Microsoft has collaborated with the Welsh Government to develop a solution that allows interpreters to translate speech in real time during a scheduled Teams meeting. This will enable everyone in the meeting to understand what is being communicated, even if they do not speak the same language as their fellow participants.
The in-application feature will benefit public sector organisations that host scheduled meetings in different languages and the Welsh Government hopes to use the solution to encourage more people to speak Welsh.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the impact this will have on organisations that operate bilingually or multilingually,” said Glyn Jones, chief digital officer for the Welsh Government. “We’ve had really positive feedback from the people who’ve tested it with us. The interpreters and the people listening think it’s great.
“Wales is bilingual. We speak Welsh and we speak English. This new functionality will help us use our Welsh more than we’ve been able to during Covid-19. I’m sure we’ll see more people using Welsh in meetings than was ever the case before the pandemic – that’s my ambition.”
Rather than interpreters attending and interpreting meetings in person, they will now be able to attend virtually and interpret in real time for attendees.
“The whole purpose of an interpreter is just to be in the background, assisting the meeting,” said Jones. “This feature will mean that the interpreting will happen without anyone drawing attention to the fact that there are interpreting services in the meeting. The meeting can run bilingually, smoothly and seamlessly.”
The Welsh Government is aiming to reach one million Welsh speakers by 2050 and the Teams feature will encourage more people to speak Welsh daily.
The organisation started using Teams at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 for flexible working. All daily business and a range of training is now conducted through the platform using scheduled meetings, chats and channels. Some meeting rooms have also been fitted with Teams devices to allow greater collaboration between people in the office and those working remotely.
“Microsoft Teams brings people closer together, enabling them to communicate and collaborate while breaking down barriers around language and location,” said Nick Hedderman, senior director of the modern work business group at Microsoft. “By empowering people to choose how they participate in calls and meetings, organisations can create a truly inclusive experience for everyone.”