Translating resources for international students – and talking to your watch


Australia continues to grow our international student education sector, with a record $18.8 billion of revenue in 2014-15 from the nearly half a million international students who study at our universities, TAFEs and schools. In universities international students make up a quarter of all students, and come from over 150 countries. It makes education a key export industry for Australia, and it also creates new challenges for education institutions - especially as the plan is for the number and diversity of international students to grow rapidly by 2020.

How do you offer translation services for students?

Traditionally translation services have been expensive, and limited in scope because of that. But what if we could change that - make it more available and more cost-effective. With changes in technology, some specialist services in an education institution - like dealing with translation services - have become more widely available, and easier to implement. It means that you can provide the services more widely. For example, provide on-the-spot, automated translation of documents, websites, lectures, tutorials, lesson materials to students. They won’t always be word perfect, and match the same high levels that are required for key legal documents, but they can provide a valuable aid to students who may still be getting up to speed with learning and working in English, or parents and students who are browsing your school\TAFE\university website to find the right place to learn next year. Or helping your student support staff connect more easily with students.

Translating with Microsoft Translator

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The Microsoft Translator service is a cloud-based automatic translation service which supports 50+ languages, allowing you to reach the populations in countries representing 95% of the world’s GDP. We use it extensively in our services like Office, SharePoint, Yammer, Bing and Skype. And big companies like Amazon, Adobe, eBay, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Twitter use it to translate web content, product and restaurant reviews, social media posts, search queries etc.

Because it is an app service, accessible through an API, you can use it on your website, or in mobile applications (eg in a ‘help around campus’ app on your students’ iPhones and Androids). Or you could use it within a desktop app as part of the workflow for support staff who are publishing information or responding to student enquiries.

The service starts with a free level, that will translate up to 2 million characters a month, and then offers subscriptions for higher volumes.

The Translator service also has some finely tuned additions - a Microsoft Translator Hub that allows you to setup organisation-wide translation systems that understand the specific terminology and language nuances used in a specific industry (tick - we definitely have our very, very specific education jargon!). The Hub is also designed for cross-industry collaboration (for example, all the universities could collaborate on a system-wide translation hub, so that 40 universities don’t have to setup custom translations for things like “ATAR”!).

The other option is the Collaborative Translation Framework which allows post-publishing improvement of translated text (this would be ideal for lecture notes and learning materials, where today’s students could feedback on specific translations and nuances to benefit future students)

The beauty of the Translator service is that, as well as a series of apps, it is provided through APIs that can be built into your apps, websites and services. You can get started using the Translator API here.

So far, so good. But this afternoon I found out about something even cooler that we’ve done with the Microsoft Translator. We’ve just released the services to allow you to translate a spoken conversation using your Apple Watch or Android wearable, and paired phones.

Talking to your watch…and translating

Imagine this - a student starts talking to you in Brazilian Portuguese - and you only speak English. They can hand you their iPhone, and whilst they speak into their Apple Watch in Brazilian Portuguese, the translation in English will appear on the phone screen. And when you reply in English, they’ll see the Brazilian Portuguese translation on their watch face!

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This video shows how it works:

Of course, you can just do it with just the phone, no wearable required, using the Microsoft Translator app. But who wants to miss out on the fun of talking to your watch and seeing the amazed look on a student's or parent's face?

Learn MoreLearn more about Microsoft Translator on wearable watches, and download the free apps

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