I've always wondered something, about how Maps (and a lot of other apps, like the native iOS weather app) convert city names and street names to Hangul (the Korean alphabet), as apposed to leaving them in English. (I have my phone is Korean as an attempt to aid myself in learning Korean)

The picture at the bottom is of somewhere near downtown Orlando. Wouldn't it be more useful if they remained in English? I can only see pros to doing so:

  1. If they were in English, a Korean-only speaker would still be able to match the symbols to the physical street signs, something they could not do if they had no idea how to pronounce the letters and

  2. A Korean-only speaker unfamiliar with the area would have a very difficult time showing the map to someone native to the area to help get further, more detailed instructions.

  3. Lastly, these are names, so these can't possibly all be official translations and, in my opinion, more likely to contain errors, making finding a street with the map potentially more difficult than it was originally.

Especially on the flip side, where someone from the US traveling to South Korea is a lot less likely to understand the pronunciation rules of Hangul. I would think it'd be much easier to navigate if the name displayed in Maps were as physically accurate as possible.

What are the pros to converting the alphabet in these cases?

iPhone 8 Plus iOS 11

Just in case, I've taken a screenshot in the same area with a Pixel 2 XL on Android 8.1 with the same behavior, so it more assuredly is the app doing the transliteration instead of the OS

Pixel 2 XL Android 8.2

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    This is a really interesting question and I can't think of the reason off the top of my head, but I am wondering what your normal use case is for the map application and whether this applies equally for a Korean person in US and a US person in Korea (who does not speak the language).
    – Michael Lai
    Jan 2, 2018 at 23:45
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    Interesting question. I can't see any pros to this other than someone who can't read English can still sound out the name. There are more drawbacks to transliterating names like that (as you listed), but it might be the device doing it rather than Google Maps. Maps kind of lose their use if the landmark names (street signs etc.) don't match the names listed on the map. Jan 3, 2018 at 16:24
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    Are these translations or transliterations (i.e. using the western names but the Korean alphabet)? A potential advantage of the latter could be that a (knowing Korean) user may be able to pronounce the names more easily.
    – TripeHound
    May 9, 2018 at 10:12
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    @BrianLeishman Transliterations was my assumption as well, but as you used "translate" in the title, but I know nothing of Korean, I thought I'd ask. (As you note, transliterations should be relatively mechanical; translations often won't exist). I've also only just noticed that the avenue at the bottom – the only one in English – is part of my name!
    – TripeHound
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:14
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    These are transliterations. For instance, we see transliterations of "street" ("스트리트", or "seu-teu-ri-teu") instead of native Korean equivalents like "-gil" (길) or "-ro" (로). Jun 8, 2018 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


Thinking on my own experiences in traveling to places with different alphabets, it was nice to have both the local alphabet and the Latin alphabet on maps and signs, so that I could both match the glyphs to street signs and pronounce the name when talking to people around me. Sometimes (as I learned in Tokyo) even having a map doesn't prevent you from getting pretty lost, and a local will come up and want to help.

  • Maybe, but in my picture up there every street but one has anything roman on it Feb 8, 2018 at 13:55

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