As the 2020 Olympics creep closer, Japan is taking strides in adequately preparing the region for the influx of tourists from all over the world. This influx of people will have an effect on several industries; some of which include: retail, transportation, hospitality and healthcare. Localization language services for tourism are most definitely on the rise in Japan, from restaurant menus to public signage will need translation and localization services in many languages. Likewise, the travel and leisure industry will have plenty of guaranteed business in the coming years.
The intensified localization efforts in Japan are setting the country up for the possibility of a much needed economic boost and paving the way for potential growth as businesses look to enter the market. Japan is preparing by investing in a variety of language service options that will help tourists communicate during their stay. Some of these include language service apps, revised signage and marketing collateral for local businesses as well as preparing interpreters to work the ten-day event.
The Internal Affairs ministry announced their desire to provide real-time machine translation services. The Japanese government has invested 1.38 billion yen ($11 million USD) in real-time speech translation. Real-time translation systems include applications that can be installed on smartphones, computers or other gadgets linked to the Internet. One merely selects the targeted language, speaks into the device and waits for it to translate the words in audio or visual form. The words of the speaker are sent by the app to a computer server, which analyzes the voice and selects the closest translation from a vast collection of phrase pairs in its database.
A translation app called VoiceTra4U can instantly translate 27 different languages (30 languages including dialects) in text mode and has 17 languages for speech mode, including English, German, French, Korean and Japanese.
There is also an app Jspeak that translates spoken Japanese into English and vice-versa and can also interpret other languages such as Chinese, French, German and Thai.
While real-time machine translation may not always be grammatically perfect, Japan is sacrificing its known reputation for quality in order to provide attainable support for an enjoyable travel experience.
Other translation and localization efforts in Japan aim to help prepare businesses for foreigners. The Japan Tourism Agency has provided examples of signs for public facilities. Also, retail outlets are making a move to increase the number of tourists they can accommodate. The Japanese government released examples of signs for these businesses to use. The signs cover product information, payment processes, emergency evacuation procedures and other instructions written in English. Other notices such as those banning eating, drinking or speaking inside premises utilize pictograms. The government 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.
In September 2016, seven universities specializing in foreign languages — including Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies and Kansai Gaidai University — will jointly hold a four-day intensive seminar in Chiba Prefecture so students can brush up on their translation skills. With their sights set on the Tokyo Olympics, the universities launched the program last year to allow students to deepen their knowledge about the Olympics, foreign culture and hospitality.
According to the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, some 80,000 volunteers will be needed to run the event smoothly.