The Olympics is one of the most renowned sporting events in history. Although a fierce competition between athletes at their peak, the games provide countries with a forum to set aside their differences and come together through the power of sport. This requires superior global translation services. There are three official languages for the Olympic Games: French, English, and the language of the host country. Therefore, the Olympic translation team of professional linguists must work hard under a strict schedule to translate documents (such as menus and medical records) and signage (such as train stop signs and on-field screens) related to the Games into all of the official languages; a process which begins roughly one month before the Games begin. Despite its tediousness, this process provides the essential function of allowing the Games to run smoothly by ensuring that athletes receive the correct information in their home language.
In addition to the efforts of translators, interpretation services play a critical role during the games. Given the fact that the Olympic Games feature athletes from over 200 countries, interpreters are vital to bridging cultural and linguistic barriers between participants. For instance, between the various Olympic venues and the countries’ separate locker rooms, a “mixed zone” exists where participants from different countries travel to their respective venues. Working in this zone can prove difficult for even the most skilled linguist, as interpreters in this zone often help to prevent misunderstandings or confusion that can lead to scuffles between athletes (events which have occurred in the past). Additionally, Olympic interpreters provide video interpretation and conference interpreting services by interpreting press conferences, medal ceremonies, and International Olympic Committee meetings.
A Critical Shortage
In spite of the importance of Olympic interpreters, the size of the event often places strain on the supply of professional interpreters. This strain demands that the Olympic Committee find volunteer interpreters and create new solutions to help fill the void. For the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, over 80,000 volunteers are required for the event. To find potential candidates, Tokyo universities have launched a recruitment program featuring intensive language training classes and crash-courses in sports terminology for qualified students. In order to improve efficiency and compensate for staff shortages, the Olympic Committee has also created a new centralized simultaneous interpretation system for the Tokyo Games to translate all events into the three official languages for T.V. audiences around the globe.
Finally, Japan plans to debut a new pocket translation device at the Games that provides simultaneous translation from Japanese to English at the touch of a button, reducing the need for interpreters at the event. Although developers are still fine-tuning the technology, the device has significantly improved the speed of Japanese to English translation, which can prove challenging due to their differences in sentence structure. Clearly, while the Tokyo Olympics presents many challenges, these new developments promise a bright future for global translation services and interpretation for the Games.
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