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Road signs and Irish Language

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  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    Okey dokey, multilingual-troll-who-hates-signs-in-multiple-languages. I'm not the one transposing his/her/their childhood trauma of learning a language by ranting online anonymously about the legal status of Irish being displayed on road signs. Stick to the topic at hand or find another forum/bar stool to vent your issues.



  • Registered Users Posts: 17,804 ✭✭✭✭ Strumms


    Dont hate signs in multiple languages...Im simply discussing it and querying why the sinage is in two languages that people here both speak... the translation is not done to assist with comprehension.... as anyone speaking Irish speaks English too.. therefore its pointless....

    Everybody here who speaks irish speaks english...if you dont speak irish its in English anyway... so whats the point in cluttering up signs....making them almost unreadable to fast moving traffic and spending money on producing and printing bigger signs in two languages. .

    Im all for the promotion of the language but roadsigns should be containing only information 'needed' nothing else... Maira & Pat who are natural irish speakers can get on fine going from A to B with a simply clutter free easy to read and see ...



  • Registered Users Posts: 18 EthanL13


    M50 signage, anyone?



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    Oh yes. Yes, this is beautiful. What typeface is it?

    @Strumms But what do we do for non-English speakers who are visiting Ireland? If English-speakers can't follow Irish signs safely, then if the signs are only in English non-English-speaking visitors will surely get terribly lost.



  • Registered Users Posts: 18 EthanL13


    What typeface is it?

    Clearview. Used in Canada and some parts of the US.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,325 ✭✭✭✭ Peregrinus


    As mentioned earlier in the thread, there's no evidence - from Ireland or elsewhere - that bilingual signage causes confusion. And this is a much-studied question.

    Think about how road signs work. A road sign is not a page of text that you read from one end to the other. Nor is it even a shopping list, on which every item is of equal importance to the reader. People don't read through a road sign and decide which destination they'd like to visit; they already know which destination they'd like to visit; they look for that name; they largely filter out the rest. And they don't find that name by starting at the beginning and reading through the text until they recognise the word the want; they take in the entire sign at one glance, and hone in on the bit they are looking for.

    Because we write letter after letter, word after word, starting at the left and working across, and then down, the page, we assume that that's how we read. In fact it's not how we read. Even in a conventional page of text, the eye doesn't scan steadily across the page; it move in a series of jerks, taking in groups of words simultaneously. And most road signage has sufficiently few words in it that you can take them all in simultaneously. On a directional sign at a a junction, the groups of words associated with each direction will certainly be that small, even if the sign is bilingual. So, basically, you are looking for the arrow associated with a group of names that includes the name you want.

    Post edited by Peregrinus on


  • Registered Users Posts: 422 ✭✭ KrisW1001


    Plus, these are names, not instructions.

    A name is a collection of letters, it does not matter whether they come from a language you can understand or not. I could find my way to Szczecin in Poland without knowing how to say it.

    I find it hard that someone with the intelligence needed to operate a car lacks the intelligence to recognise and follow a pattern of letters written on a sign-face. I find it less hard to believe that any given person could just be playing silly buggers on an internet forum, so I won’t be replying on the subject any further.

    @EthanL13 : Still far to visually busy for something that has to be understood quickly. I’d still lose the outlines around the route numbers, for reasons already mentioned. Also, I’d remove the white backing on the R-route number. Regional routes are the third class of route, but your styling makes them the most visually prominent on the sign: someone who does not know how Irish road numbers are allocated may misinterpret this design choice as suggesting that the R route is the preferred way to a destination.

    The aircraft and ship images are poor. They’re too small, and the boxout loses them their distinctive shapes. Remember that when reading a moving sign, you need to provide as many visual cues as possible to the reader. Putting things into boxes stops your eyes seeing their shape properly. Speed reading your main sign gives something like: "Box, Box, Bxxl Féxxxtx, Bxlfxxt, Bxxlx Mxxxa, Bxxyxxn, Arrow, box, arrow, box, arrow", It’s only on a more detailed viewing that the lower boxes resolve to “M50”, but those top icons are very dense and far too similar to each other, and it takes a while for them to be distinguished. Our existing boat and plane pictograms are superior here, simply they are very different from each other, or from any other element on a sign.

    On the exit sign, the exit number gets lost because it’s so far away from the business-end of the sign: the arrow. The arrow is the visually dominant part of the sign, it’s the largest area of white (or would be if you didn’t highlight the R-route number to compete with it), and it is where the eye is drawn to. This is by design. Try not to weaken the message (get in this lane!) with extraneous details.

    I still don’t think colour is a good idea on motorway signage, as it has to be read at higher speeds. M50 is not typical as it’s under 100km/h limits, but you have to consider a design for all motorways, not just one specific one.



  • Registered Users Posts: 18 EthanL13


    So something like this is what you'd prefer to see? Only changes from current signage are use of Transport Medium instead of Heavy (as Heavy is designed for dark text on light backgrounds only), use of the new Motorway typeface which now has support for the entire alphabet (so there is no longer a need to use the N, R or L from Transport Heavy, condense it and then use numbers from Motorway) and a much better border (the current one is just... strange).

    I still disagree with your point about boxed symbols and route numbers - if the rest of Europe has them, then there surely can't be a major issue problem with them? Yes, the ferry symbol could be improved (maybe a side view of a boat rather than front view), but other than that, for consistency's sake, it is much better to have all symbols the same width and height generally, in my opinion.



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    @EthanL13 This is also really nice. I prefer the white-only as opposed to the mixed colours. The typeface is nice and clear and the Irish versions are mercifully easy to read. For a second you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in a legally bilingual country.



  • Registered Users Posts: 422 ✭✭ KrisW1001


    I like that. The use of Transport Heavy on our motorway signs is annoying - it reduces legibility at night, and it saves precisely no money given how these are now made.

    The other thing you’ve done which is good is to add space around the destinations again. When using colour, you didn’t feel the need to do this, and it made it less obvious that these were just two places. Negative space between groups like this is important for understanding a sign.

    (Incidentally, where did you get the newer Motorway font from? )

    You say that it would be better to keep icons the same “for consistency sake”, but this is a common mistake graphic designers make when designing to conveying information. It’s also a common mistake when designing typefaces (another hobby of mine): a good design accentuates differences that are important, and removes the differences that are not, but if you go too far, you end up with “grey mush” design that has its distinctive points so smoothed away that it becomes taxing to read.

    Boxed numbers are a legacy of German signage design, which has been adopted elsewhere in Europe. Germany doesn’t put route-type prefixes on its signs, so without some kind of box-in, road numbers could be confused for distances. The Irish signage system uses prefixes, so there cannot be confusion between Route 25 (“N25”) and 25 km (“25”). German practice was very influential across Europe, but it was developed without much reference to visual science. For example, the DIN 1451 type used on German signage was designed for ease of production, not legibility: it is not a very good typeface for sign design as its letters are too “samey”.

    When the UK redesigned its signage, they started with the pre-existing US and German systems as a starting point, but subjected the design elements to legibility testing - some things got dropped as a result, and the use of outlined or decorated route badges was one of those. What they ended up with was a very good system, and we changed the one part that arguably didn’t work so well (overhead gantry signage), moving closer to European practice to create something that is, on balance, better than the UK’s long overlapping gantry boards..

    A lot of other countries borrowed from the German system on the basis of it being something that was proven to be cheap to manufacture and work reasonably well. That’s not the same as being the best. Germany could correct some of the weak-points of its signage, but doing so would break the established practice, and consistency is an important goal too.

    The boxed-in symbols are bad because they are hard to distinguish from each other. The unboxed ones are very obviously different. Being able to quickly recognise things is a key to good signage. (The reason why a port and airport should be given special treatment is easily answered with another question: what’s the Czech for Airport?)


    P.S., and not wanting to wind anyone up, but given how similar the Irish and English versions are of those place-names, that sign would not be that much worse off without the English names on it at all. (Maybe keep “Belfast” out of courtesy)



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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    why would a person in Ireland who doesn't speak Irish not be able to navigate to a town he knows as "Dunquin" by following signs for "Dún Chaoin?"

    Well that's a simple example. How about Beal an Mhuirthead?



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    I'm not sure what your question is. I guess she would follow roadsigns for Béal an Mhuirthead.



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    And what town is it? You see in your simplified example the Irish was almost exactly the same as the English translation. That's not always going to be the case.



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    Béal an Mhuirthead is Béal an Mhuirthead. It has no other official name in Irish or English.

    This is a repeat of the Firenze/Florence question discussed earlier in this thread. Just like the driver who doesn't speak Italian follows the signs for Firenze to get to the place she knows as Florence, the driver who doesn't speak Irish is perfectly capable of following signs for Béal an Mhuirthead.



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    Ah you are just being deliberately obtuse man. Unless you don't actually know its the town of Belmullet. Good luck with your campaign.



  • Registered Users Posts: 18 EthanL13


    @KrisW1001 To me, that sign is just screaming for colour for the Irish text.

    The other thing you’ve done which is good is to add space around the destinations again. When using colour, you didn’t feel the need to do this, and it made it less obvious that these were just two places. Negative space between groups like this is important for understanding a sign.

    Could you explain what the difference is? Since I simply placed the text in Transport over that of Clearview and then deleted the Clearview text.

    (Incidentally, where did you get the newer Motorway font from? )

    It's available at k-type.com. The new Transport fonts are available there too. 

    Fair point about the symbols. I think that maybe I might leave them "boxless" from now on. Route numbers on the other hand - I think we'll have to agree to disagree. To me it's the best way of highlighting them, it grabs the attention of the reader and it distinguishes them from the destinations. I mentioned before that I experimented with other colours (red for motorways, white for N roads and yellow for R roads, so that it would be highlighted no matter what colour sign it's placed on and resolve any confusion about which road class is which). But, with the yellow text, it became too much. You'd just have to hope that people will know that N roads are the main roads and R roads are not.

    But in my opinion, it's pointless in redesigning our signs if they're going to remain almost identical as they are currently. There are clear attempts on the current signage to move away from the UK design, such as more European gantries, the (awful) chevrons on roundabout diagrams and the use of grey backboards on flag signs. If all the signs are to be replaced you may as well come up with a unique design, like I've done (though it's clearly not perfect), or at the very least replace the arrows with something better and use only one font for all signs.


    Post edited by EthanL13 on


  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    What is the official name, in English, of Béal an Mhuirthead?



  • Registered Users Posts: 9,916 ✭✭✭ Cookiemunster


    Wait, what? Since when is Belmullet not called Belmullet. I've never heard it refered to anything but that. Is this another thing like Dingle where nobody actually uses its Irish name?



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    I'd really pity any tourist lost in North Mayo who asks directions to Belmullet from a lad like you. You would probably tell him Belmullet doesn't exist and walk away. A true hardcore Gaelgoir.



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    As this is a Gaeltacht town, the Irish Béal an Mhuirthead is the only official name. The anglicized spelling Belmullet has no official standing.

    The above is from the Wikipedia entry for Belmullet.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    Ah now, no need to go projecting your stereotypes like that. I'd be glad to help out any tourist, yourself included. I only asked you a simple question.

    Your post above shows you know that Béal an Mhuirthead's official name in English is Béal an Mhuirthead. So is your complaint that we don't put unofficial place names on road signs?



  • Registered Users Posts: 9,916 ✭✭✭ Cookiemunster


    In fairness if only 50% of the population can speak Irish and only 4% of them speak Irish on a daily basis, it's a bit ridiculous that the actual commonly used name of the place is ignored in offialdom.



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    Glad to hear that. I haven't made a complaint, I'm pointing out that it's not always as easy as you made out to deduce the town you are looking for from the Irish name.

    Are you denying that people looking for Belmullet are confused about the roadsigns?



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    I haven't met anyone who has been confused by Irish-only roadsigns, to be honest. But I'll let you know as soon as I meet someone who gets hopelessly lost because they can't find the signs pointing them to Belmullet, didn't check their route beforehand, and are unable to consult their phone, read a map, or ask for directions.

    @Cookiemunster The official names for these towns should have been made Irish-only long, long ago, but now that the English name bedded in with the late 20th century influx of English-speakers, its use is probably not going to change without deliberate effort. And seeing as any deliberate effort to promote the use of Irish is met by howls of outrage from those who oppose the language, we probably won't see any of that.

    The official name will remain mostly for officialdom (and, of course, those backwards Irish speakers. But they're not important.)



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease


    didn't check their route beforehand, and are unable to consult their phone, read a map, or ask for directions.

    That says it all really. Feck the roadsigns, they are just for show.



  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir


    They're official signs to point the way to destinations, which is exactly what signs for Béal an Mhuirthead do. If you think they're just for show, why are you so bothered about Irish-only signs?



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease




  • Registered Users Posts: 558 ✭✭✭ Aontachtoir




  • Registered Users Posts: 1,878 ✭✭✭ TimeLadsPlease




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  • Registered Users Posts: 663 ✭✭✭ Vestiapx


    I'd love to see a referendum on Irish and its place as our first language. I don't believe it was ever voted on and if it was it's due a discussion same as same sex marriage abortions and divorce all did.

    Dnt get me wrong I love Irish and I like the road signs as they are but I'd just love to see the discussion on a national scale.



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