for audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Additionally, up to 100 audience members in the room can follow along with the presentation in their own language, including the speaker’s language, on their phone, tablet or computer. This can also be used with the presenter’s language to support accessibility scenarios.

For example, if you’re presenting to a Levantine speaking audience and speak Spanish, you can choose Spanish as your speech translation language, and Arabic as the subtitle language. As you speak Spanish, your words will get translated to Arabic subtitling in real-time on the screen.

Levantine speakers can now also join and use their phone to ask questions, in Levantine, once the presenter unmutes the audience. This feature is useful for Q&A sessions after a presentation.
If there are audience members who speak other languages, they can follow along with the presentation in their chosen language in the Translator app or at http://translate.it.

API for Developers: Speech translations with the unified Speech services (preview)

Levantine is also available for developers through the Azure Cognitive Services Speech service. In addition to using the default speech translation models from Levantine, developers can also customize speech transcriptions and translation models using the Custom Speech (http://customspeech.ai) and Custom Translator (http://customtranslator.ai) services.

Developers can then easily integrate speech translation into their apps using the new speech SDK available in several popular programming languages.

To learn more about Microsoft Translator for business, visit the Microsoft Translator site.

Source: Microsoft Translator launches Levantine Arabic as a new speech translation language Translator