Google Maps Introducing English Labels For Japan

Transliteration and translation with pronunciation tips on top

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Visiting a country in which English isn’t the official language can be tricky.  Visiting one in which the Latin alphabet isn’t common can be crazy.  But luckily for some travelers, Google’s trying to sort out the matter on its maps of Japan.

Japan stands out as one of Google’s preferred non-American places.  The company has established an office in Tokyo, for example, and featured parts of Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka in some of its first Street View coverage from overseas.  So the map language development is a rather natural step, and on the LatLong Blog, International Program Manager Linne Ha gave the details.

"This week we will be releasing English labels of city names, prefectures, districts and transit station names in Japan," she wrote.  "We have used a combination of transliteration (local pronunciation into English alphabet) and translation so that ‘Shibuya Eki’ would read as ‘Shibuya Station’, for example.  We thought it would be more helpful to transliterate the name but let users know the difference between a city or a station."

Ha then continued, "We’ve even used macrons so ‘Tokyo’ reads as ‘T?ky?’ to help with pronunciation."

Odds are good that some goofs will occur, of course, and Google’s not promising complete coverage.  Still, it’s hard to complain about something like this, and it’ll be interesting to see if Google Maps makes any other countries the focus of similar efforts.

Google Maps Introducing English Labels For Japan
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  • -Adeline_.

    je voudrais avoir une carte de france décrite en anglais

    • cedric

      tkt je t’aime

  • http://diddlefinger.com nick may

     I suspect that one reason why google has made the effort in this case was that for the last 16th months or so 3rd parties (such as myself) have been offering google maps with English labels on top. The  fact that we could do it so easily possibly made them feel a little bad….

    Of course having labels on the tiles is more elegant than hacking them in on top – so I am very glad that google has done this.

    What google have not yet offered though is English language Japanese address lookup.

    Again, this is quite possible – I have offered it on http://diddlefinger.com for Japan since June 2007.

    They may come to regret their use of macrons if they ever DO go to full address search. 

    Additionally, the Jpaanese word "shi" does not map easily onto the English word city – at least some -shi refer to largely rural areas.

    The other issue with translation is that it is sometimes better to have the approximate pronunciation of the Kanji – when thrown into conversation xxxx-district may not be meaningful to a Japanese person.

    Still – nice to see them try.






  • http://www.strategycore.com/ StrategyCore

    Well done Google! Japanese online maps (and most mapping content) have traditionally been less than supportive of the English language, and this will be a major step forward in providing a better user experience for those people who do not read the Japanese language.  I am sure Google will be expanding this feature to include additional languages in the future.

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