NY rail service mangles Hebrew menus on ticket machines

Letters have appeared left to right instead of right to left on commuter rail service; "interim fix now underway," spokesperson says.

August 24, 2011 07:14
1 minute read.
Brooklyn bridge (illustrative)

brooklyn bridge 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

GnidaeR sdrawkcab si drah.

If you had trouble reading that sentence now you know what it’s been like trying to read the Hebrew menus on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) ticket vending machines (TVM).

The commuter rail service, which connects Long Island with Manhattan and beyond, has featured Hebrew menus on its TVMs since 2002. But for the past couple of months the letters have appeared left to right instead of right to left making what many call a difficult language almost impossible to understand, even for native speakers.

“The LIRR became aware of the problem at the end of June and has been working with its TVM vendor to find a solution,” wrote Salvatore Arena last week, the spokesman for the rail service.

Hebrew is one of nine languages featured on the ticket menus operated by the Metropolitan Transport Authority, the parent company of the LIRR, throughout the New York area. The language was chosen together with the likes of Spanish and Mandarin based on data from a 2002 demographic survey of the city. There are currently 25 machines located at 15 select stations serving large Hebrew-speaking communities.

That the menus were backwards and went unnoticed for months may imply the service is not in common use by the city’s Hebrew speakers, the vast majority of which also speak English. Nonetheless, Arena said the backwards menus would be promptly corrected.

“An interim fix now underway will correct most of the Hebrew text so that it reads right to left,” said Arena.

By Sunday, the previously faulty menus at Penn Station and Great Neck were fixed.

New York is also home to the US’s largest population of Yiddish speakers. There are about 150,000 people who speak Yiddish at home in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park.

Still, there were currently no plans to have ticket menus in Yiddish, Arena said.

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