The Problem With ‘Téléphériques’

Post by Steven Dale

One of the challenges urban gondola transit and cable propelled transit must overcome is the issue of nomenclature. This is something we talk about a fair bit here at The Gondola Project (here, here and here, for example) and it appears to have contributed to some of our own confusion about the Algerian Gondolas.

Let me explain.

Algeria’s official language is Arabic. Owing, however, to the North African’s history of French colonization, a majority of Algerians also speak and understand French with much business, media and education conducted in that language. As such, when we’ve hunted for information on the Algerian Gondolas, we’ve tended to do so in French. Granted, pursing research in Arabic would likely yield better results than in French but sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you’ve got.

Now . . . Anecdotally speaking, the most common term for cable transit systems in French is Téléphérique. This initially presented some challenges.

Google something like Téléphérique + Constantine (go ahead, we’ll wait) and you’ll find no shortage of images, videos, pages, etc. showing something like this:

Image via SkyscraperCity.

Now to any regular reader of The Gondola Project, you’ll immediately recognize this as a simple Monocable Detachable Gondola system (more specifically, it’s a 15-seater). But look what happens when you google something like Téléphérique + Algiers:


The Alger Téléphérique El-Madania. Creative Commons image by Poudou99.

Clearly the El-Madania Téléphérique in Algiers is an Aerial Tram not an MDG system.

Which means the French word Téléphérique is more akin to the English phrase Aerial Ropeway instead of Gondola. In other words: As we’re researching the Algerian Gondolas, we have to recognize that most of them will be referenced using the umbrella term Téléphérique. Which leads to the problem:

Without any clear indicators (by way of a photo or something else), it is very difficult to determine what technologies have been or will be implemented across Algeria’s slew of 23 Téléphériques.

We also see the term Télécabine used in reference to the Constantine, Skikda and Tlemcen gondolas, but there doesn’t seem to be any exact agreement on what that term means (see the English translation of the French Wikipedia page to get an idea of the confusion). Télécabine seems to be used most commonly to describe a detachable gondola but there isn’t any clear consensus.

As such, we’ll just have to figure out each one individually, one at a time.

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  1. Definitely, there is a vocabulary usage problem in french. Technically, a "téléphérique" is an aerial tramway. But being the first suspended cable transport system ever installed, it is often used as a generic word. A gondola is a "télécabine", effectively used mainly for detachable gondolas. People used to ski shall make the difference between these two terms. The general public shall not. Algeria being in north africa, over there ski is only known through mass media, there are not that many ski stations in the Sahara... That explains why vocabulary nuances may escape most people. This was a problem for the Constantine gondola wikipedia french page, that I have to rename from 'Téléphérique de Constantine', as it is called by its users, to 'Télécabine de Constantine', which is the proper technical denomination. The french Wikipedia page list also the Algerian gondolas of Tlemcen and Skikda, while there is no dedicated pages. Data is missing.
  2. PRZ, I think the vocabulary problem isn't unique to French :). Good to know though: Télécabine means detachable gondola Téléphérique is Aerial Tram.
  3. I'm french, and working in the engineering office in great french alpine resort. The technical vocabulary most often used by public is "télécabine" for a gondola or even for 3S. A "telepheric" is more a lift with a cabin at both ends of a haling cable.. In the french law : any suspended cable transport is a "téléphérique" and depends from "reglementation des telepheriques", and we have parallel rules for ski lifts, funiculars. You can find these text at http://www.strmtg.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/la-reglementation-technique-a27.html. Sorry for my english, Don't hesitate toask if you need some more infos...
  4. Why the first in Algeria? Have a look to Skikda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gyDcDfHNFo Or Oran: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6_YnBijCQE&feature=related Or the best here: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=759846 (with pictures of Constantine too)
  5. Hi Oliver, Firstly: You're English is great. Far better than my French! Secondly: Thanks for this! After going though last week's excercise on the Algerian gondolas, we've figured out the difference between "Telepherique" and "Telecabine." But like you point out, anything suspended by rope can be called a "Telecabine" which causes confusion. We've got many nomenclature issues in English and it seems the same problem exists in French.
  6. Guenther, What do you mean "why the first in Algeria?" I mention nothing about "firsts" in this post.
  7. I am sorry. It is a reply to https://www.gondolaproject.com/2011/08/25/new-urban-gondola-under-construction-in-algiers/ "TWO – From what we understand, this will be the first Gondola system built in Algiers. " I had both themes in different windows open and I posted it at the wrong window/article.
  8. Is http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=759846 your source of "23 telepherics" of Algeria?
  9. But forget it, I confused "Algier" and "Algerie".

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