Last updated on June 6th, 2023 at 10:20 am
I love to travel and experience new cities, new food, new cultures, and different ways of doing things. New customs and traditions enrich our lives and our perspectives of the world. New languages are also an interesting element to experience, but when the language is nothing like yours, you can quickly feel anxious and alone. When it is difficult to get information, understand simple instructions, or be understood, tourism can go from being fun to being an ordeal. Traveling without the support of translation services around you takes away from the experience of your trip.
I travel often, and in the last 5 years, I have visited countries where I could get by well enough speaking English and Spanish. Recently, I traveled to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and even though I expected to manage well with English, that was not always the case. Few of the people we encountered understood English, and on top of this, we didn’t understand German.
On the first day of my stay in Germany, I had a hard time buying tickets to a famous museum online. I started to pay close attention to the presence or lack of translated information to support multilingual visitors to these tourism-heavy areas.
The museum’s website caused a lot of aggravation for us. First, I spent about 2 hours just buying the tickets because while the website was in German and English,it kept changing to German every time I went to pay for the tickets. After 4 tries, I decided to buy in German and hope for the best, only to find the next day that I had an option to buy tickets for a select time of day, which I did not know because I cannot read German. As a result, we had to wait in a long line and waste precious hours because the museum’s website was mostly translated into English but was not supportive when it came to the area of paying for tickets. In short, it did not serve my needs as a multilingual tourist. Also, the museum only offers German and English language services. What about the thousands of visitors each year who speak Chinese, Japanese, or Spanish? They may feel left out. Sadly, that is how I felt while visiting one of the most important museums in the world.
We ran into similar issues at the train station and when buying food. At the train station we didn’t know where to go or what to do. Everything was in German. We felt lost and had to ask people for directions several times to find our way around. We almost lost the train and at one point I got different food than what I meant to order, since I had to point at images and make hand gestures. It was jarring and uncomfortable to be up against such a language barrier, unable to read signs or effectively communicate with people.
I started paying attention to the translation of brochures in touristic places, menus in restaurants, and even the signs at a pastry shop, which made my life much easier. I should point out that we found places in Berlin that had a much more accommodating approach to multilingual visitors. Such is the case of the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and Check Point Charlie (Amerikanischer Kontrollpunkt), both important tourist spots. As you can see in the images below, they cater to multilingual tourists by offering translated brochures in several languages.
The city of Prague in the Czech Republic was a different experience. Everywhere we went, we found multilingual brochures, guides, and instructions. All the content for visits and tourism was translated into several languages, effectively communicating the information to visitors in their language of choice.
I was impressed with Prague’s multilingual content for tourism, especially after the limited translation options I found in Berlin. I found prayers translated into 16 languages in a Catholic church. The brochure for a visit to the tower of the Old Town Hall was translated into 15 languages, and we were able to visit one of the oldest astronomical clocks with the brochure in our preferred language. These visits were more pleasant, and we learned about the places and their history because we were able to get information in our language.
As you can see below, I took pictures of the places that use translation services to support visitors, are tourist-oriented, and understand that tourism is a multilingual industry.
Prague is a multicultural, multilingual, impressive city. Without a doubt, they understand the value of tourism. It is important for them and they show it by catering to tourists in their languages. We found translation of documents for tourism everywhere we needed it, at museums, hotels, restaurants, train stations, and bus stops. All the touristic spots had information in several languages.
As a testimonial to my search for translation for tourism and travel content, see the pictures of the aforementioned brochure and the prayers translated into several languages.
After Prague, we went to Vienna, Austria. We also found this city prepared to handle the language of its visitors and packed with translation services for tourists. There is a deep understanding of the need to present culture, history, and art using the language of the visitors. That is also represented in the multiple images below of multilingual brochures, the menu at the hotel, and city tour buses with translated material for the guided explanation of the city’s landmarks. Museums were also full of multilingual maps and brochures to explain their treasures as we see in the images I took in Vienna.
One of my passions is to get to know new cultures. Working in the translation industry, I am surrounded on a daily basis by languages, cultural interactions, and website translation. This trip to Central Europe made me see firsthand the importance of translation services for the tourism and travel industry. The tourism and travel industry is by definition a global industry, and the people who work in it can help keep it a flourishing industry by being accommodating of their clients’ languages.