| Names of places || Sep 9, 2002 |
Your best bet is to consult an Atlas (for example the one that The Times produces if you are translating into English). You will see that most places are named as they are used in the country with some exceptions:
La Haya/The Hague/Den Haag
The European Commission Translation Service English Style Guide gives the following guidelines (you can download the whole document from: http://europa.eu.int/comm/translation/en/stygd/enstyle_offline.htm#tocref2_6):
General. Many place names have an anglicised form, but as people become more familiar with these names in the language of the country concerned, the foreign spelling of some place names is gaining wider currency in written English. As a rule of thumb, therefore, use the native form for geographical names except where an anglicised form is overwhelmingly common. If in doubt as to whether an anglicised form is in widespread use, use only those given in the following sections and in Annex 1.
Orthography. Recommended spellings of countries (full names and short forms), country adjectives, capital cities, currencies and abbreviations are given in the list at http://europa.eu.int/comm/translation/currencies/entable1.htm. Geographical names frequently contain pitfalls for the unwary, particularly in texts dealing with current events. Check carefully that you have used the English form, where appropriate. Examples: Belén/Bethlehem; Hong-Kong/Hong Kong; Irak/Iraq; Mogadiscio/Mogadishu; Laibach/Ljubljana; Naplouse/Nablus; Pressburg/Bratislava; Saïda/Sidon.
Countries/cities. Watch out for the definite article when translating place names from French, as in the following table.
(au) Gaza — the Gaza Strip (à) Gaza — Gaza
(au) Guatemala — Guatemala (à) Guatemala — Guatemala City
(au) Mexique — Mexico (à) Mexico — Mexico City
and NB in Spanish:
México — Mexico México D.F. — Mexico City
Scandinavian/Nordic. When referring to the countries of the Nordic Council, i.e. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, together with the Faeroes, Greenland and the Åland islands, use \'Nordic\' rather than \'Scandinavian\' in terms such as \'Nordic countries\' or \'Nordic cooperation\'.
However, you may use \'Scandinavia(n)\' if you do not need to be specific, though bear in mind English usage such as it is. In its narrow geographical interpretation, \'Scandinavia\' refers to the two countries of the Scandinavian peninsula, i.e. Norway and Sweden. In practice, however, it includes Denmark and is often stretched to cover Finland. As a cultural term, \'Scandinavian\' also embraces Iceland and the Faeroes. Note, however, that \'Scandinavian languages\' refers to the northern Germanic languages, i.e. Danish, Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish, but not of course Finnish.
Names of regions. Regional names fall into three types.
Administrative units. Anglicise only those names given in the list in Annex 1. Names of units below the top region/province tier should be left in the native spelling, without inverted commas.
Traditional geographical names. Anglicise if the English has wide currency, e.g. the Black Forest, the Ruhr. Otherwise retain original spelling and accents. Regional products are a frequent example:
a Rheinhessen wine, the eastern Périgord area, the Ardèche region (NB: it is useful to add “region” or “area” in such cases), Lüneburger Heide
Officially designated development areas. Designated development areas are mostly derived from names of administrative units or from traditional geographical names, often with a defining adjective. Follow the appropriate rule above, e.g.:
Lower Bavaria; the Charentes development area
Cross-border Community regions such as Euregio take an initial capital only.
Rivers. Moselle always for wine, and for the river in connection with France and Luxembourg; Mosel may be used if the context is Germany. Use Meuse in French/Belgian contexts, Maas for the Netherlands; Rhine and Rhineland for Rhein, Rhin, Rijn, Rheinland; Tiber for Tevere; Tagus for Tajo.
Seas. Anglicise seas (e.g. the Adriatic, the North Sea, the Baltic); Greenland waters implies official sea limits; use “waters off Greenland” if something else is meant.
Lakes. Anglicise Lake Constance, Lake Geneva, Lake Maggiore. But note Königssee.
Other bodies of water. Write Ijsselmeer (without capital J), Wattenmeer, Kattegat (Danish), Kattegatt (Swedish), Great/Little Belt.
Islands. Islands are often administrative units in their own right, so leave in original spelling, except Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia, the Canary Islands, the Azores and Greek islands with accepted English spellings, such as Crete, Corfu, Lesbos.
Use Fyn rather than Fünen in English texts and use West Friesian Islands for Waddeneilanden.
Mountains. Anglicise the Alps, Apennines (one p), Dolomites, Pindus Mountains, and Pyrenees (no accents).
Do not anglicise Massif Central (except for capital C), Alpes Maritimes (capital M) or Schwäbische Alb.
Alpenvorland should be translated as the foothills of the Alps.
Valleys. Words for valley should be translated unless referring to an official region or local produce: the Po valley, the Valle d\'Aosta, Remstal wine.
Austria Use Vienna for Wien.
Belgium Use the forms Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Ostend.
Flemish v. French forms. Use Flemish names of places in Dutch-speaking provinces and French for French-speaking areas.
For details, see Annex 2.
Denmark Note Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg.
Finland Finland is a bilingual country, and many cities and localities have official names in both Finnish and Swedish. When translating from either language, remember that the form to be used depends on the local language situation, not on the text you are translating. Full lists of the Finnish/Swedish names which take precedence can be found at: http://www.kotus.fi/svenska/sprakbruk/jakofisv.html. Note in particular that for all major cities the Finnish name must be used: write Helsinki, Oulu, Tampere, Turku, not Helsingfors, Uleåborg, Tammerfors, Åbo.
France Write Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg.
Germany Use the forms Cologne and Munich.
Greece Use traditional English spellings for well-known cities, regions, prefectures, etc. — the officially recommended transcription system has not found acceptance even within the European Union and is unknown elsewhere. However, use transliteration for unfamiliar localities, and note that preference should always be given to the demotic forms of place names (where known).
Ireland Leave Irish spellings if given, except Baile Atha Cliath (the Irish for Dublin).
Italy Use the English spellings Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Rome, Turin, Venice. Take care not to use the French spelling of other towns, which may differ only slightly from the Italian.
Luxembourg French spelling for Luxembourg (country and city).
The Netherlands Always write The Hague with a capital T except when used attributively (e.g. the Hague Convention).
Portugal Use Lisbon.
Spain Write Seville. Otherwise use Spanish spelling, e.g. Córdoba, Coruña.
Sweden Note Gothenburg for Göteborg.
Adjectives from place names. English as a rule makes less use of adjectives from country names than some other languages (French, German). Watch for this in such phrases as la position turque (Turkey\'s position). Note also that French writers tend to use the full name of a country (République italienne) where English would use the short form (Italy).
Non-literal geographical names. Geographical names used in lexicalised compounds tend to be lowercased, as they are no longer considered proper adjectives: roman numerals, gum arabic, prussic acid. Consult the Concise Oxford Dictionary in cases of doubt.
Compass points. No capitals for north, north-west, north-western, etc. unless part of an administrative or political unit or a distinct regional entity. Hence South Africa, Northern Ireland but southern Africa, northern France. Note, however, Central and Eastern European countries (capitalised because the connotations are more political than geographic) — see 19.10. Compass bearings are abbreviated without a point (54°E).
Compound compass points. Compound compass points are hyphenated and, in official designations, each part is capitalised (South-West Germany, the North-West Frontier); always abbreviate as capitals without stops (NW France).
For Spanish there is a \'NOMENCLATURA TOPONÍMICA INTERNACIONAL; Nombres de países, capitales, gentilicios y monedas\':
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