Friday, December 04, 2009

How does Vancouver say Welcome to the world...

...when all of the signs are in English?

Canada's official languages are English and French, but aside from the airport or other federal buildings, it's rare to see a sign en francais. Oh yes, there's Maillardville, a quiet little community that celebrated its centennial this year. Since it's not home to Olympic venues, it's doubtful it will be much help to francophone travellers.

Yesterday's announcement that Canada has joined the ranks of countries with ‘approved destination status’ suggests that we should expect a wave of tourists from China. As long as they visit the suburb of Richmond, especially Aberdeen Centre, those tourists will feel right at home, as much of the signage there is in Chinese characters.

Still, if they venture far beyond there, I fear they may get lost -- especially if they try to use the newest leg in Vancouver's rapid transit system, the Canada Line. I haven't yet seen a sign there in anything but English -- and even that signage doesn't seem to do a very good job of communicating.

I've always admired Toronto's subway system, with its colourful, distinctively tiled stations. Easy enough to show a person that they need to get off at the red station or the green one -- much harder to ask them to read a crawl sign or listen for the name of a station called out by a pre-recorded robotic voice, no matter how lifelike its tonality might be.

The last three times I've used the Canada Line, I've been approached by people (an older couple, a mother and her daughters, three teenaged girls) who couldn't figure out which train to take or which stop to get off at. And judging from their lack of accents, these were all people for whom English is their first language.

If they can't understand the signs that are posted, how are we to expect travellers from around the world to navigate their way around the city?

1 comment:

Vinayak Rao said...
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