Next stop? Bilingualism

French announcements provide GO Transit customers a sense of respect and inclusion

It’s the friendly, familiar voice you hear almost every time you hop on the GO train. Only now, it’s different.

“Now arriving at Union. Arrivée à Union.”

The message being delivered by the automated service announcements is now provided in English and French on all GO trains.

“As a division of Metrolinx, GO Transit is committed to providing information to customers and the public in both official languages,” said Mario Lewy, Senior Advisor for Strategic Customer Solutions.

“Not only do we want to fulfill the French Language Services Act requirements but also create a consistent customer experience.”

For some passengers, it’s a sign of respect and inclusion of their culture and identity. “For me, it gives a sense of being home,” said Érika Gareau-Desjardins, who used to live in both Kingston and Ottawa.

“Since I lived in places where the Francophone population was much more prevalent, it’s comforting to have a little bit of that in the Greater Toronto Area,” she said.

A pilot program for the bilingual announcements was first conducted on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville line trains and on Route 81 (Port Perry) buses in June. A customer survey was then conducted and, based on customer feedback, some adjustments were made to the pronunciation and clarity.

“It is, above all, respect for the language and the person,” said Normand Burns.

“When a company chooses on its own to accommodate the language, the Francophone community is more inclined to use the service,” he said.

For others, it’s also a way of helping people use transit and getting around. With announcements made in both official languages, the system becomes more accessible.

“It helps to prevent missing your stop; especially when you are new and stressed,” admits Nadia Martins. “I come from the North and we have no public transport system so when I got here, oh boy, I was scared,” she said.

The trains have been playing the new bilingual announcements since August 1 and passengers can expect to hear “Merci d’avoir choisi GO” on buses as of September.

Written by Nitish Bissonauth, a bilingual media relations and issues specialist with Metrolinx and a former broadcast journalist.