New online technology breaks down
communication barriers by giving simultaneous English to Japanese and Japanese to English
translations. Richard Smith is tongue-tied from looking up
How can you talk to somebody when you don't know each other's language? Even harder, how
can you communicate online? And when you consider the added difficulty of communication
between a Japanese speaker using kanji and kana, and an English speaker writing in romaji,
the challenge is daunting indeed.
In Jan, Cafeglobe.com Ltd., a Tokyo-based Japanese online magazine that covers topics from
politics to fashion as well as worldwide issues, launched a real-time bilingual service
called "Women on the Globe." Women on the Globe's mission is to give
opportunities to all women who wish to receive information from all over the world without
worry of language barriers between English and Japanese. "Our name 'cafeglobe' is
based on the idea of making a global café on the Internet for the purpose of enlightening
women," says Akiko Okada of Cafeglobe.com. "Now we are mainly targeting Japanese
women, but we would like to involve women who are living in other cultures, too."
This vanguard service is powered by Amikai, a Silicon Valley, US-based real-time language
solutions provider for e-businesses and translation for companies in nine languages.
Although there are already machines on the market that provide various degrees of written
and audio translation, this service brings simultaneous translation online by allowing
visitors to cafeglobe.com's webpage to communicate with anybody, anywhere in the world in
English and Japanese, translation being done simultaneously from one language to the
other. "According to our best knowledge, there is no other chat room in the world
that provides simultaneous translation in any language," says communications
specialist Tomono Kinjo of LBS in Tokyo, which does public relations for Amikai in Japan.
The service's menu is composed of three features. On the pioneering LinguaChat's chat
room, the visitor's message is simultaneously translated and appears in both English and
Japanese. This service is initially being offered three days a week for an hour on Tue,
Wed and Thu from 11pm-12am at www.cafeglobe.com/cafe/wotg/index.html Discussions are devoted to
topics selected each time by cafeglobe.com, such as "Are you afraid to use a credit
card on the Internet" or "Do you respect your boss?"
Another feature is LinguaWeb, a real-time bilingual web browser that translates websites
to and from English. Users can see both the original webpage and its translation, to help
verification and improve language skills. Finally, LinguaText allows users to quickly
translate texts to and from English and Japanese.
This is Amikai's second foray into online simultaneous translation, as the company already
powers a free online translation site at www.excite.co.jp/world In addition to webpage and text translators
similar to LinguaWeb and LinguaText, this site has a search engine that allows users, by
typing a keyword, to access English-language sites, translated in Japanese with Amikai's
technology. Users punch in a word in the keyword box and get a listing of English-language
websites containing that word, with the summary translated in Japanese. Clicking on the
site name accesses the web page, translated into Japanese. For example, look up the
English word "investigation." The first site listed is the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, so click on that and you get the FBI's web-page in Japanese. Or type in
ryugaku (study abroad) in Japanese and get an English-language "study
abroad" listing with summaries and web pages translated to Japanese. This feature is
Although the translations are often inaccurate and sometimes funny, they are extremely
service-oriented and fulfill a most important need: communication.