The 2012 Olympics will be held this summer in London, and while other Olympics certainly host their fair share of international guests from all over the globe, the European location of this year’s event is sure to bring an even more diverse array of languages. What does that mean for the event handlers, workers, emergency workers, and spectators? More language gaps.
Howerver, one Brigham Young University professor is working to bridge the divide with a new smartphone app.
It is called “Olympic Translator”. Similar to Google Translate, a person sets the source and target languages, speaks a phrase into a phone, and the app produces the translation. The other person can then respond through the same process.
“Basically what we wanted to do was create something that could be used by a large number of volunteers,” said Giovanni Tata, director of creative works at BYU. “Similar to Google Translate … but with that, most of the time the translation is OK but not quite perfect. In some cases it conveys the wrong message.”
To compensate for the probable translation errors, Tata and his team have compiled a list of 5,000 commonly used phrases related to the Olympics by volunteers or emergency professionals and put the correct translation in their database. He even went to London to talk to the police and emergency service personnel for their thoughts on the most important phrases to translate. If a phrase is not in the database, the app will draw from Google Translate for the translation.
Tata said the beauty of this backup arrangement is that the volunteer can show the native speaker the translation that Google Translate comes up with, and the native speaker can say if it is right or not. The volunteer can then input that information into the database.
Once there are four or five suggestions for a phrase, a native speaker will review it and it can be added to the catalog of phrases.
“We wanted to create something that would be very easy to use but could be upgraded and updated all the time,” Tata said.
Tata is hoping his Olympic Translator is a success at this year’s Olympic games, and can be used in future events.