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June 23, 2008

Make sure you read the signs carefully

The BBC has an interesting story on the efforts that the American and British forces have to go through to ensure that names of towns in Afghanistan are translated properly.

The issue is that the written Arabic script does not include symbols for vowels, so multiple towns could have their names written the same way using the only the consonants.

"Let's imagine there are two villages written as Mskr perhaps 10 miles apart, with one really being Maskar and the other really being Musakkir," says Paul Woodman, secretary of the PCGN.

"Then imagine that one of those villages is occupied by the Afghan security forces and the other by the Taleban.

"You'll see why we and the BGN need to be in touch all the time - to make sure that we not only have identical naming policies in place, but to ensure that we Romanise every little village and hill and valley exactly the same way.

"Otherwise there is the danger that food parcels, school textbooks, or whatever, will be inadvertently directed towards the village held by the Taleban, with lives endangered as a result."

A dangerous situation indeed.

It is these little things that no one thinks about when a country is at war.

This entry is tagged: Afghanistan, Arabic, BBC, English, translation, vowels, war

Posted by bmiraski at June 23, 2008 12:33 PM