Apple has gotten lost in translation with last month’s launch of the iTunes Store and iTunes Match in twelve new Asian territories.

Specifically, user in Hong Kong are complaining over ugly translation woes, especially with Apple’s versions of song and album titles in the store’s music section…

Te-Ping Chen, reporting for The Wall Street Journal blog:

On accessing the iTunes store for the first time, some Hong Kong users were irritated to find that the store was listing a number of song titles by the city’s popstars in Mandarin pinyin, a system that transcribes Chinese characters into phonetic Latin script, instead of displaying titles transliterated for the Cantonese language, which is spoken by the majority of the population.

It wouldn’t have been such a major headache if it weren’t for Hong Kong’s political background.

A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to mainland Chinese rule in 1997, but has stayed proudly loyal to its own native dialect and customs. Many locals resent the intrusion of Mandarin—which China’s government has promoted for decades as the official language across the border—and fear that Cantonese, spoken by 96% of the population, is gradually being shunted aside.

I must say, Apple’s translation of iTunes Store content in other micro-markets could use some work. While Italy, United Kingdom and Germany get to enjoy professionally translated content, countries like Slovenia and Croatia get to cope with translation that often doesn’t sound right.

I don’t know whether that’s the case because Apple lacks official presence in small markets, but something needs to be done about it. I don’t know what credentials these folks have, but it’s almost as if Cupertino is hiring some dude who claims to be a native Croatian speaker just because his family moved into the U.S. a decade ago.

I’d like to hear your opinion on the quality of translation in the iTunes Store specific to your local market.

Is it professional or does it need improving?

  • Sina

    Give them some time to correct them. IMHO Even with ugly translation, it is better than no Store.

  • I didn’t believe this before but I think this wouldn’t have passed in Steve Jobs at the helm. Apple needs to be perfectionist, they are known that way.

  • hkpuipui99

    Political implications aside, it’s very confusing to have Cantonese song names translated into Mandarin… Imagine if Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca is listed as “The Crazy Life” in iTunes…

  • Professional translation for the United Kingdom? Really? I’m pretty sure even Google Translate would translate English US to English UK perfectly every time!

  • I have an Croatian iTunes account, and the store is not even translated!!!!
    It’s the same language you guys have!! How can it “not sound right”.-.-