Friday, April 15, 2005

 

International Textual Signage

It has been decades since international efforts to develop signs were completed; but we are still seeing confused and lost tourist because they don't understand local signage.

It is ridiculous that in many places you are unsure of the toilets; when the symbols is simple and a sticky sign is cheap. I guess some proprietors favour bad decor over their customers.

But some signs can't be boiled down to a symbol. For example, what would be the international symbols for mandarin, apple, and paw-paw?

It would simple for one progressive tourist authority (NZ perhaps) to translate common text and provide signs in common languages; and soft copies. And perhaps charge a small fee for uncommon text.

It may be useful to provide a language in several common languages. But which languages to choose? You need to keep the number low otherwise it becomes intractable and unreadable. But they need to be common, but different.



This is most likely: English, Hindi, Russian, Arabic & Mandarin






EnglishMandarin
Hindi
Russian
Arabic


Although this options is tempting: English, Russian, Arabic & Mandarin.





EnglishMandarin
Russian
Arabic


I originally suggest English, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin.





EnglishMandarin
Spanish
Arabic


This is the most useful but unfortunately is likely to be too many languages.







EnglishMandarin
Spanish
Hindi
Russian
Arabic


So which languages were short listed? Mandarin, there are a billion people in China and many more overseas who use it natively. China has secured a place as a world player and a focus of trade and politics. It scores extra points because it is distinct.


Hindi, there are a billion people in India and many more native users overseas. But India is not as uniform in language as China, and many speak English. India is securing trade and politics and a place as a world player.


English is important as an intermediate language. While the number of native users is smaller it is widely known and used as a second language; especially in business, science and technology. And it is increasingly transferring in widely distributed cultural junk food.

Spanish is widely used natively across the Americas. On numbers it can probably match any other. It also has advantage of being a Romance language close to many other European languages; and so easier for their users to learn, like Italian.


French is used in Diplomacy (but losing to English). It is not as widely spread as the others, but it is used natively in Africa. But, it is another Romance language.

Russian was widely spread by the old USSR; and is also significant for being Cyrillic.

Arabic is another distinct language. Its influence has spread further through the Qur'an. It is often stated there is at least a billion Muslims; many knowing Arabic.


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