By Kentaro Sugino / Yomiuri Shimbun Sportswriter Park Jeong Yong leads a program to train volunteer interpreters for international sports events, offered by a consortium of seven universities of foreign studies in Japan.
While working as a lecturer at Kanda University of International Studies, Park plans to dispatch 120 students to the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea next year and also aims to contribute to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
A native of Seoul, Park initially aspired to be a physical education teacher, but reached a turning point in 2000. He came to study in Japan at the age of 20, inspired by his admiration for a member of South Korea’s national soccer team who played in the J.League.
While learning Japanese at a language school, Park’s friendships with students from other countries and Japanese people were deepened by playing soccer with them. This showed him the significance of international exchange through sports.
Park’s training of interpreters was inspired by his own volunteer experience at an ekiden road relay race in Chiba. He acted as a go-between for the Japanese and South Korean coaches, and facilitated a passionate discussion that lasted until the early hours of the following day at a lodging facility.
Park realized the power of words to boost international friendship, as he witnessed the two coaches deepen their understanding of training methods and other matters.
About 800 people have already participated in a four-day interpreter training program that was devised and taught by Park.
The participants learn not only interpretation techniques but also Olympic history, tips on “omotenashi,” or traditional Japanese hospitality, and medical terms to enhance communication between injured athletes and doctors.
“I believe cross-cultural experiences will motivate students to learn,” Park said.