On Friday, while the Eurostar I was on was pulling into Calais Fréthun station, the train manager announced in French that we were arriving into Calais, then in English that we were arriving into Lille Europe (the stop after), and finally in Flemish that we were arriving into Calais. Because I've done the trip quite a bit, I knew it was Calais not Lille, but at least one person from my carriage got off then re-joined shortly after looking rather confused.

This got me thinking though, what would've happened if I hadn't known the journey well enough to know which language's announcement had the mistake in it?

In a situation where you hear two (or more) announcements in different languages which appear to contradict each other, what steps/strategies can you take to work out which is correct, to know what to do?

  • 2
    This strikes me as a special case of "How can I deal with erroneous announcements/signage?" The only thing "special" about this case is that there are immediate clues that an error was made. As any announcer (or sign maker) can make an error, in any situation, it's pretty impossible to come up with meaningful tips on how to deal with such errors except, perhaps, to always be vigilant.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 8 '14 at 11:33
  • This reminds me of a sign I once heard of near Belfast, right before a dangerous curve. In Irish: "Slow down, dangerous curve ahead." In English: "Speed limit 120 KPH". Places and languages changed to protect the guilty
    – dotancohen
    Sep 8 '14 at 12:29
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    @Flimzy: Using GPS or even GPS based notifications (like with Google Now) is only applicable to this question and would not be applicable to the general case. Sep 8 '14 at 15:03

I can only think of two that occasionally helped me:

  • Know the journey. It might struck some people as a bit obsessive but I often look at a map, check the signs on the platform at intermediary stops and count the stops before my destination.

  • Don't be shy about asking around, anybody. Some people will know the train network very well and many locals will have free Internet on their phones and be happy to check online or discuss between them to find a route for you, etc. Railway personnel, when available, has also often been very helpful.

Incidentally, knowing several languages and paying attention helps tremendously. At least, if you know something might be wrong, you can start taking measures or at least check the name on the platform when entering the station but if you only knew one language and were oblivious to the rest you might not even be concerned.

  • 4
    Or have a smartphone with GPS with you, that's what I nowadays tend to do. Even without any navigation features or anything it helps a lot in countries where you don't know the language well. Sep 8 '14 at 14:39
  • @DavidMulder Makes sense! I don't usually travel with my mobile phone, which isn't a smartphone at all so I am not really able to comment on that ;-)
    – Relaxed
    Sep 8 '14 at 14:42

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