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Japanese Firm Announces Real-Time Phone Translation

Coming to a phone booth near you?
Japan's biggest mobile operator says it will launch a translation service that lets people chat over the telephone in several different languages.

The NTT DoCoMo company said its subscribers will give be offered two-way voice and text readouts of conversations between Japanese speakers and those talking in English, Chinese, or Korean with a several-second delay.

DoCoMo said the free application, Hanashite Honyaku, can be used on smartphones and tablet computers with the Android operating system.

Customers will also be able to call landlines using the service.

The voice-to-text readouts will soon be available in French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.

DoCoMo however said the service does not offer perfect translations.

Telecom giant Alacatel-Lucent and software firm Microsoft are among those working on other translation applications.

Based on reporting by AFP and BBC