Microsoft announced the release of a language interpretation feature for Teams Meetings on September 15, 2022. This new functionality is instantly available for subscribers of MS Office Suite (aka Microsoft 365) on scheduled and channel meetings, as well as webinars.
Teams meeting organizers can now enable simultaneous unidirectional interpretation in 16 language pairs as they create meetings. There can also be more than one interpreter per language pair. Interpreters can begin interpreting as soon as they join, using Teams for desktop or web. Mobile devices are not yet supported.
When interpretation is enabled in a Teams Meeting, meeting participants can choose a single language and channel. It is also possible to toggle between the audio of the original presenter and the interpreted version once a meeting is in progress. Interpreters, on the other hand, must remain in the channel in which they are interpreting.
Organizations interested in using this “Enable language interpretation” feature will still need to supply the interpreters, of course. However, a meeting participant can also be made an interpreter on the fly. To do this, the organizer should click on the name of the attendee and choose the “Make an interpreter” option.
Interpreted meetings can be recorded, but recordings will only include the main (presenter) audio, not the interpreted renditions. Likewise, regular captions will only support the presenter’s audio language. If the language of the presenter changes, the meeting organizer will need to switch the live captions to the new language.
Breakout rooms are not yet supported. If a main meeting is being interpreted and breakout rooms are created, the interpretation audio will be interrupted.
Microsoft will also finish rolling out its multilingual live captioning functionality for Teams, called “Microsoft Cognitive Service Speech Translation” in early October 2022. Once MS Live Captions are available for Teams, the language options will appear in the “Subtitles” menu.
Organizers choose the main meeting’s spoken language for all participants, but individual users will be able to select the language for their own captions.
Many standalone products used for meeting interpretation (e.g., Kudo, Interprefy, Interactio) are integrated with MS Teams. The question now is whether they are bound to become unnecessary add-ons. The answer will perhaps come in the shape of interpreter feedback, because any functionality must first work for them.
As for live multilingual captions, it is yet another feature that gives Microsoft an edge over standalone products and add-ons for Teams. The only differentiation with external tools might end up being which languages and variants are available on one or the other.