I'll never be out of a job


This poster was a great excuse to try my new mobile blogging software. I came across it at the Montparnasse train station this morning.

“All our staff is at our disposal and will assist you in your whereabouts wherever you are in this station including the staff of the way-finding desk (near the end of platform 17)”

I was literally stopped in my tracks by the English. I couldn’t help wondering how an English-speaking traveler would react, once they stopped giggling.

The translation is uniquely bad. (I’m not going to start listing everything that’s wrong with it). What struck me the most was how it tries to say more than the original French does while introducing lots of new confusions (it’s along way to the end of platform 17, which you can’t actually access without a commuter ticket). It’s as if the writer was going out his or her way to be extra nice to foreigners but hadn’t ever actually tried to help a hapless voyager.

You clearly get the idea that a decision has been made high up to rectify the quality of traveller assistance (smells like a survey result to me), but you can’t help wondering if the writing skills are a taste of the language skills to be found in the mysterious “way-finding” desk.

And God forbid you’re a non-native English speaker. It must sound even more confusing, while the obsequiousness probably flies over your head.

Ironically, I was on my way to a meeting to discuss the challenges of writing content for a 3-language website.


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