There are certain words that have no translations. These words are names defined as: persons, cities, places, streets, rivers, lakes etc. Names can be problematic in a pan-European context, as they can be originally in other alphabets than Latin or they can have diacritical marks unknown in other languages.
The normal way to handle names from other alphabets is to transliterate them. You see it done all the time in books without realising it. For instance when reading about Peter Tchaikovsky, you forget that he spelt his name ÐÑÑÑ Ð§Ð°Ð¹ÐºÐ¾ÌÐ²ÑÐºÐ¸Ð¹. You might be puzzled over the spelling of Tchaikovsky. Then this is because your language uses a different transliteration convention.
Visualise a website that is a database over islands in Europe. The website has a search feature. You can look up an island by name. On a mono-lingual website for an international audience using English as the navigation language the issue is simple: Just use the letters you are certain exist on all keyboards. In practice, these are the letters a to z. Therefore Ãles dâHyÃ¨res becomes Iles d'Hyeres. Why remove the diacritical marks? Well, if you canât type Ã with your keyboard, you canât find any Ãle. The principle is the same when transliterating from Greek. ÎÏÎ®ÏÎ· becomes Crete.
Some international organisations have established rules for this process:
18.104.22.168. In the case of a diacritic or other mark, the mark concerned is deleted, except that in a name published before 1985 and based upon a German word, the umlaut sign is deleted from a vowel and the letter "e" is to be inserted after that vowel (if there is any doubt that the name is based upon a German word, it is to be so treated). Examples. nuÃ±ez is corrected to nunez, and mjÃ¸berg to mjoberg, but mÃ¼ller (published before 1985) is corrected to mueller.
âInternational Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN)
Now we improve our imaginary website. We make it multilingual, meaning you can navigate using other languages than English. In the best case scenario, a French user will see everything in French and not suspect that the website has other languages. All the navigational elements will show correctly spelt French. If a French user navigates to a description of Ile du Levant (member of Ãles dâHyÃ¨res), he will probably expect to see Ãle du Levant. However if he navigates to a Greek island of ÎÏÎ®ÏÎ·, heâll expect to see the Greek transliterated into CrÃ¨te ânot Crete. If he uses the search feature, he will type Ãle du Levant.
We can therefore conclude that each language has its own conventions for transliterating names in other languages and alphabets, and a correct approach will be to transliterate all names into all supported languages of the website. Furthermore, rules such as those published by ICZN are only applicable to the language they are designed for.
For a dynamic website where content is created continously, this is an impossible task. Can we create some shortcuts?
Yes, we can. We can take advantage of the fact that the Latin alphabet is so dominant that it is known by everybody using Cyrillic, Greek etc. We can create a principle that says, if a name is in the same language as the userâs chosen navigation language, the name is shown as is. If it is not, then it is transliterated according to English conventions. This means the Croatian island of Äiovo will be shown as Ciovo for any other language than Croatian.
How does this look like in the real world? Here is an example of a telephone list shown first in Greek, then in Bulgarian. The original names are: ÐÐ²Ð°Ð½ Ð¡ÑÐ¾ÐµÐ², Ð¡ÑÐ¾ÑÐ½ ÐÐ»Ð°Ð³Ð¾ÐµÐ², Ð¦Ð²ÐµÑÐ°Ð½ÐºÐ° ÐÐ²Ð°Ð½Ð¾Ð²Ð°, Î£ÏÎÎ»Î¹Î¿Ï ÎÎ¹Î¿Î½Ï ÏÎ¯Î¿Ï , SigurÃ°ur ÃÃ³rÃ°arson, Nedeljko PavloviÄ/ÐÐµÐ´ÐµÑÐºÐ¾ ÐÐ°Ð²Ð»Ð¾Ð²Ð¸Ñ, MÄdÄlin Å¢opescu and AÎ³Î³ÎµÎ»Î¿Ï ÎÎ¹Î¿Î½Ï ÏÎ¯Î¿Ï .
Document last modified 2006/01/05. Content in this portal is modified daily by a community of providers.