4

Occasionally, there's a slightly bizarre situation where a train journey that is wholly within England (e.g. https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/service/gb-nr:L98417/2023-09-17/detailed#allox_id=0) has bilingual Welsh and English announcements because it's operated by Transport for Wales. Are there any other examples of public transport announcements made in a language that isn't (officially) spoken in that country?

2
  • 19
    There are of course a whole lot of train companies, which do their announcements in English, although English is not an official language in the operating country. Sep 17, 2023 at 17:29
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Sep 20, 2023 at 4:22

11 Answers 11

9

It is quite common wherever (most) announcements are automated, though with quite a few variations.

On some TGV Duplex trainsets operating in the Grand Est region of France, use of German is not uncommon, even on trains which do not even approach Germany or any other German-speaking territory (like Paris-Reims). It may involve just displays or also audio announcements.

English is quite frequent as well, but again (with the odd exception) nearly always only in automated announcements.

Even in the Paris Metro, announcements in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and/or (I think) Mandarin do happen, especially the “there may be pickpockets operating, beware!” messages, and the odd “platform is on the left” when approaching Gare de Lyon on line 14.

Of course if you get into trains which cross language boundaries, then it is normal to hear multiple languages (which may be spoken by the same or different employees). Swiss train conductors probably lead the race, by far.

2
  • 4
    Some Dutch train staff do well as well, with German, English and French besides their Dutch, with sometimes Frisian or a local language/dialect thrown in as an extra.
    – Willeke
    Sep 17, 2023 at 20:14
  • In Austria and Germany also the none automated messages made by personnel are often in German and English. At least in long distance trains, also ones that don't leave the country.
    – kirbby
    Oct 5, 2023 at 13:35
2

One similar example I can think of is Cantonese PA in Shenzhen public transportation. While SZ is in Guangdong, Cantonese is only a minor dialect in that city, and is not an official language.

But every bus and subway train I've taken in SZ has announcements in Mandarin, Cantonese, and slightly weird English (not on buses though), not an official language either.

3
  • 1
    I like the idea that "slightly weird English" is an offical language somewhere.
    – CMaster
    Oct 4, 2023 at 15:26
  • @CMaster at some point the station announcements were trying to produce a native English version of the Chinese names, completely distorting the original names, while pronouncing them very slowly. Wanxia 湾厦 became Waaaaaaaaaahn Shaaaaaaaah. It was hilarious. They went back to something less comical.
    – dda
    Oct 4, 2023 at 23:25
  • 1
    @dda you should hear some of the conductors on English trains going into Wales. They really mangle some Welsh place names Oct 6, 2023 at 19:00
2

This even happens in the United States: for example, San Diego Trolley announcements are made in Spanish as well as in English.

2
  • 5
    Of course neither of those are an "official" language of the USA since there isn't one. Ditto for English in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the UK. Of course de jure and de facto are different things.
    – origimbo
    Sep 19, 2023 at 9:00
  • You might expect this in San Diego. But MARTA in Atlanta also makes announcements in Spanish as well as English. Nov 27, 2023 at 16:28
2

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the BRT and MRT announces the route and stops in Indonesian and English. The trips are entirely inside Indonesia (the nearest border isn't even on the same island), and English isn't officially spoken, with low proficiency.

2

I rode Le Frecce in Italy several times, and announcements were made always in Italian and English. The latter is not an official language of Italy.

I now ride the Boston T frequently, and sometimes hear announcements like: "Para hacer espacio para otros pasajeros y acelerar el embarque, por favor, quítense la mochila y manténganla a su lado." But the announcements for next station, &c. are given only in English. But if we're not limiting ourselves to audio announcements, you can find posters about service disruptions in a wide variety of languages, including Portuguese, French, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic, Amharic, and Mandarin (both traditional and simplified).

2

My guess is that this is so common that it's not worth trying to enumerate examples. Even leaving aside the extremely common occurrence of trains giving announcements in English as well as the local language which happens all over Europe and likely beyond, it's common anywhere that it's highly likely you'll get tourists and travellers from another country.

Just as an example, catch the train from Flensburg, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark and you'll get announcements in Danish and German (and frequently also English) along the way. Even Train Station announcements are frequently multi-lingual. This is simple pragmatics: if enough people using a route don't speak the local language, it is easier to give multi-lingual announcements than deal with confused travellers.

2

I am on a train from Berlin to Prague. The announcement just now, about running late, was in Czech, German, and English. Real humans speaking. The English had a noticeable accent but was easy to understand.

The printed signs on the train where in Czech, English, German, French, and Italian. The electronic signs were in Czech, German, and English.

In the Prague main station (Praha hl.n.), the signs and announcements were in Czech, English, and German.

So the use of German is not unique to trains coming from Germany.

2

All trains in the Seoul subway announce the next stop in Korean first, then English, alerting passengers to transfers and exit doors. Some train stations take it a step further, with voiceovers also in Japanese and Chinese.

1

In Finistère, Brittany, France, the Breton language is spoken by 15% of inhabitants of the département.

Road signs are all billingual and if you hop on Brest's tram, you will hear announcement in Breton at some stations

5
  • 2
    But the question asks if announcements on transport are made outside of the region where an official language is spoken, although it's slightly confused by saying 'country' instead of 'region'. Moreover Wikipedia states "Breton is the only living Celtic language that is not recognized by a national government as an official or regional language. ". Sep 17, 2023 at 21:31
  • 2
    Welsh inhabitants would complain about Wales being considered a "region" rather than country :)
    – ChrisW
    Sep 18, 2023 at 8:36
  • 1
    @ChrisW immigrants to the UK can meet the language requirement by demonstrating proficiency in English or Welsh, but only those two languages, regardless of where they live.
    – phoog
    Sep 18, 2023 at 23:25
  • @phoog I don't think this is true. The life in the UK test may be taken in Welsh, and evidence may be submitted in Welsh, but the English language requirement requires you are proficient in... English.
    – MJeffryes
    Oct 4, 2023 at 13:10
  • @WeatherVane Successive French central governments have been actively trying to remove any recognition to regional and minoritary languages (even English)... I could agree that it is an official language of the region, but it has no administrative/legal use at all (and there have been, unsuccessful, tries to change that) so this is valid here IMHO Oct 5, 2023 at 8:03
1

Other answers and comments already remarked that announcements in English (the current lingua franca whatever one's opinion of this) are common in many countries where English isn't an official language. Concrete examples I can think of:

  • Trains in Austria start their automatic station announcements "nächster Halt, next stop" followed by the station name. In long-distance trains stations are announced by staff, and they too usually give their announcements in English too, though not always in the same level of detail.
  • At railway stations in Austria as well as Vienna public transport, announcements for things like platform changes, cancelled trains or other disruptions are given in German and English; for long-distance trains also announcements about arriving trains.
  • On Vienna public transport, places where you can change to the airport bus or City Airport Train are announced in English too at the end of the announcement ("connections to airport bus/City Airport Train").
  • In Berlin, there are announcements in English where you can change to trains to the airport, main railway station and possibly other destinations.

For an example other than English: There is a long-distance train route Graz–Vienna–Prague, though some of its trains only travel from Graz to Vienna. This is (or was?) operated in part with ÖBB Railjet trainsets, in part with ČD Railjet trainsets. In the latter (even when they travel only between Graz and Vienna), the automatic announcement "příští stanice, nächster Halt, next stop" is trilingual (Czech/German/English); in other words, the announcements are given in two languages not officially spoken anywhere on the route being served.

0

Besides English and sometimes German being used on Danish trains as addressed in another answer, some local public transport (partially) does this as well in Denmark - for the tramway in Odense, even some stops' names are translated (the central station, maybe unsurprisingly, but there's also "Idrætsparken/Stadium" for instance).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .