China Seeks Gold Medal in Language Services

Nataly Kelly natalyekelly at
Wed Jul 30 15:11:33 UTC 2008

												China Seeks Gold Medal in Language Services
												Nataly Kelly 29 July 2008

												Filed under (Culture & Globalism)

the build-up to the 2008 summer games, the Beijing Olympic planning
committee and its host country have devoted significant attention to
language issues. Here are just a few of the ways in which language
needs for the expected half a million tourists have been addressed so
Signs and slogans. The municipal government put up
6,500 road signs last year in “standardized” English, one of the three
official languages of the games — French and Chinese are the other two
— but was less successful in regulating good grammar among signage
produced by private businesses. In April, Beijing officials vowed to crack down on unintelligible English found in product advertisements and on prominent signs throughout the city. Nothing like a billboard that pronounces, “Pleasanty Surprise of Groping,” to detract from the US$40 billion makeover the city has recently paid for in preparation for the world-class event.Telephone language access. The Chinese government
has announced plans to make telephone interpreters available for a
broad range of settings — even for such specialized scenarios as sailing events and taxi services. The official Olympic Call Center
already offers services in 14 languages, and is expected to handle 10
million calls. Spain’s King Juan Carlos I even placed the first call to
a recently announced Spanish-language call center resulting from a joint effort between China Netcom and Telefónica.In-person interpreters. Back in 2006, Beijing officials started recruiting for medical interpreters needed to assist the many doctors who support Olympic athletes. In 2007, officials called for crash courses in sports terminology in order to help linguists ramp up their knowledge of specialized vocabulary.Recommended translations.  The Beijing Municipal Government’s Foreign Affairs Office and the Beijing Tourism Administration published a 170-page compendium of preferred
translations for menu items to help restaurants create bilingual
menus.  While restaurants were given the option of whether or not to
use the recommended terms, many elected to use them — opting for names
based on the Chinese phonetic system, such as “mapo tofu”, instead of
the literal translation, “bean curd made by a pock-marked woman.”Official LSP. We’ve all heard of official Olympic
sponsors, but an official Olympic language service provider (LSP)? Yes,
Chinese provider Yuanpei Translation was ordained as the official Olympic provider of both translation and interpretation services for the XXIX Olympiad.
But the biggest reason why China may earn a gold medal in language
services this year has little to do with the international sports
competition. Specialists of a different sort will be traveling to
Beijing from all over the world this summer, to flex their mental
muscles and attend the International Federation of Translators’ largest-ever World Congress. 
The meeting of members from more than 50 countries kicks off on the eve
of the Olympics — we’ll be presenting there on August 4th.

One thing is certain — China has invested significant time, energy,
and money into language preparations leading up to this summer’s
events.  Whether or not these efforts prove to be medal-worthy remains
to be seen, but the attention garnered for the language services
industry is well worth its weight in gold.
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