The applications have always faced major competition from Google Translate, and the new update should help to bring the service closer to their level. The features were available on the web in March, but phone support will be much more practical in the real world.
The update comes in two parts: a phrasebook and a bilingual dictionary. Microsoft says the combination of both makes it easier to communicate in a language you don't understand, while also being able to find the perfect word.
The new phrasebooks are pretty much exactly how they sound. They give users access to a variety of sorted topics, displaying the world you need on the screen. The addition goes further than that, though, utilizing mobile devices' potential.
Phrasebooks lets you play the sound out loud if you can't pronounce it yourself. Rather than a robotic voice, it actually says it in the local accent. It also allows you to save most used phrases and share translations via message or social media.
The focus of the bilingual dictionary is on those learning a new language. It displays alternative translations to or from English, giving examples of words in context. It can then provide examples of translated sentences using the word.
It's a difficult concept to explain, so Microsoft has provided an example:
“Let's say you are translating the sentence, ‘That's great!' into French. The English word ‘great' could mean many things– excellent, glorious, large, etc. so there might be several different ways you could translate it. Using the Bilingual Dictionary you could quickly see a list of alternative translations to the word ‘great' to come up with the perfect way to say exactly what you mean. ‘C'est super!'”
This is limited to English speakers for the moment, though it's possible that Microsoft will add support for other native languages in the future. The combination of the new features and advanced neural networks means that the company is getting closer and closer to a powerful communication tool.