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Translating places with CityNamer + Bots

Posted by mapmeld on 8 September 2016 in English.

Last month, I wrote to the HOT list about transliterating placenames around the world, with an open source crowdsourcing tool called CityNamer. This project uses OSM data and account details, but does not save edits yet.

The goal is to set local language names for areas which have been mapped by foreigners, and to add alternative (likely English) names for areas using local writing systems. One of the top suggestions was Nepal (some places are labeled in English, others are only in Nepali Devanagari text, which isn’t readable to many users).

For OpenStreetMap users


  • Sign in with OpenStreetMap
  • Set the languages which you can read and write
  • Select or create a new project (similar to OSM Task Manager)
  • Fill in missing placenames (starting with states, counties, and cities)

For Facebook Messenger


  • Have Facebook and Messenger installed on your phone or set up on your computer
  • Follow this Messenger link or send a message to this Facebook Page
  • Send “hello” or another message
  • Choose one of the current language projects
  • Submit names until you are done

Again this does not save edits and I am working on crowdsourcing / comparing multiple users’ responses before saving.

The project is open source on GitHub

Location: 40.761, -73.951


Comment from BushmanK on 8 September 2016 at 22:57

There is certain controversy about translation, transcription and transliteration in OSM.

First of all, name:code= keys are intended for existing names only, which means, that certain place in, say, Nepal, known only by name in Nepali, but not known by any English name, should not be tagged with name:en=, filled with Nepali→English transcription or transliteration. Renderers or data pre-processors can do automated transliteration if it’s required. Only a few places in the world actually have names in foreign languages, other names are usually just transliterated/transcripted as needed.

However, missing national names should be added (preferably, by native speakers), where places have name:en= only or name= in English (which is totally wrong).

Comment from Nakaner on 12 September 2016 at 21:10

I agree with BushmanK and want to point out that there is still a map which automatically transcribes non-Latin characters into Latin (and abbreviates common suffixes like “street”, “Straße”, “улица”).

Please discuss your tool with the OpenStreetMap community on the Talk mailing list before your first upload of a changeset using this tool!

Comment from woodpeck on 12 September 2016 at 23:39

Transliterated or transcribed names should not be added to OSM unless there is some human expertise required to select the correct transliteration or transcription. If something can be done automatically then there’s litte use in adding it - it would be like adding a “length” tag to a street, adding no information and risking bitrot when the street is modified.

Names should never be translated as they are likely to lose their property of being a name (e.g. the Pont Neuf in Paris translates as “New Bridge” but that is not its name in English).

Many things have genuine names in different languages (e.g. München, Munich, Monaco di Baviera, …). These are currently accepted in OSM but my personal hope is that we can shift this job to Wikidata because I certainly do not enjoy the prospect of having a tag inflation like for every named thing in OSM.

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