Translations of city names

Last week, we had a discussion on our Facebook page. We wanted to know how we should translate the city names into English. Should we use only English characters or should  leave  as they are?

In my opinion, we should use English characters if we want to get some healthy feedback. I would put a footnote and write the original name at the bottom of the page. If this is not possible- let’s say it is a brochure- I would use English characters only. I am opposed to the complete translation of the city names. For the sake of pronounciation ease, in many languages the important city names are changed. For example London. In Turkish, it is ‘Londra’ and in French it is ‘Londres’. We should use this as ‘London’ because it is all consisted of Latin letters and it is easy to read. There is no confusion. However, in other languages there are many different city names. For example Moscow. The original spelling is ‘москва’. It is impossible to spell for Latin alphabet users. Here, we need a complete translation of the alphabets. In Turkish, it is ‘Moskova’. Considering the English version, either English or Turkish is not loyal to the original name.

There is a third category which needs half-translation. In countries using Latin alphabet, there may be accents, umlauts, cedillas etc. I think all these ‘minor’ differences should be left out while translating. For example: Istanbul. The original spelling is İstanbul. This difference is so little that we can easily ignore it and write as Istanbul. However, in the cases of ‘Şırnak’ or ‘Çanakkale’, we should make some more changes. In Turkish, ‘ş’ gives the ‘sh’ sound, so we can write the name of this city as Shirnak’; ‘ç’ gives the ‘ch’ sound, so we can write the name of this city as ‘Chanakkale’.

We should think the target language and their language, pronouncation habits. After all, our aim is to give the closest pronouncation and as translators, we should have the linguistic knowledge to do that.

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P.S. There is a special term for the alphabet translation but  it just does not come to my mind right now. Sorry about that.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Birte on August 16, 2011 at 16:40

    There is a special term for the alphabet translation…: Transliteration


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