The travel ban in China lifted on March 15, removing the last remaining restriction on travel since the start of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The coronavirus and the zero-Covid policy response have ravaged the nation’s economy during the past three years. While many observers expected China to keep border restrictions in place, the country’s 2022 GDP grew only 3%, sparking the decision to resume the issuance of Chinese tourist visas.
China’s border reopening will impact local populations and the national economy in several ways. The general public will encounter foreign tourists for the first time in years, resulting in the exchange and diversification of ideas. For most Chinese citizens, the Covid-19 narrative has appeared monolithic since the outbreak. Now, 1.4 billion inquisitive minds will encounter novel viewpoints on what occurred in Wuhan and where the country is headed.
Stakeholders in the tourism industry celebrated the decision to reopen before scrambling to set up businesses that remained dormant for over 40 months. Hotels and tour companies should see a significant increase in booking. Tourism-adjacent businesses, like restaurants and retail, also stand to benefit from the recent decision. China expects the sudden influx of tourists to elevate GDP growth to 5% in 2023.
For the first time ever, Beijing will attempt to strike a balance between Covid-19 safety measures and economic recovery in the tourism sector. Tourists who wish to visit China should expect China travel restrictions for US citizens to change more than once in the months ahead. It will fall to the translation industry to ensure visitors have accurate information before their arrival.
If China intends to recover from the economic damage it has sustained during the past few years, it will need the help of global translators. Millions of world travelers have asked for months, “When will China open its borders?” Still, they need to feel confident in the stability of China’s travel policies before buying their tickets and applying for tourist visas.
Chinese language experts are already experiencing a massive influx of inquiries for translation services related to visa applications, marketing materials, and web development. Interpreters have started to gear up for the first guided tours organized for foreigners in years. They will also see an uptick in new job listings for business meetings, conferences, and conventions.
With China opening borders in March, tourism stakeholders are racing to develop a welcoming travel experience for foreigners. Part of the plan includes translation of China tourist guidelines into dozens of languages. Language experts find themselves translating mandatory Covid-19 precautions, public health contact details, and updated guides to a country forever changed by a pandemic and its response to it.
Now that China’s borders have reopened, several linguists and language professionals who work in Mandarin and Cantonese have shared their personal experiences regarding the influx of language services requests.
Sijin Xian, an ATA-certified English-Chinese translator, subtitler, and Mandarin interpreter, has especially noticed the impact on Chinese nationals living in the United States. She noticed she has “more requests for personal document translation, signaling a gradual recovery of international school applications.”
Despite the increase in clients, China’s translation industry has yet to reach a full recovery. She mentioned that current activity remains below pre-pandemic levels. It will take more time for translation companies to bounce back to their former intake numbers.
Taiwan-based Chinese, English, Japanese, and Korean translator Lorraine Wu mentioned how requests for interpretation services have increased following the reopening. “Opening up borders to tourists means that people can come to Taiwan for business more easily, providing great opportunities for the exchange of knowledge internationally,” she stated. “The need for translation/interpretation in professional fields has undoubtedly surged.”
However, more has changed beyond business needs, including how translators respond to clients. To adapt to new challenges within the translation industry, language professionals have begun to adopt innovative technological solutions, changing the state of translation forever. Emerging artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies will alter how translation companies do business for the foreseeable future.
To meet the sudden demand for Chinese language services, translators who work in Mandarin and Cantonese will leverage the latest language solutions and technologies. The flood of service inquiries from around the globe may even accelerate the development of emerging translation technologies about to enter the market. Let us explore the available translation solutions, as well as those we can expect to use in the near future.
In 2016, Google introduced neural machine translation (NMT) to the translation industry. The technology performed better than the cutting-edge computer-assisted translation models of the time, quickly becoming the standard for international translation companies. NMT uses artificial neural networks that work much like the human brain to encode and decode a source text.
The future of neural machine translation will involve the use of lab-grown, human neurons to make crucial language decisions. Scientists have stimulated stem cells to create human brain tissue in a petri dish.
Most recently, the 800,000 brain cells that comprise the aptly named DishBrain have learned how to play Pong, the classic video game. It is only a matter of time before a larger, organic neural network derived from stem cells will make its first translation, perhaps in Mandarin.
The translation industry’s response to the reopening of China’s borders will, in part, dictate how much success tourism stakeholders will enjoy this year. Reliable translations of shifting Covid policies will prove indispensable to tourists as they navigate strictly enforced safety measures. Translators can look forward to plenty of work as the effects of lifting the travel ban continue to play out.