Poor terminology choice, poorer style and inconsistent consistency

This article is an addition to Quite a rotten localisation of a perfect (A)pple in which we wrote about terminology errors in the software localisation of Apple devices. The examples of major terminology errors in the article account for only 10% of the most obvious errors; it is possible to write an entire study on poor terminology choices and explain it in depth on many pages in a thesis or a PhD dissertation. Since it is not possible to publish such a study on a social network, it will be a theme of a PhD dissertation in the near future. Therefore, in this new article, we decided to write about two important aspects closely related to terminology: style and consistency. The opinions and arguments presented in this article are based on descriptive and normative grammars, dictionaries and style guides of the contemporary Croatian language, on recommendations by the leading institutions for Croatian language (Institut za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje[1], Leksikografski zavod Miroslava Krleže[2], Matica hrvatska[3]), available in written or electronic form, and by the leading language experts who are users of Apple products.


The localisation of hardware and software content is a highly complex process requiring a close cooperation of programmers, technical writers and translators. When it comes to software, a programmer creates a program code (a group of numerical strings and signs) in a certain program language, then its text content is completed by a technical writer to get an operation system or an application that can be used by an end user. This means that the localisation of hardware content refers to the translation of the text content within the program code to make the incomprehensible program language comprehensible to a typical user via text content displayed on a device’s screen. However, hardware is a tangible part of computer equipment (its components, such as a keyboard, a mouse, a screen…) so the term “localisation of hardware content” in this case refers to documentation in writing, such as instructions, description of technical features and marketing materials. The entire localisation process is based on three main language factors: choice of appropriate terminology, appropriate style, and consistency of terminology and style. It can be done by thorough research and close cooperation of the main actors. However, the cultural and social components must also be taken into account, so that the final product is appropriate for all age groups because any form of inappropriateness is a form of discrimination.


Our first step in creating a corpus for this article was the analysis of two operating systems, iOS (12) and MacOS (Catalina), of the official Apple website and the documentation delivered with devices.


Case study analysis:

Style is one of the important components of the linguistic aspect of localisation and as such is the frame of a language jigsaw puzzle composed of words. Therefore, style should be based on the following principles:

a)      simplicity

b)     intelligibility

c)      consistency

d)     compliance with standard language

e)     cultural suitability


Reading Apple’s localized software and hardware content, we noticed that not only the style is not simple, but it is also not understandable in many cases. One should bear in mind who the product is intended for, their level of technical expertise, as well as their innate sensitivity regarding their native language.



The principle of simplicity is based on the use of simple and intelligible terms which are common or suited to the target language. When talking about information technology, the Croatian language is still developing its glossary. In everyday speech, many English words are used and they take on a rather different meaning due to erroneous use or misinterpretation.


To explain the principle of simplicity in a better way, we will analyse three sentences:


The sentence in Croatian: MacBook Air. Zračna sila.

The sentence in English: MacBook Air. Power. It’s in the Air.

Recommended revised phrase: MacBook Air. Snaga. Snaga je u zraku.


The sentence in Croatian: Opremljen s nevjerojatnih 16 milijardi tranzistora, Apple M1 sustav na čipu (SoC) integrira CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O i još mnogo više u jedan jedini, sićušni čip.

The sentence in English: Packed with an astonishing 16 billion transistors, the Apple M1 system on a chip (SoC) integrates the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O, and so much more onto a single tiny chip.

Recommended revised phrase: Appleov sustav M1 u čipu (SoC) koji sadrži nevjerojatnih 16 milijardi tranzistora opremljen je središnjom jedinicom za obradu podataka (CPU), jedinicom za grafičku obradu (GPU), značajkom Neural Engine, ulazno/izlaznom jedinicom i brojnim drugim značajkama koje se nalaze u jednom malenom čipu.


The sentence in Croatian: S AVX-512 vektorskim instrukcijama i arhitekturom predmemorije, procesor još brže obrađuje još više podataka.

The sentence in English: With AVX-512 vector instructions and an advanced cache architecture, the processor handles even more data — even more quickly.

Recommended revised phrase: Jedinica za obradu podataka obrađuje i veće količine podataka, čak i brže, zahvaljujući vektorskim uputama AVX-512 i naprednoj arhitekturi predmemorije. (In the previous sentence the word “advanced” was left untranslated).


These sentences contain many specific terms that were either left in English (untranslated) or transferred into Croatian as borrowed words. Numerous users will not understand these sentences because the terms are neither clear nor explained/defined. One must take into account the fact that end users may not be literate in information technology (as, indeed, many people are not), but they have to understand completely all the features of the device they are buying, otherwise they are misled.




The principle of intelligibility is based on the use of syntactic structures in line with the target language reality, without any language interference on any language level (i.e. the target text should sound natural, not obviously translated). Simplicity means the way of expression that is intelligible to all target language native speakers, regardless of their age group.


To explain the principle of intelligibility in a better way, we will analyse three sentences:

The sentence in Croatian: Da biste tijekom zamjene baterije dobili originalnu Appleovu bateriju, preporučujemo da idete u ovlašteni Appleov servis.

The sentence in English: To ensure you receive a genuine Apple battery during a battery replacement, we recommend visiting an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Recommended revised phrase: Posjetite ovlašteni Appleov centar za popravak uređaja kako biste bateriju zamijenili originalnom Appleovom baterijom.


The sentence in Croatian: Što znači da superbrzo možeš skidati filmove, streamati visokokvalitetne videozapise ili koristiti HD FaceTime preko mobilne mreže.

The sentence in English: So you can download movies on the fly. Stream higher-quality video. Or FaceTime in HD over cellular.

Recommended revised phrase: Preuzimajte usputno filmove, strujite videozapise bolje kvalitete ili se koristite značajkom FaceTime u visokoj razlučivosti preko mobilne mreže.


The sentence in Croatian: Smart HDR 3 elemente u kadru postavlja u ravnotežu uz istovremeno isticanje detalja na objektu i drveću te očuvanje pune boje neba — čak i točno u podne.

The sentence in English: Smart HDR 3 balances the elements in a shot, bringing out detail in the subject and trees while retaining the rich color of the sky — even at high noon.

Recommended revised phrase: Zahvaljujući značajci Smart HDR elementi u kadru uravnoteženi su i ističu se pojedinosti na objektu i drveću uz istodobno zadržavanje istinske boje neba, čak i točno u podne.


All three sentences’ structure in Croatian is completely the same as in English, and that is an obvious example of language interference. This interference shows insufficient proficiency in the target language and the translated sentences sound as if they were machine translated: the English words were simply substituted with their Croatian counterparts. As the English language structure was maintained, the target sentence is unintelligible and does not flow naturally in Croatian. Because of that, the users have significant difficulties in understanding target text. Not only are these sentences not in line with standard language from the language point of view, but their meaning is somewhat compromised because they are neither tailored to target audience nor comply with the Croatian standard language system.



The principle of consistency refers to the use of the same translation of a particular term in all contexts while maintaining style. While reading documentation in paper and electronic form, we noticed significant differences in consistency, both in terminology and style. More about inconsistency, primarily terminology inconsistency, may be found in our first article.


Compliance with standard language


The principle of compliance with standard language refers to the use of standard Croatian, which is intelligible to all speakers, regardless of their age group or education level. Compliance means that substandard structures or those with dialectal expressions must not be used. However, non-experts tend to support a certain regional dialect, meaning that the accent, vocabulary and grammar rules of the dialect are considered “the elite” ones, going to the extent to consider this dialect equal to standard. Moreover, English syntax, even some of English vocabulary, is considered “modern”, none of which is in line with Croatian standard.


To explain the principle of compliance with standard language in a better way, we will analyse three sentences:


The sentence in Croatian: Najbolje mjesto za sve tvoje fotke, datoteke i još puno toga.

The sentence in English: The best place for all your photos, files, and more.

Recommended revised translation: Najbolje mjesto za sve vaše fotografije, datoteke i još mnogo toga.


The sentence in Croatian: Portretni mod za prave face.

The sentence in English: Smile you are in Portrait mode.

Recommended revised translation: Nasmiješite se, u portretnom ste načinu.


The sentence in Croatian: Profi od glave do pete.

The sentence in English: All systems Pro.

Recommended revised translation: Potpuno profesionalni sustav.


It is obvious from these examples that there are a number of substandard elements: expressions used mostly by younger generations, dialectal forms, regionalisms. The use of non-standard language makes the text unclear and, in many cases, it seems machine translated. The issue which may arise here is that the users appropriately familiar with the use of English will work on their devices using English interface – creating another type of “elite”. Namely, this “elite” will gain insight into the functionalities of their device(s) which the users working on the Croatian interface will not, as it is aimed at the ones who will use it in English or at “the young and the modern”. Having mentioned this, one other thing should be emphasized – people who in fact buy Apple devices are not children and teenagers, but professionals in their field of expertise (not necessarily English language), who want to use the features of the product marketed as the best to the maximum extent possible.


Cultural suitability

The principle of cultural suitability is based on how adapted a text is to a given target language and market. The cultural unsuitability of Apple’s texts is mostly evident in poor translations of typical English expressions, fixed phrases and idioms that have their Croatian counterparts. On the other hand, it is when new content is created, if a term or an expression do not have a target language counterpart, that cultural suitability may be achieved.


To explain the principle of cultural suitability in a better way, we will analyse three sentences:


The sentence in Croatian: Prsti pjevaju.

The sentence in English: Go ahead. Take the keys.

Recommended revised translation: Tipkovnica po kojoj prsti klize.


The sentence in Croatian: Tko dobro spava, ne boli ga glava.

The sentence in English: You snooze. You win.

Recommended revised translation: Spavajte bolje. Živite dulje.


The sentence in Croatian: Game over za dosadu.

The sentence in English: Power up your leisure time.

Recommended revised translation: Kvalitetno ispunite svoje slobodno vrijeme.


These examples show that the particulars of the Croatian language reality were not completely taken into account during the localisation of texts. The aim is to convey the source marketing message, but the translator used a term that is more appropriate for another environment, plus “leisure time” was substituted with “boredom” and the result is far from meaningful as it is in the source language. Therefore, the attempts to create new text or find a counterpart for a term or an expression in the target language was not successful. The users will have trouble understanding these sentences as they are not written in typical marketing style which should be interesting and attractive.


The translators and creators of Apple content are trying to combine hard-to-combine elements in their style. The result is a marketing text with an unnatural flow in Croatian and, consequently, a considerable lack of sense. This problem arises because English language structures are directly carried over into Croatian. Although the English phrase sounds casual and slightly informal – the way marketing texts tend to be, and should be – the style in the Croatian translated phrases is more similar to modern jargon of today’s younger generations that is not always understood by the average speaker of Croatian. The style in the analysed localised materials abounds in non-standard words and expressions, especially colloquial expressions and regionalisms specific for Zagreb area, “trendy” words and slang expressions, while many English constructions were directly carried over into Croatian without making any changes. The resulting sentences sound as if the English syntax was maintained, but English words were substituted by Croatian words and somewhat erroneous translations due to insufficient command of the Croatian language and culture. The English idioms were not correctly rendered either.


After analysing these fundamental principles, we will comment on two style aspects:


Choice of tense.

The large part of text in Apple documentation is written in conditional mood and future simple tense. In our analysis, we determined that conditional and future were used in the English sentences. The translators / content creators made a – not that good – choice of using the same (English) structure in Croatian too. As a result, the sentences sound unnatural, while the paragraphs are insufficiently cohesive. The use of conditional mood and future tense is permitted and stylistically very efficient in English, but unsuitable and not that common in Croatian. Instead, present tense should be used as it makes the text flow better in Croatian, the reader feels connected to the products/services and the content is interesting, both semantically and from the marketing point of view.


Choice of address.

The English pronoun “you” is used both in 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural. Therefore, the texts in English sound informal and casual, yet appropriate. However, we have two distinct forms in Croatian: “ti” for 2nd person singular and “vi” for 2nd person plural. We use the former when we are addressing someone with whom we are on a first name basis or when addressing children, and the latter in all other cases. Regrettably, the former has been used in Apple localisation. It makes the text sound as if it were only for a certain group or groups of users. From the socio-linguistic point of view, it is not acceptable. It is a sort of language discrimination because it looks as though Apple is addressing only younger users, and almost ignoring older users. As previously stated, it is precisely what gives the users a wrong impression because Apple’s products should be available to and intended for everyone, especially when their price – much higher than that of other manufacturers’ similar products – is taken into account.



Marketing texts and localisation of Apple paper and electronic documentation are an excellent example of unsuccessful localisation. Their localisation went wrong in most aspects because the importance of the Croatian standard language was ignored (due to choosing so professional language service providers). Although localisation is a complex process, Apple could have smartly invested money in good localisation so as not to have to correct its flaws and shortcomings with powerful marketing tricks intended solely for the U.S. market. The quality of a product may be based on good hardware and software, but its popularity and selling success are based on excellent localisation. It is not only an exceptional way of direct marketing, but a unique way of building reputation with users who play the biggest role in this entire process, but are unfortunately often ignored.

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