Skype Translator translates text chat content in 44 languages, including Arabic, Dutch, Japanese, Russian and Swedish. More impressively, perhaps, translates both sides of a video chat conversation to and from English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin.

"Today, we're excited to announce that we're making it easier to obtain the Skype Translator preview by removing the sign-up requirement," Yasmin Khan, of the Skype marketing team, said in a blog post.

skype translator
Microsoft beats Google to deliver the futurologists dream of real time translation. Image: Microsoft

The Skype Translator beta runs on Windows 8.1 and the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Microsoft has yet to peg a delivery date for the release version, and has not said which languages the service will ultimately support. However, the Redmond, Wash. company has set a goal of doing real-time translations of nearly three dozen spoken languages.

Translator looks almost exactly the same as the standard metro UI Skype app. The most important difference is the Translation slider button that appears under the name of each contact when you are in conversation view.

Skype Translator requires you to pre-set the languages each person is speaking or writing in. Translator will prompt you to do this when you flip the Translation feature on, or you can click the language options underneath the slider.

During a Translator call, Microsoft advises you to use a headset with a microphone instead of a stand-alone mic. You should also use a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi. Translated calls also take longer to connect than a typical Skype call. You can find a complete list of Translator tips on Skype's site.

The 14MB Skype Translator app can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store.