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Television and Online News Was a Likely Focus for Translation Technology

Two clear patterns in the case data were that the greatest need for linguistic mediation was the need for assistance in developing situation awareness and that television and online news were the key channels through which foreign residents tried to satisfy this need. As can be seen in Table 1, the topics requiring linguistic mediation that were dealt with by television and online news organisations often involved the use of electronic texts and of audiovisual content. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the professional translators and interpreters involved in the production of television news broadcasts and online news websites would have taken advantage of a variety of translation technologies to prepare multilingual scripts, caption broadcasts, translate news articles, and so on. It is, therefore, in the consumption of television and online news that participants in this case study were most likely to have benefited from the intervention of translation technologies. Even so, it is a feature of disasters that resources are limited. Recurring patterns in participant accounts were that television and online news were not linguistically mediated as often as they needed them to be, that unmediated captions caused them particular difficulty, and that mediation when it was available was slow to arrive. Thus, it is also reasonable to assume that, while translation technologies were likely applied to television and online news production, they may not have been applied evenly across time and space in the disaster, and that more could be done in preparation for future disasters to enable technology to contribute to what seems to be an important source of disaster-related information for foreign residents in Japan.

The discussion so far has indicated that, while linguistic mediation was needed in the 2011 disaster, translation technologies played only a small part in satisfying these needs. The remainder of this section will speculate on ways in which translation technologies could be used to benefit foreign residents in future disasters in Japan.

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