July 8, 2006

On Local Scripts

Filed under: India — Chris @ 9:44 am

You should never buy a guidebook that doesn’t provide place names in the local script. Both the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide books on India get this wrong*. While it is true that you can generally make yourself understood in English**, it is nice to be able to find your own way some of the time (and it is sometimes necessary to spot-check an auto driver’s route planning). An English-language map does not help if most of the street signs, bus stops, and train timetables are in Kannada script.

I don’t remember having as much of a problem with this in other non-Roman-script countries I’ve been to, although that’s probably because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be half the time anyway. We had a difficult time in Japan, but Japan is notoriously tricky to navigate (kanji would have helped, though). I remember having some trouble in Russia, which I guess I dealt with by being very conservative about cabs, buses, and trains. When you’re staying someplace for several months, it is pretty depressing to feel like any given cab ride could end in Tamil Nadu.

* As does the Time Out Tokyo guide. Lonely Planet Japan gets this partly right, so it’s not uniform across their titles.
** Oddly, this is least true inside Bangalore, which is fairly cosmopolitan, but has a rather small tourist trade and a rather large pro-Kannada chip on its shoulder.


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