Microsoft adds four more MEA languages to Translator

Middle Eastern man speaking on a video call from the comfort of his lounge.

Microsoft has added two Kurdish dialects and two official languages of Afghanistan to Microsoft Translator, adding to the growing number of Middle Eastern and African languages available.

It means users are now able to translate Northern and Central Kurdish, as well as Dari and Pashto to or from any of the more than 70 languages available in Translator.

This is a significant development for the Microsoft Translator offering in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) as it opens the platform to millions more speakers across the region.

Northern and Central Kurdish account for 75 percent of all Kurdish speakers, spoken by between 15 and 17 million and nine and 12 million people respectively. Dari and Pashto on the other hand are not only the official languages of Afghanistan, but also widely spoken in Pakistan, with Pashto spoken by around 45 to 55 million people across the world.

Aside from being added to Microsoft Translator itself, all four languages will soon be available in the Microsoft Translator app, Office and Translator for Bing.

The development also helps those looking to add text translation of these languages to their own applications, websites and tools, as this can now be done using Translator. Azure Cognitive Services Speech then enables speech-to-text or text-to-speech translation.

MEA languages have been an important focus of development for Microsoft Translator, with around 12 of the more than 70 languages available on the platform from the region, including Afrikaans, Arabic, Arabic (Levantine), Central Kurdish, Dari, Hebrew, Malagasy, Northern Kurdish, Pashto, Persian, Swahili and Turkish.

It’s not surprising given MEA’s rich linguistic diversity. Many countries across the region score highly on Greenberg’s diversity index, meaning the probability of two people in the country speaking different languages to one another is good.

In fact, Africa is the second most linguistically diverse continent in the world – home to more than 2,000 languages.

Embracing the diversity of the region is key to its economic growth and stability. The continued development of communication technology like Microsoft Translator can help make sure this remains a priority.

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