If you used the voice recognition application, Siri, on the iPhone, you know it doesn’t always get what you’re saying right. Now imagine a program that not only gets it right, but translates the words into a foreign language in real time. That’s what Microsoft’s Skype Translator app does.

Although scientists have been working on speech translators for years with limited success, this new advance represents one for the people. It involves Skype, the free Web program that allows two people who have the software to participate in a video chat over the Internet.

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Now those two people don’t have to speak the same language.

“It’s an exciting project, and it became clear that adding this capability to Skype and enabling people to have translated conversations was the killer scenario to get this technology into customers’ hands,” said Chris Wendt, program manager of the Machine Translation team in a company article.

Indeed. Skype is so easy to use and because the basic program is free, tens of millions of people already have it to chat freely with friends and family over long distances.

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Just watch the video to see how easily the translator works and how smoothly it does the job. There’s a bit of a delay, but that seems like a minor problem to contend with, especially if you’re goal is to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language (or vice versa).

The technology was developed by Microsoft’s Arul Menezes, who heads the company’s Machine Translation team in Redmond, Wash.

Credit: Microsoft