I know this was raised a few years ago, but I assumed there are still no plans to update our signage! The layout of the Irish language versions of towns/cities is terrible and extremely hard to read. Below is an example I put together quickly. I think it's so much clearer, using the same fonts and different colours.
The original (below) is a complete mess in my opinion.
The first issue with your new sign is that Irish is the first language of the country and needs to be first, then English.
I think you'll have the Gaelgoirs giving out that the Irish name should come first.
It should be dispensed with at road works, I was once faced with a road works sign headed with a jumble of Irish when I had only seconds to make a decision on which road to take.
Is it though? Not officially (in most people's opinion). A tourist is not going to ask you "How to I get to "Tulach Mhór?"
OK. here's an update
Irish is the first language, constitutionally. Does that matter for signs, in terms of the order?
There's an argument to say that something like a road sign / instruction / direction is more important to be understood, than to be a political/social football. In my opinion, the most important thing about signage is that it is understood.
I won't be taking on the Irish language promoters though, not a fight I have in me.
Yes, it does matter. There appears to be no legal requirement to put place-names in English on our road-signs, which is why Gaeltacht areas have successfully lobbied to have the Anglicised names removed from their signage. You’ll also note that where a place is named only “in English”, it’s still normally drawn using the “Irish-language name” typeface (see the signs around the Cork South Ring for “Wilton”, not “WILTON” ).
@barney 20v - I can see you’re using the Scottish bilingual road-signs as a model, but I can’t honestly call it an improvement. On current signage, yellow is reserved for route-numbers, which is the most important piece of information on a sign if you’re navigating long-distance. I always thought this distinction should have been preserved on motorway signage too, but the UK motorway signage on which ours was based was designed for maximum contrast, and so use of colour was ruled out. (The original UK motorway signage was planned to be black, but the designers convinced the Department of Transport that a deep blue would be just as effective, and “less funereal”)
Using colour for place-names dilutes the advantage of colour-coding; worse, if you use the yellow for Irish, you emphasise the name that (like it or not) people don’t understand.
Regarding the change to mixed-case lettering, there’s a longstanding argument about whether it’s better to use all-caps or mixed case on road-signs. Legibility testing shows that Mixed-case is generally a better approach for any kind of text, but there’s considerable evidence that when it comes to the specific case of place-names, rather than general words, that all-caps makes it easier to distinguish between similar names.
Countries that modernised their signage later than the 1960s have tended to go with all-caps for some or all destination names; those who did it earlier use mixed-case everywhere.
no problem with multilingual signs and I tend to wonder how the English/Irish name was derived from either language. But I have issues with warning signs only in Irish. It doesn’t help the majority of the population. It is probably only a thing in the Gaeltacht.
An example I came across some years back was approaching Galway on the headford road coming from castlebar direction. There was a very long (a lot of writing) sign all in Irish. It was only when I reached a small bridge with a very sharp turn on top of it with a big dip on its far side that I realised why the sign was there at all. Lucky nobody else was approaching from the other side.
Ireland is a bilingual country. Some Irish people speak Irish, some speak English, and both languages are recognised by the Constitution. Signs should be bilingual, with equal prominence for both languages on all warning roadsigns, like in Wales. Outside the Gaeltacht, all place names should be in both languages, with the same font and size for each. Inside the Gaeltacht, as there is only one official name, duplication is unnecessary.
I don't care about different colours on the signs - people aren't going to swerve their cars off the roads into a ditch because they can't work out if the yellow version of the name is in English or Irish. Even if the names are the same colour, like in Wales, they will very quickly learn whether the name on top or bottom is the one they want and ignore the other, as they currently do.
The Irish component of our current road signs are very unsatisfactory, being both harder to read and less prominent than the English version, and looking very much like an afterthought. There should be strict equality between the two, as is the case in most bilingual jurisdictions.
With my typographer’s hat on, I really wish they’d fix that uppercase A glyph in the Irish script. The N and M are marginal, and I suppose have some sort of basis in the old Irish alphabet, but the capital-A in old Irish was always triangular, never rounded.
I also don’t see the point of the oblique/italic text for Irish. It makes the signs less legible. There are a few very old signs that use the current design, but the Irish text in upright, which I think looks better. Here’s one that I can remember, but there are others: https://email@example.com,-8.4870811,3a,15.7y,34.34h,83.23t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spp_wZ1tERw5NxvZrrqI2aA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
(The sign is tilted, not the text!)
Here's a Scottish example:
Here's one from Wales:
Both give equal prominence to two languages, but they use slight variations of colour scheme. Either would be better than our mess of pottage.
Here's a redesign suggestion found on Wikipedia. IMO, this is also better than our current approach as far as fonts and languages go (although I'm not sure where the junction number on either version comes from}.
Yep, it's called the tail wagging the dog, massively. Also called self delusion on a grand scale.
Official languages Act (thanks to Eamon O'Cuiv) states Irish comes first and equal prominence on public signage.
The sort of Act that should have seen a full referendum to enable it to be brought in. Given it's far reaching effects.
Hence getting lost in Gaeltacht areas pre smartphone because I didnt have a clue what the irish meant (shades of one of the Healy Raes saying they didn't need more road signs because the locals knew where to go) and the whole Dingle name farce but that's what you get when stubborn people use a language like a cudgel. Not everyone got an A1 in Irish in school. The bilingual country notion is an utter pipe dream, try and engage people in work or on the street and you'll see that very quickly.
The different colour is great so one can ignore the name that you dont understand.
A nice compilation of signs that should encourage us to do better. I love the Irish redesign, it's so much nicer! I honestly don't understand how we ended up with our current awful signage when your examples show that Britain (Britain!!) has been doing clear, simple bilingual signs without fuss for decades, let alone the various other examples we have in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
There's so much insecurity around Irish in this country that it's hard to have any sort of rational conversation about it. A fair number of people who are normally very sensible lose their minds a bit whenever the language is brought up, and what should be a pleasantly dull conversation about colours and fonts on road signs turns into a competition to show how much they dislike Irish. It all gets very emotional.
Every other country in the world with two official languages is able to solve the question - identical prominence for both names, sometimes with different colours but usually not, and move on. Ireland is the only country I know of where the solution was "one language clearly more prominent and in all caps, the other in almost illegible italics, easy peasy." Where did that idea even come from?
And here's an example of their B Road (Regional) in Scotland, using dark green for Gaelic versions. This, in my opinion, is so much neater and easier to read.
Ireland is not unique in having bilingual road signage; several European countries do, including Scotland, Wales, Greece, Bulgaria, parts of Spain (the Basque country, Catalonia) and several of the Balkan countries. And there are more countries that have bilingual signage in border areas or tourist areas. Non-European countries with bilingual signage in at least some places include Canada and New Zealand.
SFAIK the only countries that use different coloured letters to distinguish different languages are Greece and Scotland. (The road sign that Barney suggests in post 5 is essentially the Scottish standard design). Ireland distinguishes between the two languages by putting one in all-upper case and the other in sentence case. One or two countries use different typefaces (or of course different alphabets, if the different languages involved employ different alphabets). Most countries do not distinguish between them at all.
It’s long-established that text printed in upper case IS HARDER TO READ, ESPECIALLY AT SPEED. So if you need to contrast the different languages this may not be the best way to do it. But most countries seem to think that you don’t need to contrast the different languages at all.
The road sign that Barney suggests in post 5 is essentially the Scottish standard design. A corresponding sign in Wales would be similar except that both languages would be in white, and the distinctive yellow colour would be reserved for the road number, which arguably is better, since some travellers - particularly those following audible instructions from a satnav system - will be primarily interested in the road number.
Get rid of the Irish language on road signs.
It's unnecessary and confusing.
There's no evidence that bilingual road signs cause confusion, in Ireland or elsewhere. (And there have been plenty of studies looking into this.)
I'd agree with getting rid of it on some warning and hazard signs or just having internationally recognised symbols. It's like encountering a defibrillator and finding the first set of instructions on the box are in Irish.
There are a few problems with this design.
First, and most important, there’s a hierarchy of information on a road sign, and this breaks it. The most important thing for an advance-direction sign on a a motorway to tell you is “where am I?”. That’s what the junction number tells you. That’s why it’s big, visually distinct, and at the top left - we start reading from top left, and placing it as white-on-black makes it catch the eye. Glance across the left image without reading it, and you will still catch “8”. That’s the most important thing on that sign (“You are approaching junction 8”), the rest is just nice-to-know.
The right-hand sign demotes that junction information to the status of a road-number. It also has lots of competing call-outs: glance across it, and you don’t come away with anything. It’s a jumble of white-boxes, black-boxes, a green one, and yellow text (I’ll come back to that in a moment). Moving the junction number down the sign hides it, and so will makes navigation more difficult. The other problem is the use of outlines on the road-number patches: these are all too close to the text, and they make it a lot harder to read the route-numbers. (Our N-road signage does not outline areas that are patched with a different colour precisely because that would make them harder to read). The chosen colour-scheme also strongly emphasises regional routes (bright white area deep black text) over national (dark green, yellow -- lower contrast than the normal text) or motorways (no distinction), which is the opposite of the status of those routes. This shows the only situation where R-Routes ever appear on a motorway sign, so why highlight it further?
Gold on blue is also a problem, as they’re opponent colours (the cells in your eye that detect colour are sensitive in three different ways: cyan vs. red, green vs magenta, and blue vs. yellow). When you use opponent colours against each other for text, it’s hard to read. The National Route signage is able to use yellow on green because green is not an opponent of yellow ( they are detected by different cone-cells). These are reflective signboards, and have to be read at night by the light of headlamps. You’re asking your eyes and brain to do much more work if you start adding colour opponency into the already difficult task of reading the sign.
To be honest, the only improvement I’d make to that sign would be to get rid of the odd typeface for Irish:
This makes it look very much like the Scottish signage, which I like (well, the white-backed version - I’m not keen on the green ones), but I’d still keep the English names uppercase, for reasons of legibility.
@Aontachtoir - why wouldn’t Britain do good road signage? The UK road signage system is widely regarded the best in the world, and it was the first system of signs to be designed by scientists, typographers and graphic designers. I do think it’s a bit odd that in two bilingual parts of the UK, there are different standards at work, but that’s partly political: Welsh has a very large speaking population, so its speakers demanded and got parity; the signs on the Scottish highlands, on the other hand are for a daily-speaking population that’s smaller even than Irish.
@whisky_galore Would you complain that you tried to take trip to Florence once on an Italian holiday, and you couldn’t find your way because not one sign said "FLORENCE"? Places outside the Gaeltacht are signposted in English and Irish even within the Gaeltacht itself, and it’s not like the Gaeltachts are big, so I think you might be over-egging things a bit. I can’t speak Irish, my experience of being taught the language was appalling, but I don’t get angry that it exists and that people speak it.
Oh come on, there's no similarity between the situation in Italy and here. Everyone in Italy speaks Italian as a living, working language but you knew that.
Not true in parts of Italy, but not relevant either. If a person who doesn't speak Italian can navigate to a city he knows as "Florence" by following signs for "Firenze", 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?"
@KrisW1001 My point about Britain is that the country as a whole (meaning the towns and villages outside London and the other major cities) is strongly monolingual with an ingrained cultural suspicion of languages that aren't English - just like in Ireland. The reception given to people who don't speak English in public places (outside of the biggest cities, at least, and yes, including in the predominantly English-speaking parts of Wales) reminds me of the filthy looks I've seen Irish-speakers get here. And yet they came up with far better bilingual signage than we did. Not saying I'm necessarily surprised, but I do find it interesting.
Italy isn't a bilingual country, so they don't need bilingual road signage. Ireland is (supposedly) bilingual and the dominant language is English, not Irish. Therefore all road signs, including those in the Gaeltacht should be bilingual.
@Aontachtoir Agree with that, but I think they had a head start from building on such a good existing base. It’s still funny that they ended up with two different approaches in Scotland and Wales, but this is because the changes to the signage manuals had to be local: highways are one of the devolved powers, so Scottish and Welsh practice can diverge from English (even Northern Ireland has its own version of the traffic design manual).
As I said, I liked the Scottish approach on white-backed signs, but I think using yellow for destinations on the green-backed signs takes away from the use that colour to highlight the route number, especially as the UK design doesn’t make the route-number bigger than the destinations text (our signs do). If you apply that everywhere, you’re effectively training English-speakers to ignore whatever is written in yellow. (For example, on the pictured signboard with “Uachdar Thìre”, the text lines are yellow, white, yellow, white, yello-- oh, that’s the road number, not another destination).
On the original point of the signage being “ugly”, I do think a lot of that is down to the occasionally very poor execution of designs by roadbuilders. There are rules that must be followed, and the software that’s used for these automates them. But once you’re within those rules, spacings can be adjusted to make the sign look better without compromising legibility. On some road projects, you can see that the person doing the signage had no eye for it at all, and was just committing whatever the sign-plotting software spat out. That’s a real shame given the cost of these things, but signs are usually something of an afterthought on big projects, as there’s no “engineering” in a signboard design.
Italy has several bilingual regions. Separately, Ireland is a bilingual country, and the national and first official language of the country, according to the Constitution we voted for, is Irish. The reason that English is dominant is because of centuries of attempts to exclude Irish from public life and make English the only language of government, commerce, and industry, first by the English, then by the British, and (since 1922) by the Irish ourselves. I can't think of any other European country where people have the same level of contempt for their national language, to the point they even think it should be taken off road signs.
@KrisW1001 I agree with your points about colour and the route number, but I guess just increasing the size of the number would be a neat fix. Can't disagree with both languages being the same colour though.
I don't need a history lesson, thank you very much. It's not contempt for the Irish language to point to the reality that we all speak English and while only a tiny minority speak Irish. We're immersed in an English speaking world, so that, for good or bad, is not gong to change in the future. And if you actually read my post properly (it's not that long a post) you'd have seen that I said ALL road signage should be bilingual INCLUDING signage in the Gaeltacht.
I think the contempt of a significant group of people for the language is quite clear. I would argue there is some contempt in suggesting that because the position of Irish has been so deliberately diminished in Ireland, it should not be valued at least equally to English, although maybe you meant differently when you referred to a "tiny minority." If so, I misinterpreted your comment. I also think it's always helpful to remember the context which these discussions are arising in, which is why I brought it up.
Place names in the Gaeltacht are officially the same in both languages, so wouldn't including the official English name just mean writing the same thing twice?
The basic point is being missed here. Road signs show the official names of places. If you don’t like it that some place populated by people who mostly speak Irish doesn’t have an official Anglicised name, well that’s just something you have to live with.
And as most of the names that were dropped in 2004 were just transliterations*, it’s not like you have to learn a new name, so much as spell it properly. Irish people really can’t feign ignorance of how Irish names are spelled and pronounced: if you can say “Saoirse” or “Donnachadh”, you can manage to figure out what “Heilbhic”, “Lios Pól” or “Baile an Fheirtéaraigh” are. Foreign tourists are already expecting names to be unfamiliar (and the “English” versions of those names use such old rules that they’re of little help to them anyway), so who exactly are we supposed to be helping here?
In the Western part of the country, most of the “English” place names in this country are some soldier’s attempt at transcribing what a local person said to them (the original Ordnance Survey of Ireland was carried out by the Army). If I say to you, in English, “This town is called Luleå”, and you spell it “Loolah”, that doesn’t make that the “English” name of the place - it just means you didn’t care how it was supposed to be spelled, and wrote down whatever looked right. But that’s basically what happened.
But there are places outside of Gaeltachts with only one official name, often from Irish - so what do we do with those? Should we bring back “Dún Laoighaire KINGSTOWN” as that was the official, English-language name, in the interest of being a bilingual country, or should we do something equally stupid like adding more cod-transliteration like “Dún Laoighaire DUNLEARY”, or how about making up something nobody would recognise, like “LEARYSFORT”?
(* But yes, Dingle was a mistake - because that was a name that was used widely. It has been fixed since, though )
The point is that you don’t.
In the South Tyrol region of Northern Italy road signs are generally in German and Italian, the exception is the Dolomite valleys, where road signs are in 3 languages, German, Italian and Ladin.
Doesn't seem to upset the tourists too much as the area has a huge skiing industry in the winter and full of bikers and walkers in the summer.