[OSM-talk] Label language on the Default stylesheet

Maarten Deen mdeen at xs4all.nl
Mon Sep 25 06:25:46 UTC 2017

On 2017-09-24 23:01, Matthijs Melissen wrote:
> Hi all,
> I would like to ask for your opinion on the choice of language used in
> the Default map on openstreetmap.org.
> This map (based on the openstreetmap-carto style) currently displays
> all labels in their native language (as defined in the 'name' tag).
> For example, we have a label 北京市 for Beijing, a label موريتانيا for
> Mauritania, and a label Magyarország for Hungary.
> The openstreetmap-carto team quite frequently receives requests to
> (additionally) display labels in English (or in any case the
> Latin-alphabet). The people making these requests state that the map
> is currently not very usable for an international audience, as many
> people are not able to read labels in for example Arabic or Mandarin.
> Some areas where this problem is particularly visible:

And vice versa: I always wonder how usable a map in Latin alphabet is 
for Chinese or Russian speakers.

> From an ideologic viewpoint, I am very much in favour of not giving
> preferential treatment to any particular language. Using the local

No, of course there should not be a "we're going to do all latin" move. 
But having the map like this and saying "we only put local alphabet on 
the map" is just as much an ideologic viewpoint. You are excluding 
people who do not know the alphabet from using the map.
I for one have long been annoyed by the inability for me to find places 
in countries such as China, Russia, Japan, Korea, Thailand and others 
I'm not remembering. Sure, I can use nominatim and the place will be 
pointed out to me but then I can not read at all what it says. I think 
that in all these years of OSM this could and should have been picked up 
and discussed long ago, but apparently everyone in control of the map 
seems to have the opinion of "local language or bust".

But the issue is also not that simple. I, as a dutch person, do not want 
to see all places in their Dutch translation. There are translations 
ranging from quite common to very obscure that I'm sure are in OSM but 
that I generally do not want to see (Maagdenburg, Brunswijk, Daveren). I 
also do not want the English translations, I'm also not keen on seeing 
names like Brussels or Munich.
So the option would be to give maps in different alphabets and not have 
the names translated. Then again, what is the "non-translated name" of 
Russian or Chinese cities. Is it the English name? Does every place have 
a proper transliterated name?

I think the technical solution is easy: like Eduardo says, make a map 
with a base layer as the map and and overlay with place names.

But to put this point out: for me, Google does it much better than OSM.


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