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I need to write down the addresses of several stores in my area for my German class and need to translate South Gee Street for this purpose.

My Professor said that South China changes to Südchina earlier in the semester and I wanted to know if street names do the same thing.

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First of all, something regarding the adaption of place names in general: We only use adapted names for places that have been of historical importance to Germany – at least I do not know of any place name that has been adapted into German recently. In particular I do not know of any street whose name has been adapted.

This rule does however not necessarily apply to North, South and similar. E.g., we usually do not translate North Dakota (NGram) and I would not even know how to translate West End, but we use Nordkorea or Südafrika. I think a good rule of thumb is that we do not translate North X to Nord-X, if it is not part of something commonly referred to as X. For example, there is no Dakota or part of London called End, but Afrika and Korea exist.

Now to your example: Your street is not historically important to Germany and therefore its whole name will not be translated. Also, when there is a South X Street and a North X Street, there usually is no X Street, and even if, South X Street and North X Street are not parts of it, but separate streets.

Moreover, you write that this is about translating addresses, which is a bad idea in general, as it defies their purpose of making a place easily identifiable (see Tobias Hochgürtel’s answer). However, be aware that if you were tasked with writing down addresses to learn the way addresses are written in German, you may miss the point of the excercise – though one could rightfully argue that the exercise was poorly designed and should have been about German addresses.

  • Yes! And it is harmful to translate street names in either direction! For example, if you ask for "oak heap" in my hometown, probably no one could help you find the street whose name is "Eichhalde". – Ingo Sep 20 '14 at 14:03
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Street Names are unambiguous, they are not to be translated. If you ask because you want to ship a package or a letter by post, you need to know this. Otherwise your shipment can not be delivered.

  • In theory you're right but it's a theoretical exercise for a class, presumably so they can discuss translation issues, cultural issues etc., so it's a theoretical or hypothetical translation not a real-world translation question. – user16583 Sep 18 '14 at 14:32
  • This is even in theory quite wrong. In multilingual countries, it is very common that streets have multiple names and also in many other countries, it is not especially rare to translate local street names when using them in a foreign language context. E.g. when writing a letter to someone in Moscow, it would be just as acceptable to use "Ленингра́дский проспе́кт" as the English translation "Leningrad Avenue". – jarnbjo Sep 18 '14 at 14:40
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I agree with the other posters, do not translate street names.

Also, compass directions in street names are probably much more frequent in the US, where streets are arranged in a grid with some kind of center, and house numbers are counted from the center, so "1 south gee street" would be next to "1 north gee street". German cities generally don't have this kind of grid layout and street naming conventions.

There are, however, cities where some streets have names including compass directions. Ingolstadt, for example, has a "ring" of streets around its center, which are called "nördliche Ringstraße", "westliche Ringstraße.", "südliche Ringstraße" and "östliche Ringstraße". And if you google for "Nordstraße", "Südstraße", "Weststraße" or "Oststraße", each of those will turn up lots of hits.

So, if i really wanted to translate "north gee street" - as i said, i would not do normally - (imagine i was visiting your city with a 10-year old kid who asked me why the street was named this way), i'd probably answer "Gee doesn't seem to be a word, so it must be a name that can't be translated, so it's nördliche Gee-Straße". Later, after looking up gee on dict.leo.org,, i might be forced to change that to "nördliche Weitstreckenradar-Straße", but i'd feel very uncomfortable about that.

I'd definitely not say "Südgeestraße".

  • I doubt it has the radar meaning. You could also perhaps say Gee Straße-Süd, like e.g. Weender-Straße-West in Goettingen. But, as you say, it's much less usual in German than in English speaking countries to have compass directions in street names. – user16583 Sep 18 '14 at 14:02
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I'm pretty positive that you don't translate street names, no matter what language they're in. But if you wanted to anyways, (for the sake of practicing cardinal directions, etc) it would be Südliche G Straße. (Assuming that by saying "Gee", you meant the letter 'G')

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In Germany, we don't combine street names with directions like north, south, east and west. Therefore South Gee Street is not so easy to translate. If Gee is the name of a Person and the street was named after that person, you may write "südliche Gee-Straße".

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    We do. Südallee (Düsseldorf) - Nordring (Berlin) - Ostweg (Oldenburg) - Westplatz (Zeitz) - Schlafdeich Nord (Wilhelmshaven) - Döbbrick Süd (Cottbus) - Westliche Stadtmauerstraße (Erlangen) - Östliche Rheinbrückenstraße (Karlsruhe) ... to give only a few unsorted examples. – Takkat Sep 18 '14 at 11:35

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