TapLingual: The mobile solution to Japan’s language woes?



Last month at the Infinity Ventures Summit in Sapporo Japan, we had a chance to see a number of great startups during the LaunchPad pitch event. We had to hustle to cover as many of them as we could, but one that we didn’t get a chance to discuss was TapLingual.

The startup pointed out in its pitch that while the number of tourists coming to Japan is expected to grow in the coming years, there’s still a significant language barrier for those in the tourism or service industries. TapLingual’s proposed solution is to enlist the help of a real translator who is sort of conferenced into the conversation, face-to-face, using its smartphone app.

As a part of its on-stage pitch at LaunchPad, TapLingual gave a short video demo (included below) that presented the situation of a Chinese tourist visiting a shop in Japan. The linguistically challenged shopkeeper brings out the TapLingual apps, and is promptly rescued by the smartphone translator.

The service would cost such a retailer 3000 yen per month to use (or about $30), and so far it supports Chinese, English, and Korean.

While serving foreign tourists is most certainly a problem here in Japan, I’m not quite certain if this can be an easy solution. Most shops probably have specialized, frequently used vocab, and I think a translating solution would need to address that to ensure great quality. But TapLingual’s proposal is bold if nothing else, and I’ll be curious to see how their early trials go.