NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum


When I look for maps outside France on OSM, the cities names are written in their country language. Since I can't speak all the languages spoken on the planet, I suppose I am not the only one in this case. I am wondering why OSM insists on displaying systematically the contents of their maps in a language that no one else than the natives of the country in question (or those who have studied this language) are able to understand.

So my question is : how can I get a map (especially Ukraine map) understandable for an only french speaking reader ?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

asked 05 Mar '22, 00:19

zwykx's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


To answer your first question, map is meant to be useful for local mappers, but it's the same for everyone, so it's displayed in local languages.

For your last question, you might find tile layer useful :

There are a lot of tile renderers with different settings. I think there is even one where you can select to language of label dynamically, but I can't find it right now.

Best regards.

permanent link

answered 05 Mar '22, 06:47

H_mlet's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%


OpenStreetMap is used all over the planet attracting mappers from all places - and that is wonderful.

Now if you are from (as an example) Rennes in France - would it be helpful if the city of Rennes and all it's streets would be labeled in Japanese? That's why the openstreetmap-carto rendering (the standard map shown at is using local labels in local language for local mappers.

And there is a technical reason - the standard map is rendered as raster pngs - so it's just an image.

This means text rendered as image and by that it's not just interchangeable. This is different if you use a vector tech stack - where text is just a path that is interchangeable without changing the rest of the vector tile.

But for raster maps producing different language versions means you'll need a lot of compute and storage power. 2 language versions means 2 times the effort, 10 language versions means 10 times the effort.

And then you have the problem what you do if you don't have a e.g. French equivalent of a label. H_mlet mentioned the rendering by that is falling back to the local label - so you'll see French mixed with e.g. Ukrainian if no French label (that is a name:fr tag for a node,etc.) is available.

I do a French world map rendering as well - you can see it at - plus 9 different other language versions (Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish - see ). Those versions try to produce labels that you can read and pronounce while in doing so will not reflect what you'll see if you are wandering the streets of e.g. Tashkent looking at street signs.

So as you see technically it's a lot of (computing power) work if you stick with raster tiles for maps. And even if you follow the vector tiles approach you still have the problem that there are just not many French names for all places in the World. E.g. today you have about 88 million name tags in OSM data but just about half a million carry a French equivalent (name:fr tag).

permanent link

answered 05 Mar '22, 08:53

Spiekerooger's gravatar image

accept rate: 16%

edited 05 Mar '22, 09:03

I apologize for the wording of the first part of my text. What I wanted to say is that when reading OSM from a computer located in France with a french language configuration, I imagined that OSM would automatically understand this and consequently translate the cities names (that could be translated) in french.

@Spiekerooger I supposed too that the names of the cities and streets were in an independent database together with their available translations. When I use its maps on the navigation aid software OsmAnd~, the street names are or displayed or not on the map according to the level of zoom used, and their position is adapted to the part of the map displayed on the screen. So this reveals a good adaptability of some items to the context and that seems not to be in accordance with what you explain above in term of tiles computed for each situation. But I may be wrong in my understanding of the OSM technology. You evidently know it more than me.

Then, thanks to @H_mlet and @Spiekerooger for your quick answer and the solutions/links proposed to help me use OSM :-)

(05 Mar '22, 13:45) zwykx

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 05 Mar '22, 00:19

question was seen: 1,729 times

last updated: 05 Mar '22, 13:45

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum