The Olympics is a universal melting pot of diverse cultures and languages. According to a report by Statista, over 204 countries participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Furthermore, a total of 220 countries and territories broadcast the event in their native language. Due to the wide coverage of the world’s most famous sporting conference, translator services are needed to streamline communication across various channels and mediums.
Limitations and Obstacles
In a proactive bid to address language barriers that many participants and spectators are set to face during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, is put forth. The institutions are in the process of developing an automatic translation service that will operate between Korean and the following popular languages: English, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Spanish, German and Russian.
“This technology will be used during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be attended by 80,000 participants, including athletes and staff from about 100 countries, IOC officials and world media. We will also provide support so that both overseas and domestic tourists can use this service,” highlighted Kim Jaewon, deputy minister for sports and tourism policy.
The groups are riding on the potential of technology as a driver to boost human translation productivity by up to 4 times. It will be made available through a smartphone app and an actual dedicated device that plugs into a mobile unit. The latter has the capacity to work offline, when cellular network services are limited. The organizations’ offering is useful, but it has limitations. First, it’s lacking in language compatibility and support. There simply aren’t enough language options for foreign users, which could be a serious problem for the globally-promoted event. Next, the language translation process is one-way. Users will not be able to provide real-time feedback about the translation results, which may be an issue for technical phrases or complex terms.
Role of Human Translator Services
According to a report from Common Sense Advisory, an independent market research firm, the demand for language services is increasing at an annual rate of 12.17 percent. While translation technology and devices are closing the gap in the demand for such services, it may not be quite ready to handle all the needs of large-scale projects like the Olympics.
Contrary to popular belief, apps and software have not offset the demand for accurate translation. “The widespread availability of online machine translation has not decreased the demand for high-quality human translation. If anything, translation technologies appear to be acting as a catalyst to generate more demand,” explained the research firm in its annual “Language Services Market” publication. This indicates that human translator services during the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games will likely still fulfill translation needs.
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