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Jajah, the Internet telephone company, today introduced a nifty English-Chinese translation service — perfect for English speaking tourists in China.

Called JAJAH.Babel, the service allows anyone in China to use their mobile phone to call a local number, speak in English and immediately let someone hear their message translated into Chinese Mandarin.

It’s perfect for cab rides during the Olympics this summer. If you get into a cab, and want to tell the Chinese driver to take you to the airport, you call the local number and speak English directions into the phone, and the driver hears a real-time translation in his native Chinese. It works back the other way too: The driver can speak back to you in Chinese, and the JAJAH.Babel service translates it back into English.

The translation service is based on IBM Research.

There are few services working on something similar. Yap, another company we’ve written about, only does a voice to text translation service so far. (However, we’re hearing Yap will be unveiling some competitive translation services soon. Stay tuned).

Here’s how JAJAH.Babel works: You dial 1-718.513.2969 in the U.S. (the UK, and Australia also have local access numbers), choose which language you want your message translated into (either English to Chinese or Chinese to English), then say your message and press #. You can then confirm the message was properly understood by the system. The message will automatically be played back in Chinese. The same steps are followed for translation back into English. You can hit the speakerphone so that both parties can converse. It’s free.

Other languages are planned in coming months.

At its Silicon Valley offices this afternoon, Jajah also demoed Jajah’s phone voice activated JAJAH services (JAJAH Concierge) and a prototype of an IP-TV application.

[Photo: Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, credit]

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