This year, even monolingual sports fanatics were able to enjoy the World Cup. This year’s edition of soccer’s biggest tournament was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language. Over half a million foreigners attended to see teams from 32 countries compete for the cup. In order to help all of those people navigate through everyday situations like hailing a taxi, consulting a doctor, or ordering from a restaurant, a Korean non-profit organization set up a language assistance service that operated 24 hours a day during the tournament. The service is called Rio Amigo. Calling the right number connected tourists to a volunteer translator speaking one of seven languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Korean) who were then able to communicate with the locals in Portuguese. Rio Amigo is the direct descendent of Before Babel Brigade, a similar service developed for the 2002 World Cup, which was hosted by South Korea and Japan. Due to its popularity, the number of volunteer translators has more than doubled since then. The World Cup may be over, but perhaps by the next one (in four years’ time), more languages will be offered.
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