Language Translation a Key Component at Beijing Olympics
The 2008 Beijing Olympics are around the corner, championing the theme ‘One World, One Dream’ and welcoming countries to join, hand in hand, in a brighter future. This global slogan conveys the Olympic spirit — Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. The expected number of athletes is almost 11,000, with more than 200 countries participating. In addition, the expected international attendance exceeds half a million, with an additional 2.5 million domestic spectators.
With a “one world” theme and attendees and athletes from around the world, human communication across languages is essential for a successful event. Beijing has been gearing up for this event for several years and has put a significant about of time into ensuring that people have access to the information they need. The translation efforts range from tourist services, to published information, to in-person support, to digital content.
Multilingual Tourist Services
In order to accommodate the expected half a million international attendees, Beijing has aimed to provide high quality services to visitors by expanding their tourism resources to help bridge the communication gap between nations. To accomplish this, Beijing has made a collective effort to welcome international visitors with information access in multiple languages. According to the Beijing Tourism Administration, the goals included:
- An industry-wide training program for more than 200,000 people which included basic Olympic and sports knowledge, cultural courtesy and etiquette information, and foreign languages.
- A variety of promotional campaigns. Promotional films lasting 18 minutes, three minutes and 30 seconds have been shot and guides to tourism during the Olympics have been published in several languages. The Accommodation Guide to the Olympic Audience has been published in eight languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Arabic.
- Travel agencies have have upgraded their services. During the Olympic Games, travel agencies will provide multilingual services to the Olympic Village and eight, half-day travel itineraries.
- 56 multilingual Olympic information kiosks within key communities and at major tourist attractions have been created.
- A bilingual menu guide, which standardizes the English names of 2,425 dishes, has been issued and distributed to contracted hotels, over 800 star-rated hotels and 1,000 premium restaurants, tourist attractions and international travel agencies
Publishing in Multiple Languages
Beijing will be speaking French next month, restoring French (along with English) as the official language of the modern Olympic Games, as created by Pierre de Coubertin in 1896.
The opening and closing ceremonies will be in French, and announcements at the official Olympic compound will be written in French. However, according to Olympic Charter, for “all sessions, simultaneous interpretation must be provided into French, English, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic,” so attendees speaking these languages will know exactly what is happening. Publications designed for the public “all purpose” guide, programmes for the ceremonies and events, guides to cultural activities, the official magazine, leaflets, posters and postcards will also be translated; Olympic and city information will be translated into 11 languages, including Chinese, English, French, Russian, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Italian.
Multilingual Direct Human Support
In addition to publications and tourist infomation, Beijing also has 550 volunteer stations spread throughout the city, utilizing more than 400,000 volunteers speaking many languages. Additional demand for direct multilingual support will be facilitated through call centers so that spectators can receive assistance in multiple languages. The expected number of calls to be received is around 10 million from all over the world.
During the sailing events, the Quingdao Sailing Committee will provide the National Olympic Committee (NOC) with assistance in 20 languages through a dial in number.
Digital and Electronic Content
In regards to the digital and electronic support required for the Beijing Olympics, there are over 5,000 IT professionals to help ensure that information is flowing on over 12,000 computers and 2,000 printers. The Olympic resource database system of multilingual information provides access to recordings, examinations, translations, releases and inquiry services, and data support for the dissemination of public information for spectators. In addition, Sohu.com, a content service provider, facilitates translation of the official website of Beijing Olympic Games in five languages: Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Currently, the translation team outnumbers the editorial staff of the website!
For those of you watching of attending the Olympic games this summer, remember that in addition to the incredible talent displayed by the athletes and the extensive planning by the Olympic Committee, there is also an impressive human communication element to the Olympic games that will help ensure the overall success of the event and the experience of attendees.