Where the Streets have Two Names

As told in post The Art in Data Matching a common challenge in matching names and addresses is that in some parts of the world the streets have more than one name at the same time because more than one language is in use.

We have the same challenge when building functionality for rapid addressing, being functionality that facilitates fast and quality assured entry of addresses supported by reference data that knows about postal codes / cities and street names.

The below example is taken from the instant Data Quality tool address form:

Finish Swedish

The Finnish capital Helsinki also has an official name in Swedish being Helsingfors and the streets in Helsinki/Helsingfors have both Finnish and Swedish names. So when you start typing a letter suggestions could be in both Finnish and Swedish.

What challenges have you encountered with street names in multiple languages?

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12 thoughts on “Where the Streets have Two Names

  1. Sophie Angenot 18th July 2013 / 15:49

    Living in a country as Belgium, where not only some regions are officially bilingual, but where language is a very sensitive matter (don’t write an address in French when addressing a Dutch speaking citizen neither the other way around, if you don’t want trouble…), it’s a problem we are very well aware of.
    A solution is investing in a good address reference file, that contains all (ah yes, we have 3 official languages: don’t forget German!) languages, and then using the street-code instead of the fully written street name in your database: when you need the full street name (for example when sending out mail), just fetch it in the reference table in the right language. Not too complicated after all.
    Of course you need to keep the individual language-preference in your database too, but that’s obvious in our country.

  2. Simon Swan 18th July 2013 / 16:13

    I think the most common example I’ve encountered is ‘PO Box vs Street Address’ in the USA. Some customers have a preference for either or both. Typically we have to work with the user to determine how they want to use their data to establish the best way of storing/accessing this information. I find that this issue goes all the way back to the address storage and access plan, and so it’s good to raise this as early in the process as possible. The keying of new addresses is part of the process, the retrieval of contacts via search and matching contact data are also important moving pieces.

    In Europe, I do encounter more of cosmetic or vanity addresses, however, this is mostly limited to house name/number. In the UK, I’ve seen ‘non post towns’ used from time to time, however the hierarchy of the town element and the usage of low level postcodes mitigates a lot of these issues, and they can be keyed in addition to the address approved by the postal authority.

    • Kathleen Gormanshaw 22nd July 2013 / 14:50

      In Canada the PO Box vs Street Address becomes more complicated because they will often have different postal codes. Maintaining both physical and mailing address entries is ideal.

      • Simon Swan 22nd July 2013 / 20:16

        Thanks for the reply Kathleen, I’ll look into this in more detail. It’s great to have first hand experience with these issues. Working with US customers I have seen from time to time a preference to store both street address and PO Box which has resulted in having alternate first lines of address. Given what you say about Canada changes things a little with the difference in postal codes too, so that’s very useful information to have.

  3. Mark Humphries 18th July 2013 / 17:27

    Like Sophie, I have enjoyed working with bi-lingual addresses in Belgium. The language dimension is very important in explaining why address matching is different to other forms of text matching. In Belgium Westraat 1, 1000 Brussel is the same address as Rue de la Loi 1, 1000 Bruxelles. Text matching algorithms alone don’t work here, the only solution is a valid reference database.
    Another interesting phenomenon that I have come across in Belgium is people who “translate” their address even when the translated version is not officially valid. Rue de l’Eglise 1, 2800 Maline is not a valid address, but it is a French translation of Kerkstraat 1, 2800 Mechelen. I only know of one address validation tool in Belgium that can deal with this.

  4. Jack 18th July 2013 / 19:00

    A few years ago I was working in Jersey, where street addresses may be in English or (you’re going to love this) mediaeval Norman French, known as Jerriais. Very often the official streetname is the Jerriais one, which no-one alive speaks, let alone knows how to spell!

  5. John Owens 19th July 2013 / 04:10

    Hi Henrik

    A vexing problem.

    In my post ‘Data Quality Through Dynamic Data Entry’ at http://integrated-modeling-method.com/data-quality-dynamic-data-entry/ I show how, through the use of some lateral thinking, this problem can be very simply overcome through dynamic data entry.

    The post explains how simple data structures enable this approach to cater for any language and any country.

    Have a look and let me know what you think.

    Regards
    John

  6. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 19th July 2013 / 08:49

    Thanks a lot Sophie, Simon, Mark, Jack and John for adding in.

  7. Pamela Cook 19th July 2013 / 11:30

    Henrik, this is a very familiar issue in Wales too where the addresses need to be presented in both languages and not always in the same order!

  8. Helmut Franke 27th July 2013 / 14:58

    I’m Austrian, read A U S T R I A N – not A U S T R A L I A N.

    Having to explain where in this world Austria is located, and that my name is spelled
    H e l m u t not H e l m e t, has been and still is a challenge.
    I have been working on global SAP rollouts. Vendor master and material master in particular.

    Always consider multiple languages for vendor and material master. The system should be able to handle street address as well as PO Box address. Try to deliver a car to a PO Box.

    And please have a professional maintain your data with very good knowledge in which country a house number is followed by street name while in another country it is the other way round.
    Austria – Waldweg 12 (do not translate street name to English)
    Australia – 12 Parkview Lane

    Regards,
    Helmut

  9. Rainer Burkart 8th December 2015 / 17:04

    As I’m working in this area I can say, you are all right. It’s very difficult to get the overview over for several countries, and a lot of work if you have a global company.
    For several countries we could get the necessary data to provide help, for other countries we’re still hoping to find data sources that would help us to provide this multi lingual support.
    But as it stand every year it gets better and better.
    No one mentioned Switzerland, Italy, ….
    Kind Regards
    Rainer

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