Logo and favicon of Microsoft Translator, which appears along the title in the web browser
Type of site
Microsoft Translator is a multilingual machine translation cloud service provided by Microsoft. The Microsoft Translator API is integrated across multiple consumer, developer, and enterprise products; including Bing, Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Lync, Yammer, Skype Translator, Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Translator apps for Windows, Windows Phone, iPhone and Apple Watch, and Android phone and Android Wear.
Microsoft Translator also offers text and speech translation through a cloud API as a service for businesses. Service for text translation ranges from a free tier supporting two million characters per month to paid tiers supporting billions of characters per month. The speech translation API, released in March 2016, is offered based on time of the audio stream and ranges from a free tier of 2 hours per month to paid tiers of up to 100 of hours per month.
The service supports 60 language systems as of September 2017. It also supports 10 speech translation systems that currently power Skype Translator and Skype for Windows Desktop, and the Microsoft Translator Apps for iOS and Android.
The first version of Microsoft’s machine translation system was developed between 1999 and 2000 within Microsoft Research. This system was based on semantic predicate-argument structures known as logical forms (LF), and was spun from the grammar correction feature developed for Microsoft Word. This system was eventually used to translate the entire Microsoft Knowledge Base into Spanish, French, German, and Japanese.
Microsoft’s approach to machine translation, like most of current modern machine translation systems, is “data-driven” —rather than relying on writing explicit rules to translate natural language, algorithms are trained to understand and interpret translated parallel texts, allowing them to automatically learn how to translate new natural language text. Microsoft’s experience with the LF-system led directly to a treelet translation system which simplified the LF to dependency trees, and eventually to an order template model which led to significant improvements in speed and the incorporation of new target languages.
The consumer-facing translation site known as Bing Translator (previously known as Windows Live translator) was launched in 2007 and provides free text and website translations on the web. Text is translated directly within the Bing Translator webpage while websites are translated through the Bilingual Viewer tools.
In 2011, the service was extended to include numerous Microsoft Translator products through a cloud-based API, which supports products available to both consumer and enterprise users. An additional speech translation capability was introduced in March 2016.
Translation methodology and research
Microsoft Translator uses machine translation to create instantaneous translations from one natural language to another. This system is based on four distinct areas of computer learning research seen below.
|Type of Learning||Impact on Translation|
|Neural Networks||Neural networks try to mimic how the brain works to translate between languages. At a high-level, neural network translation works in two stages. First, a first stage models the word that needs to be translated based on the context of this word (and its possible translations) within the full sentence. Second, the neural network translates this word model (not the word itself but the model the neural networks built of it), within the context of the sentence, into the other language.|
|Syntax-Based SMT||Syntax-based translation is based on the idea of translating syntactic units, rather than a word or string of words. Microsoft has used Syntax-based SMT to translate much of its computer-related texts from English into multiple target languages. Ongoing research in this area has produced improvements in word inflections and word ordering.|
|Phrase-Based SMT||In Phrase-Based SMT, the machine learns correspondence between languages from parallel text without the aid of linguist knowledge. This produces better translations in less time than other systems.|
|Word Alignment||SMT systems rely on existing translated data to learn how to automatically translate from one language to another. To train the systems, identifying word correspondences (or word alignments) is crucial. Microsoft has developed work in both discriminative and generative approaches to word alignment, resulting in faster algorithms and higher quality and translations.|
|Language Modeling||Language Modeling uses n-gram models to construct comprehensible translations in the target language. This ensures that the output translation is fluent and readable.|
BLEU (Bilingual Evaluation Understudy) is an algorithm for evaluating the quality of text which has been machine-translated from one natural language to another. Quality is considered to be the correspondence between a machine's output and that of a human. BLEU was one of the first metrics to achieve a high correlation with human judgments of quality, and remains one of the most popular automated and inexpensive metrics.
Because machine translation is based on statistical algorithms rather than human translators, the automatic translations it produces are not always entirely accurate. Microsoft Translator has introduced various feedback features, such as the Collaborative Translations Framework, into its products to allow users to suggest alternative translations. These alternative translations are then integrated into the Microsoft Translator algorithms to improve future translations.
In November 2016, Microsoft Translator introduced translation using deep neural networks in nine of its highest traffic languages, including all of its speech languages and Japanese. Neural networks provide better translation than industry standard statistical machine learning.
Microsoft Translator is a cloud-based API that is integrated into numerous Microsoft products and services. The Translator API can be used on its own and can be customized for use in a pre-publishing or post-publishing environment. The API, which is available through subscription, is free for lower translation volumes, and is charged according to a tiered payment system for volumes exceeding two million characters per month. The remaining core products are available for free.
Microsoft Translator API
The Microsoft Translator API is a cloud-based automatic translation service that can be used to build applications, websites, and tools requiring multi-language support.
- Text translation: The API can be used to translate text into any of the languages supported by the service.
- Speech translation: The Microsoft Translator API is an end-to-end REST based API that can be used to build applications, tools, or any solution requiring multi-languages speech translation. Speech to speech translation is available to or from any of the conversation languages, and speech to text translation is available from the conversation languages into any of the 60 supported language systems.
- Text to speech: Translated text can be converted into speech output using speech synthesis.
- Live feature: A personal universal translator that enables up to 500 people to have live, multi-device, multi-language, in person translated conversations. This feature is currently free and available in the Microsoft Translator apps (Android, iOS or Windows) and from the browser at: http://translator.microsoft.com.
Collaborative Translations Framework (CTF)
The Collaborative Translations Framework (CTF) is an extension of the Microsoft Translator API that allows post-publishing improvement of translated text. By using the CTF, readers have the ability to suggest alternative translations to those provided by the API, or vote on previously offered alternatives. This information is then delivered to the API to improve future translations.
Microsoft Translator Hub
The Microsoft Translator Hub allows enterprises and language service providers to build their own translation systems that understand business- and industry-specific terminology. The Hub can also be used in conjunction with the CTF, allowing administrators to approve CTF results and add them directly to the Hub.
The Hub has also been used for language preservation, allowing communities to create their own language translation systems for language and cultural preservation. The Hub has been used to create translation systems for languages such as Hmong, Mayan, Nepali, and Welsh.
Translator Web Widget
Multilingual App Toolkit (MAT)
The Multilingual App Toolkit (MAT) is an integrated Visual Studio tool, which allows developers to streamline localization workflows of their Windows, Windows Phone and desktop apps. MAT improves localization of file management, translation support, and editing tools.
Bing Translator website
Type of site
|Statistical machine translation|
|Available in||60 languages, see supported languages|
|Launched||June 3, 2009|
Bing Translator (previously Live Search Translator and Windows Live Translator) is a user facing translation portal provided by Microsoft as part of its Bing services to translate texts or entire web pages into different languages. All translation pairs are powered by the Microsoft Translator, a statistical machine translation platform and web service, developed by Microsoft Research, as its backend translation software. Two transliteration pairs (between Chinese (Simplified) and Chinese (Traditional)) are provided by Microsoft's Windows International team.
As of September 2017, Bing Translator offers translations in 60 different language systems.
Bing Translator can translate phrases entered by the user or acquire a link to a web page and translate its entirely. When translating an entire web page, or when the user selects "Translate this page" in Bing search results, the Bilingual Viewer is shown, which allows users to browse the original web page text and translation in parallel, supported by synchronized highlights, scrolling, and navigation. Four Bilingual Viewer layouts are available:
- Side by side
- Top and bottom
- Original with hover translation
- Translation with hover original
Bing Translator integrates with several other Microsoft products. The following is a table of products into which Bing Translator is integrated or may be integrated:
|Integrates into||Mean of integration|
|Bing Instant Answers||Already integrated|
|Internet Explorer||An Accelerator for Internet Explorer 8 or higher|
Through its core product offerings, Microsoft Translator supports the translation features of many Microsoft products at the consumer and enterprise levels. These products fall broadly into three categories — communication products, Microsoft Office, and apps.
As of September 2017, Microsoft Translator supports 60 different language systems. The list of supported languages is available at the Microsoft Translator website and can also be retrieved programmatically through the API.
- Bosnian (Latin)
- Cantonese (Traditional)
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Chinese (Traditional)
- Haitian Creole
- Hmong Daw
- Klingon (plqaD)
- Portuguese (Brazilian dialect)
- Querétaro Otomi
- Serbian (Cyrillic)
- Serbian (Latin)
- Yucatec Maya
Microsoft Translator has engaged with community partners to increase the number of languages and to improve overall language translation quality. Below is a list of community partners that Microsoft Translator has teamed with.
- Hmong Language Partners
- Jawaharlal Nehru University
- National Assembly for Wales
- Translators Without Borders
Additionally, Microsoft has teamed with the Klingon Language Institute, which promotes the constructed language, Klingon, which is used within the fictional Star Trek universe produced by Paramount and CBS Studios. Klingon has been supported by Microsoft Translator since May 2013.
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