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Findings

This section provides an overview of the needs for linguistic mediation in the 2011 disaster that participants mentioned at interview. Other linguistic needs, of course, may have existed. The purpose of this section is not to come up with an exhaustive inventory, but rather to point to areas where translation technologies made a contribution in the 2011 disaster or could make a contribution in any future disasters in Japan.

Table 1 details the specific qualitative data revealed to the researcher at interview and organises these data in a typology of linguistic mediation needs. The data can be summarised under five main findings: a need for linguistic mediation - both translation and interpreting - was observed in the 2011 disaster; the greatest need for such mediation was to allow foreign nationals to develop ‘situation awareness’; a recurring theme in participant accounts was the need for the mediation of live speech by other people in the disaster setting who offered their language skills in a voluntary capacity; significant amounts of mediation were carried out under the auspices of television networks and local government offices; problematising linguistic mediation in the 2011 disaster revealed not just an overall lack of mediation efforts but also problems with the consistency and speed of the translation that was carried out. In these findings, the technical term ‘situation awareness’ may be new to the reader. Situation awareness is a concept used in the study of emergency response to talk about how people individually and collectively gather and analyse information in complex and changing circumstances in order to understand and cope with a situation (Endsley and Garland 2000, Vieweg 2012).

Each finding developed from the data in Table 1 will now be explained in more detail.

Table 1. Linguistic mediation needs in the 2011 disaster identified by participants in this study

Topic: | Mode: | Mediators: | Locus: | Problem:

Warning about the disaster

• Automated early warning systems

  • • Electronic text
  • • Recorded speech

• Staff of subscribing networks

  • • Japan Meteorological Agency's Earthquake Early Warning System
  • • TV, radio, mobile phone & municipal networks (PA systems) subscribed to it

• Lack of linguistic mediation of TV and municipal warnings

• Maps displayed on emergency news broadcasts and websites

• Electronic text

• Staff of TV networks

• TV networks

• Lack of linguistic mediation of captions, colour coding of warnings only explained in Japanese

Instructing people how to respond

• General public address announcements (evacuations, delays, explaining power-saving)

• Live speech

  • • Train station staff
  • • Municipal staff
  • • Office staff
  • • Train stations
  • • Municipal offices
  • • Office buildings
  • • Lack of linguistic mediation
  • • Incomprehensible delivery of foreign language translations
  • • Poor sound quality

• Controlled evacuation notices (not over pub be address system)

• Live speech

• Staff of the parks and public facilities

  • • Theme parks
  • • Large public spaces and buildings

• Limited language abilities of staff

• Instructions from Japanese local authorities to international emergency responders

• Live speech

• Volunteer interpreters (professional and nonprofessional)

  • • Transportation to disaster zone
  • • Disaster zone search and rescue sites

• Cultural and political barriers

• Instructing volunteers in response and recovery tasks

• Live speech

  • • Local volunteer organisers
  • • Other foreign volunteers

• Homes, businesses, and streets in the disaster zone

• Limited language abilities of local organisers and foreign volunteers

Developing situation awareness' in the disaster

• Confirming safety with and reporting location of foreign nationals to local authorities

• Live speech

  • • Municipal staff
  • • Emergency responders
  • • Other foreign nationals
  • • Disaster zone evacuation centres
  • • Disaster zone municipal offices
  • • Limited language abilities of local authorities and foreign nationals
  • • Cultural barriers

• Content of news broadcasts on TV and streamed online (especially areas hit, by what, and fatalities and missing)

  • • Live speech
  • • Electronic text
  • • Staff of TV networks
  • • Bilingual volunteers streaming live interpreting of news broadcasts and subtitling news programs
  • • TV networks
  • • Homes of volunteer interpreters
  • • Lack of linguistic mediation
  • • Japanese-only captions and subtitles

Table 1. (Continued)

Topic: I Mode: 1 Mediators: 1 Locus: 1 Problem:

• Content of press conferences

  • • Live speech
  • • Electronic text
  • • Professional interpreters
  • • Multilingual journalists

• Government offices

  • • Lack of linguistic mediation
  • • Content translated and distributed by multilingual journalists over social media useful but limited in scope

• Public transport timetables and routes, especially for evacuating

  • • Printed text
  • • Electronic text
  • • Municipal staff
  • • Foreign volunteers

• Municipal helpdesks and helplines

  • • Information updated constantly
  • • Consistency of translation

• Where to go for emergency supplies, opening, stocking and rationing at stores

  • • Printed text
  • • Live speech

• Other foreign nationals

• Homes, businesses, and streets in the disaster zone

• Information updated constantly

• Explaining the Japanese seismic intensity scale

  • • Printed text
  • • Electronic text
  • • Municipal staff
  • • Foreign volunteers

• Municipal offices

• Cultural barriers

• Reporting rates of radioactivity in particular geographic areas and ris er routes to see water contamination

  • • Live speech
  • • Electronic text
  • • Governmental staff
  • • Electric company staff
  • • Foreign volunteers
  • • Japanese national and prefectural governments
  • • Tokyo Electric Power Co.
  • • IAEA
  • • TV networks
  • • Technical vocabulary (difficult to understood even when translated)
  • • Lack of context in translations
  • • Poor terminology management

• Nuclear technology and its operation

• Live speech

• Academic experts

  • • TV networks
  • • Public meetings
  • • Lack of linguistic mediation
  • • Limited language ability of academic experts

• Food labels, especially places of origin

• Printed text

• Other foreign nationals

• Supermarkets, restaurants

• Lack of linguistic mediation

• Content of Japanese ministerial websites

• Electronic text

• Governmental staff

• Japanese ministries

  • • Lack of linguistic mediation
  • • S low to deliver translations
  • • Poor quality translations

Administering the disaster

• Forms and procedures required to become a volunteer

  • • Printed text
  • • Electronic text
  • • Local volunteer organisers
  • * Other foreign volunteers

• Homes, businesses, and streets in the disaster zone

• Lack of linguistic mediation

• Forms and procedures required to make claims for insurance, rebuilding, returning home, etc.

  • • Printed text
  • • Electronic text
  • • Municipal staff
  • • Foreign volunteers

• Municipal helpdesks and helplines

  • • Consistency of translation difficult to maintain
  • • Poor terminology management

Supporting others through the disaster

• Giving condolences or showing empathy appropriately

• Live speech

• Foreign volunteers

• Homes and bus messes in tire disaster zone

• Limited language abilities of foreign volunteers

• Twitter messages of support from around the world

• Electronic text

• Professional translators working in a voluntary capacity

• Web-based human translation platform headquartered in Tokyo

• Significant time and resources required to synthesise message platform and translation platform

 
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