Multilingual translation tools spread in Japan with new visa system


The use of multilingual translation tools is expanding in Japan, where foreign workers are expected to increase in the wake of April’s launch of new visa categories.

A growing number of local governments, labor unions and other entities have decided to introduce translation tools, which can help foreigners when going through administrative procedures as they allow local officials and other officers to talk to such applicants in their mother languages.

“Talking in the applicants’ own languages makes it easier to convey our cooperative stance,” said an official in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

The ward introduced VoiceBiz, an audio translation app developed by Toppan Printing Co. that covers 30 languages.

The app, which can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablet computers, will be used in eight municipalities, including Osaka and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, company officials said.

Toppan Printing aims to introduce the app to 600 local governments by fiscal 2020.

Demand for the app is also high at schools.

As the number of foreign workers increases, the ability to communicate, particularly in schools where their children could face serious problems due to language barriers, is a task that urgently needs to be addressed.

Toppan Printing will pitch the app so that it will be used at 7,000 schools across the nation, according to the officials.

Multilingual translation tools are also being utilized to address labor issues.

Rengo Tokushima, a prefectural arm of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, started using Pocketalk, a translation device developed by Sourcenext Corp.

Rengo is trying to cope with an increasing number of consultation requests from foreign technical interns seeking help with unpaid wages.

“The good point is that we can use highly specialized vocabulary, including legal terms,” a Rengo Tokushima official said.

The use of translation tools is also expected to spread among transportation service providers, including railway companies, as well as in sectors where the number of foreign workers is seen rising, such as in agriculture and elderly care.

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