Skip to main content

Microsoft Translator Blog

Introducing Kiswahili for Microsoft Translator

Today, Microsoft Translator launches Kiswahili (also known as Swahili) text translation, the first African language to be supported by the automatic translation service. The new language will be available throughout Microsoft Translator’s ecosystem of supported products* to empower individuals and organizations through quick and cost-effective translation. Kiswahili is spoken by up to 150 million people throughout eastern Africa including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the new translation system, governments in the region will be able to make documents and information available at virtually no cost, non-governmental organizations will be able to quickly communicate with locals, and most importantly, people will be able to communicate back and forth across borders for both business and personal purposes.

Microsoft Translator supports a wide range of Microsoft products and apps to communicate across language barriers in nearly any scenario where timely and cost effective translation is necessary. It is integrated into Bing, Microsoft Office (Word**, Word Online, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, OneNote, and Visio), SharePoint, Cortana, and Yammer. Microsoft Translator has a full suite of apps for PCs and mobile devices including Windows, Windows Phone, Android and Android Wear, and iPhone and Apple Watch. The Document Translator allows you to quickly translate Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents individually or in batches. Kiswahili will also be available as an instant messaging language in Skype for Windows desktop so that you can communicate in real time around the world. It is also available through the Microsoft Translator API, so developers can integrate Kiswahili translation into their own products and apps.

The translation system was created in collaboration with the non-profit, non-governmental organization, Translators without Borders, whose mission is to increase access to knowledge through humanitarian translations. Using the Microsoft Translator Hub, Translators without Borders and the Microsoft Translator team were able to collect first-hand language data in-country and build a new custom translation system. Over the years, Translator has worked closely with a variety of language partners to encourage intercultural communication by creating new language systems. These community partners have added new languages such as Hmong Daw, Welsh, Urdu, and even Klingon to the list of languages supported by Microsoft Translator.

Adding Kiswahili brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal — permanently breaking down the language barriers that separate us by allowing people to translate anything, anywhere, at any time. Kiswahili speakers in East Africa and around the globe now have access to a wider range of information and culture and can interact with speakers of 50 languages throughout the world. What’s more, speakers of other languages now also have direct access to the rich history and culture of Kiswahili speakers far and wide.

Learn More:

*Some products to be updated soon.
**To activate Kiswahili as a text translation language in Word, take the following steps:

  1. Click on “review” then “translate” and “translate selected text”. (Note: do not try with the mini-translator or document options as the update menu is not available from these options.)
  2. In the research pane, click on “get updates to your services” located at the bottom of the research pane
  3. Follow the various pop-up windows prompts:
    • Update
    • Continue
    • Install
    • OK
  4. Kiswahili text translation will now be available as a translation language. To learn more about using Translator in Microsoft Word, check out this instructional video on YouTube.