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Multi-Lingual Call Center Set to Launch
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Multi-Lingual Call Center Set to Launch

January 09, 2015

  By TMCnet Staff

Never let it be said that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was a big believer in procrastination. With the 2020 Olympic Games still a little better than five years out, the government body has already established plans to roll out a new call center later this year specifically geared toward providing multiple-language interpretation services for Japanese tourism businesses to better take advantage of the incoming crowds. The report from Japan Times suggests that the interpretation services will focus on the Chinese, English and Korean languages.

The Japan Times report suggests that the service will be free for use, and should come in handy for a variety of possible users ranging from restaurants to hotels to even cab drivers all looking for an easy way to provide information or instructions to users in unfamiliar languages. The service is expected to have a budget of around $84,110 — about ten million yen — and won't have its budget until fiscal year 2015, which starts April 1. The service itself, meanwhile, will start up within the year, so it's likely that any bugs in the system will be found and squashed well before the Olympics arrive.

This isn't the first time such a call center operation has been put in play, according to reports: back in September of 2011, a similar call center went up in Kyoto, offering interpretation services in not only Chinese, English and Korean, but also in Portuguese and Spanish. What's more, the Tokyo government is gearing up to make this “the best ever” Olympics and Paralympics, and is hard at work to remove language barriers. By 2020, it expects to have 35,000 supporters in place offering language assistance, and all metropolitan government public buses will have multilingual information in place by the end of 2016. Street signs will have both English and Japanese information by 2020, and 100 digital sign boards will be going up throughout several major districts like Ginza, Odaiba and Shinjuku for added coverage.

This is the kind of move that should have a return on the investment coming from several directions. Not only will this be a huge help for the Olympic Games going in, but it also will likely have a positive effect on tourism relations as well, which Japan could use given its current economic state. Japanese is an extremely daunting language to learn, and given how many worldwide have an interest in Japanese culture, making it a bit more accessible to the tourist trade should have a positive impact. Plus, starting this far ahead of schedule should have a terrific effect in terms of spotting any potential problems; having such a long lead in development should help spot problems and get same fixed without a lot of last-minute rushing around. By the time the Olympics actually arrive, most users should be old hands at the system, and therefore get the most use of out it. Of course, it remains to be seen just how valuable such a system would really be, especially given the number of translation services already on hand.

Still, this is likely to prove a valuable move indeed not only for bolstering tourism for the upcoming Olympic Games, but in general as well, and that's a move that's likely to prove valuable not only in the days building up to the Olympics, but also in terms of tourism both before and after the games arrive.

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