Language Support in Maponics International Neighborhood Boundaries

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Many of us take for granted the awesome powers of the search engine. When we type in a question, look up a product, or search for a place to stay, we don’t think about the multitude of data points the application draws on to return relevant results in the blink of an eye.

Take place-names. If you type “accountant near me” into the Google search bar, you’ll get results tied to your neighborhood, city, and county. Those place-names will be in English and will likely all be familiar – or at least, not confusing. You’ll be able to use that information to find an accountant’s office.

English or Not for Place-Names in Foreign Countries?

But what if you’re searching in a foreign country where English isn’t the dominant language? The map that often accompanies your search result could contain place-names in English or in the native tongue – or even a “Romanized” version of the native place-name (i.e., a transliteration of the native name into the Roman alphabet).

For example, say you’re planning a trip to Prague and want to scope out a few vegetarian restaurants. If you type “vegetarian restaurant in Prague” into Google, you’ll get several results pinpointed on a Google map.


To support a worldwide base of users, search engines need to associate a geography with the many forms of its place-names. In this map, Google uses the English name for the map display, regardless of whether the search was for restaurants in “Prague” (the English version) or “Praha” (the native Czech version). Search Engines set language type displays based on user location and the user’s language settings.

English, Roman, and Native Versions of Global Place-Names

Here are a few examples of the various ways search engines and social media platforms might represent cities overseas:

Beijing (Romanized form) OR 北京 (native Mandarin script)

Rome (English form) OR Roma (native script, which happens to be in Romanized form)

Moscow (English form), Moscova (Romanized form), OR Москва (native Cyrillic script)

As a data provider for search engines, social media, mobile marketing, and other applications, Maponics pays close attention to which language format will represent place-names. Our global customers rely on us to provide the most pertinent and useful data we can about international neighborhoods, including the various ways end users refer to them.

To do this, our data acquisitions team researches extensively to find the most authoritative source of a native neighborhood name, typically from an official municipal organization. Once we’ve found the appropriate resources and maps, we capture a primary neighborhood name by using Unicode-based input tools and place the native script of the neighborhood in a GIS database.

When we encounter languages that do not use Roman characters – for example, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, or Korean – we use transliteration techniques to provide a Romanized label of the neighborhood name. We have transliterated neighborhood labels from over fifty languages worldwide.

Upcoming Enhancements to Maponics International Neighborhood Boundaries

In the first quarter of 2015, we will be incorporating increased language support in the release of International Neighborhoods in the 2.0 data structure, including providing the English label for international neighborhood names. Here’s an example of what the Maponics Names Table – part of the user documentation – will include for this dataset.


Language Code – ISO 639-3 Abbreviation (ex. DEU, NLD)

(P)rimary, (A)lternate, (F)ormal, (O)ther

Name – English Form (ex. Olympic Park)

Name – Native Form (ex. 오륜동)

Name – Romanized Form (ex. Oryun-dong)

Maponics Neighborhood Boundaries covers hundreds of cities across North America, Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. Contact us to learn more about our international neighborhood boundary data.