Internet voice telephony firm JAJAH on Thursday launched a first-of-its-kind free service that lets English and Mandarin speakers use mobile telephones to translate conversations.
JAJAH Babel is being released in time for the Olympics in Beijing in order to help English-speaking tourists better communicate with people in China.
"We are removing the language barrier and providing a valuable service to anyone traveling to Beijing this summer," said JAJAH co-founder Daniel Mattes.
"JAJAH was built to bring down barriers to global communication through high quality, low-cost calls available from any phone, any network, anywhere."
JAJAH worked with researchers at US technology giant IBM to create a service that lets mobile telephones act as automated translators between Mandarin and English speakers.
People in China will be able to call a local number to access automated translation software that takes what they say in one language and rephrases it in the other.
Local access numbers are also provided in Australia, Britain and the United States.
"No more translation books, no hand gestures, simply dial a local number, say your message in English and hear it back Chinese," California-based JAJAH promises.
"Any phrase can be translated and shared with others by passing the handset or activating the phone's speakerphone function."
JAJAH plans to expand to other languages in coming months.
© 2008 AFP