[EDITORIALS]Dialing away barriersThe Before Babel Brigade, a volunteer movement to provide translation and tour guide services over mobile phones, will start Thursday, a month before the World Cup opens. The JoongAng Ilbo organized the brigade. Beginning Thursday, BBB cards with volunteers' mobile phone numbers will be distributed at international airports and sea ports, tourist offices and lodgings. Foreign visitors can call one of the numbers on the card for help if they run into problems.
Many people have experienced difficulties with language barriers in foreign countries or in talking to foreigners. In such a situation, people know how helpful an interpreter can be. The intent of the brigade is to bring people from all over the world close together.
We expect about 500,000 foreign visitors during the World Cup month. Language will be the first and perhaps the most difficult barrier they will face. No matter how clean and organized the cultural and tourist facilities in Korea are, no matter how kind Koreans become, it would be of no use if visitors cannot communicate with Koreans. If foreigners and Koreans cannot talk to each other, misunderstandings can lead to dislike and bigotry.
The BBB movement will prevent such things from happening. Those who can speak foreign languages throughout the country will get together with visitors through mobile phones that more than 30 million Koreans own. This is a language and cultural movement unprecedented in the world. More than 2,200 volunteers, including former diplomats, professors, businessmen, housewives and students, have already joined the movement. Their phone numbers will be grouped under 13 different languages and will appear on the appropriate language card.
Volunteers will have the reward of helping others and the World Cup by just carrying a mobile phone while they go about their business. Even Koreans who cannot speak a foreign language can join the movement by handing over their mobile phone to foreigners who look bewildered. Let's support the BBB movement so that it expands from Korea to the world, helping the world's people transcend language and cultural barriers.