The Korea Herald

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Seoul offers interactive real-time translation machines in 11 languages

By Lee Jung-joo

Published : Nov. 14, 2023 - 15:09

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A tourist uses the real-time interactive translation service screen installed at Seoul Tourism Plaza in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government) A tourist uses the real-time interactive translation service screen installed at Seoul Tourism Plaza in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Seoul Metropolitan Government will install real-time, interactive translation service screens at tourist information centers for non-Korean speakers visiting the capital city.

Through this translation service, tourists who visit Seoul will be able to receive assistance while speaking in a language they are comfortable with. It utilizes a translation engine that runs with artificial intelligence and voice-to-text conversion digital technology and displays the translated text on a transparent screen, allowing for face-to-face conversation.

The translation service screens will be installed as a pilot project in two tourist information centers -- at Gwanghwamun Tourist Information Center and Seoul Tourism Plaza -- to be further installed in other places around the city later.

The translation services will be available in 11 languages: English, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malay, Indonesian, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and French. The selection of the 11 languages was based on Korea Tourism Organization's country ranking data regarding the number of tourists who visited South Korea in 2019.

Tourists can try the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s real-time translation service at the two tourist information centers in central Seoul from Nov. 20. According to the city government, the accuracy of the translations will improve as more tourists use the translation service, which allows the AI translation engine to learn.

Until Dec. 31, the city government will also conduct a pilot project event where those who try the translation service will be entered into a random draw for a discount coupon, redeemable at a duty-free store in Seoul or for a souvenir.

“We expect the introduction of this service to significantly increase tourist convenience and satisfaction for tourists who visit Seoul,” said Kim Young-hwan, director of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Department of Tourism and Sports. “We hope that tourists who visit Seoul will be able to enjoy the city without experiencing language barriers.”