Korean Translation Service Helps World Cup Football Fans

Korean Translation Service Helps World Cup Football Fans

You’re at the World Cup in Rio, and you are on your way to the next match – which will be won by your country, obviously, – when boom! You fall flat on your face because you slipped on some Brazil nuts! But how do you tell the nurse in the emergency room what happened if you don’t speak a single word of Portuguese?


Of course, when you’re a football fan and have travelled to Brazil to support your country’s national football team, chances are you might not be able to communicate with the native Brazilians properly. Of course, you can always use nonverbal communication, but what if words are really necessary?

According to the Daily Mail, a Korean non-profit company has found the answer!

This company has come up with a service called the Before Babel Brigade. This service was developed in 2002, when the World Cup was held in Korea and Japan.

If fans find themselves in a situation where nobody speaks their language, they can call a Brazilian number and select a language. Then, the caller is connected to a volunteer translator that can speak directly to the caller’s real-time conversation partner.

Executive secretary of BBB Korea, Mee-hei Choie, states that just as the Korean people, Brazilians like to help out others, but are often hindered by their lack of language knowledge. In 2002, the service had about 2,000 volunteers working for them, but this number has grown to 4,500, the Daily Mail says.

Moreover, the volunteers speak 19 different languages! BBB Korea is a free service, which means the caller only has to pay for the telephone call. There is even a translation app available.

Marilia Rebello, an interpreter living in Rio de Janeiro, was told about the service by a journalist friend who covered the World Cup event in 2002. When she travelled to Korea to interpret there, she was quickly convinced that the World Cup in Rio needed the same service. This is why she helped the Korean organisation to find 100 volunteers that field calls on their cellphones to the hotline. Robello says she usually keeps her phone switched on 24 hours a day as the service is available round the clock, but that she puts it on mute If a day has been extremely busy.

According to the Daily Mail, the interpreters working for BBB Korea work pro bono. However, this doesn’t mean the entire project is free of costs: printed materials and other overhead costs add up to 89,000 USD, which are covered by the Korean electronics company Samsung.

Emma Tidey
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