Put down your language learning books, we've got transliterated tiles in the API!

Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 2:30:00 PM

Due to the usage of non-latin characters in languages like Russian, and our decision to label countries and cities in their native tongue, I've always found browsing foreign countries in Google Maps to be quite the educational experience. How else would I have discovered that other languages have such pretty swirly letters? Unfortunately, it's also quite a frustrating experience when you're actually trying to find some place in those countries ("Tokyo! SHOW ME TOKYO!! aRrrgghghH!"). Well, thankfully the Google Maps team has now made it easier to have both an educational and satisfying experience with the recent introduction of transliterated tiles for Russia, Greece, Japan, and Thailand.

For users with a browser setting for the native languages of those countries, they'll continue seeing the tiles with just the labels in that language. But for everyone else, they'll see tiles with both the labels in the native character set and in the latin character set below it. You can trust the language setting to get that effect in the Maps API, or if you'd like, you can force a particular output in both the Javascript and Static Maps API by appending the"hl" parameter to the script src or image src with the desired language value. Experiment with the various language/country combinations in the example below to see this in action in both the Static and Javascript APIs: