Senk ju vor Träwelling – Deutsche Bahn and the English language

Well it is that time of the year again and people all over Europe trying to get home. Given the weather conditions and airport closures and despite delays and over-crowded trains, rail seems like a good option to many, not only for travel within Germany but also internationally. And how are Deutsche Bahn dealing with this increase in international customers? By getting rid of their English language announcements, it would appear.

Now I know, this announcement was made a few weeks before this latest bout of extreme weather. But this is not the first time this year when extreme conditions have grounded flights across Europe and forced people to the rails; the erruption of Eyjafjalljökull and the ash cloud that followed introduced a lot new customers to the pleasures of Deutsche Bahn. One would think that Deutsche Bahn would be interested in retaining these customers by making rail travel more accessible for non-German speakers. Removing English language announcements and putting nothing in their place is not perhaps the ideal strategy in this regard.

Not that I was ever the number one cheerleader for these announcements. They were overly long, the information they gave was very formulaic and they certainly did not assist staff in clarifying difficult situations to international customers. I witnessed this for myself last February while en route from Vienna to Berlin. The snow had been persistently falling for weeks and it was perhaps not surprising that the train was delayed somewhere. In my case, I faced an hour delay somewhere between Bavaria and Saxony. Announcements in German were made early, often and at considerable length. Announcements in English were limited to the standard “Senk ju vor Träwelling” announcement upon our delayed arrival at the next station. Which would have been fine, had all the customers understood German but I did hear a number of confused non-German speakers asking other passengers what was being said in the announcements. That is not what I call good customer service.

There were plenty of ways Deutsche Bahn could resolve this problem, from the low tech option of equipping conductors with custom-designed phrasebooks so that they could make appropriate announcements to more high tech solutions involving SMS services. These are all the kind of innovative language solutions that Translabor loves to be a part of.

If you are one of those attempting to travel across this snowy continent, Translabor wishes you a very safe journey!


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