Olympics and Translation


TokyoThe cities will be crowded with a huge amount of foreign people. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists will swarm in the technological landscapes of Tokyo and Osaka, others will bounce from futuristic skyscrapers to ancient temples, at the end many will converge into stadiums. Olympics, as other international competitions, are usually occasions for the host countries to invest money on useful initiatives. Just think about the past edition of the football world cup in Brazil. Despite protesters, some sectors of the economy actually boosted. What better occasion, then, to develop a team to work on a speech translation system to best welcome these visitors in their own languages? Japanese are famous for their sense of hospitality. At least, this is what the Japanese Government may have thought. The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology said it will launch a research group with the purpose to develop a speech translation system before the kick-start of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. It encourages teams, corporations and industries to join it. It is expected to cover a bunch of European languages (French, Spanish and English) as well as many Asian’s.

Can you guess what a speech translation system is? Unlike the so called “phrase translations”, which allows to translate a certain amount of written phrases, speech translation is a technology, still under development in many countries and by many companies, that should instantly translate into a second language a sentence, with the purpose to immediately remove the cultural barriers between speakers. The software includes three specific technologies, only one related with translation itself. As you might imagine, the first step is recognizing words, the second step is the mechanical translation (the so called “machine translation”, you could be almost bored for the frequency of this topic in the later news), while the third issue is synthesising a voice for the foreign receiver. Each point requires a great amount of research from the National Institute of IT, which is why they are recruiting participants in two separate fields. On one hand, they are negotiating with big corporations like NTT Corp., KDDI Corp., Hitachi and Toshiba to provide their technical support; while on the other hand the aim is to encourage retailers, hospitals and public transports to contribute, motivated by the dealings with non-Japanese speakers from all around the world. It is their great interest to be part of it.

Let us wait to see what this collective effort will bring to the growing technology of “machine translation”: Japanese are scrupulous and famous for their leading enterprises in electronics. While they still have 5 years to work on it,  the countdown has already begun.

Read more on Japan Times


Matteo Poles

Social Media Specialist

Communication Trainee at TermCoord