What makes the ‘ideal’ hotel ideal is the feeling the guest has of being more at home than at home.
At home, there are no distances to travel, no searches for parking facilities, no worries about how to dress and when to arrive, no questions about how to operate appliances or when they are available. On the other hand, you still have to purchase food, prepare it, wash up afterwards, take out appliances, use them, clean them and replace them when they break down.
Hotel guests pay one fee and can expect all of the benefits of being at home with none of the drawbacks. As a rule, German-speaking guests benefit from a full range of information from hotel staff, from the website, leaflets and signage – but will still encounter situations in which it is not clear whether a service is available, what to do or where to go, or they are simply too shy or embarrassed to ask.
So imagine what it must be like for guests who rely on English as their sole means of communication and source of information. Most of the better hotels have an English version of their websites, but not always with the same scope of information as the German site, or in natural-sounding English. Many have their internal information leaflets in English, but most of the signage is only in German.
This puts British, American, South African and Australian guests at a disadvantage, and increases their reliance on printed materials, which may contain entertaining, strange or misleading translations, and increases their need to speak with members of the hotel staff, who may feel uneasy about speaking English. For guests from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world English is their lifeline.
As an English coach and translator I have often found myself listening in on “Yes, yes. Please? Errm…, no” conversations at hotel reception desks and in dining rooms, and enjoyed reading the self-translated information provided around the facility.
I think to myself – do they really understand? It’s my job to make sure that they do!