PARIS - The Paris metro has launched an instant translation app ahead of next year's Olympic Games to help hapless foreign visitors navigate the French capital's urban transport system.
The meandering metro, featuring more than 300 stations whose names can be hard to find or pronounce even for natives, easily becomes a nightmare for anybody without fluent French.
The Summer Olympics, to be held in the French capital between July 26 and August 11, will bring millions of visitors without knowledge of French or even English to the capital, most of whom will be using public transport to shuttle between sports venues.
In comes Tradivia, an instant translation app able to handle 16 languages, with which metro operator RATP has equipped 6,000 of its staff across the network's stations.
The app translates spoken queries, including in English, German, Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic, into French for the benefit of RATP's agents whose responses then get translated back to the language of the visitor.
"We had a real issue here, because our agents can't be expected to answer queries in all languages," said Valerie Gaidot, customer experience head at RATP.
The app has been specifically tailored to the Paris metro experience, and knows its way around station names, itineraries and the various ticket and travel pass types that can leave tourists bewildered.
This, RATP said, is a decisive advantage over general translation help like Google Translate that sometimes fails to make sense of the metro's idiosyncrasies.
After experimenting on three urban lines first, the operator rolled out the service across the network over the summer.
In addition, four languages -- English, German, Italian and Spanish -- are currently available for special platform announcements, with Mandarin and Arabic to be added before the Olympics.
Some 15 million people are expected in Paris and surrounding regions for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.