in Translation

Japan is wasting no time preparing its translation services for Tokyo Olympics 2020. Many translation services have already been developed in anticipation of a sharp increase in the number of tourists.


Late last year, NTT DoCoMo, the predominant mobile phone operator in Japan, introduced a translation app called Jspeak, which can instantly translate spoken Japanese into English and vice versa. The app can also interpret other languages such as Chinese, French, German, and Thai. A similar app called VoiceTra4U is also available and can translate Japanese into exotic languages such as Urdu, Sinhala and Dzongkha. It was launched by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology as the country prepares its translation services for Tokyo Olympics. Real-time translation machines may not always be grammatically perfect, but they are useful enough to enable simple conversations.

However, translation machines are never meant to replace professional human translators, but rather assist and complement them. To add a human touch to the services being offered, the Japanese government is training up interpreters for foreign athletes and visitors, as well as setting up a multilingual call center which will be free of charge for hotels, restaurants and cab drivers to use. As the government readies its translation services for Tokyo Olympics, it also plans to equip public buses with multilingual information displays by the end of fiscal 2016 and add English equivalents to all street signs by 2020.

The government is essentially killing two birds with one stone. In the short run, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe aims to hold “the best ever” Olympics and Paralympics. In the long run, the government’s goal is to increase the annual number of inbound travelers from 13 million in 2014 to 20 million by 2020. So if you plan to travel to Japan in the near future, we hope this information will put your mind at ease. With the availability of many translation options nowadays, there is no reason why we shouldn’t travel the world.

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