Quite a rotten localisation of a perfect (A)pple

The purpose of this article is to present examples of poor localisation of Apple’s tangible and intangible content into Croatian. That content does not meet the basic principles of the Croatian standard. The opinions and arguments presented in this article are based on descriptive and normative grammars and dictionaries of the contemporary Croatian language, as well as recommendations by the leading institutions for the Croatian language (Institut za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje[1], Leksikografski zavod Miroslava Krleže[2], Matica Hrvatska[3]), available in written or electronic form, as well as by the leading language experts who are users of Apple products. This article is only a part of a series of articles dealing with a poor localisation approach by Apple[4], one of the leading IT companies. The first article analyses the basic terminology used in the translation of iOS and MacOS UI strings.


Every localisation procedure is based on two basic factors: a terminology glossary and a style guide which set forth basic translation rules. It is during the creating of these documents that one needs to pay special attention because the localisation procedure could otherwise be a failure. A glossary is a collection of the most frequent terms occurring in tangible (marketing material, manuals etc.) or intangible (software/application/programme interface strings etc.) content, while a style guide covers a series of rules and guidelines pertaining to the use of standard language rules and the adjustment of language structures to the target group of users.

Apple’s localisation comprises four phases: translation (a service provided by several LSPs), testing (a process done in one of their QA centres where testers, native speakers of the target language, find programming and linguistic errors in the operating system versions and report bugs), discussion (returning the original translation to the translator who either refuses or accepts the testers’ suggestions), and integration (implementation of solutions in software versions). So, the localisation process is based on three linguistic quality checks (translator – tester – translator) owing to which errors should be minimal. However, they are anything but. They are numerous and easily detected by any native speaker with secondary education in the Croatian language.

As our first step in creating a corpus for this article by studying two operating systems, iOS (12)[5] and MacOS (Mojave),[6] we noted a list of basic terms which comprise a glossary of basic terms. Those terms are not a comprehensive list, but are used most often. Therefore, the aforementioned terms are analysed below. We gave operating system examples available on users’ devices (highly-visible content that significantly affects a user’s experience of use).

Case study analysis:

So, you decided to splurge on a product whose basic model, only a phone, costs over 1000 EUR. You would think you are getting a unique and high-quality product which not only has exceptional hardware performances and design, but an excellently localised content into your target language too. It is already when we turn on any of Apple’s products and during the initial setup or when first starting any application that we notice a major translation error:

a)     WELCOME translated as DOBRODOŠLI instead of DOBRO DOŠLI

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According to our basic grammar rule and dictionary titled Veliki rječnik hrvatskog standardnog jezika[7], the word WELCOME as a greeting should be spelt as two words, because there is also DOBRODOŠLI, spelt as one word, but it has a different sentence function and a different meaning. The word DOBRODOŠLI[8] is an adjective which can only come with a noun, it cannot stand on its own, and it means needful, useful, coming at the right moment; while DOBRO DOŠLI is a welcome greeting. The above translation error is not only a basic mistake, easily detected by all Croatian speakers, but a mistranslation as well. The sentence in this screenshot, back translated into English, would sound as follows: Needed, Useful in Classroom, which does not mean a thing.

After the first screenshot, the setup wizard shows a screen with one of the biggest errors.


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The word PODEŠAVANJE is not a part of the Croatian language standard, nor has it ever been in use in Croatian. According to[9] Institute for Croatian Language and Linguistics, the word PODESITI/PODEŠAVANJE appears only in Serbian writers’ literary works (we know the lexis of a standard language is based on the literary language corpus). This word is also extremely popular in Zagreb jargon speech, while Dalmatian speakers (speakers of Shtokavian dialect upon which the Croatian standard is based) do not use it in any context because it is not even used in jargon. According to the aforementioned expertise, the verb podesiti, and the noun podešavanje should, in the Croatian language standard, be substituted by the verb postaviti (postavljanje) or namjestiti (namještanje). Additionally, we found another piece of evidence proving that the above translation is erroneous. We based our proving process on three big languages (English, French and Italian) to compare the translation of the noun SETTING and the verb SET UP.

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The above examples make it clear that there is no analogy in Croatian between the noun and the verb and that the above translation is not in line with the prescribed Croatian language standard. In all other languages, as is visible from the examples, the root of the word (marked in red) is the same because it is used to form both the noun and the verb. The error consists in using non-standard and non-existent form of the noun/verb; and that is not only a major language error, but also a sociolinguistic problem[10] caused by using the form from the Serbian language, i.e. Serbo-Croatian which existed until the collapse of ex-Yugoslavia, because today we only talk about two different languages: Croatian and Serbian[11], regardless of how similar they may be.

Taking further steps in the initial setup process, we come to the following error in translation:

c)      INSERT translated as UNIJETI/UNOSITI instead of UPISATI/UPIŠI

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Regarding this mistranslation, it is important to note that this is a typical example of language interference. That, however, is no excuse for an error. According to the language expertise done by IHJJ (Question 5), the above translation is completely wrong because the verb UNOSITI, according to a few Croatian dictionaries (VRH and ŠRHJ), has only the following meanings: put something in a bigger whole or between parts of something so as to fit tight; admit somebody as a member, approve somebody’s membership or put something in something else, between something, install in a whole. It is therefore clear that no dictionary has a lemma with the meaning UPISATI/UPISIVATI to cover the required semantic meaning of the English word INSERT. It is also important to note the following: In the cases of using the English verbs enter and type, the verb UPISATI was always used in the Croatian translation: Enter a different name and try again. > Upišite drugo ime i pokušajte ponovno. You must type a file name. > Morate upisati naziv datoteke. You must type in a sender. > Morate upisati pošiljatelja. Another factor that confirms the mistranslation is the fact that the above verb is used with abstract (intangible), rather than concrete nouns, while the verb UNOSITI semantically and lexically requires the use of concrete (tangible) nouns and supplements.

The following example shows the difference in the use of insert and type in the Croatian translation: You will need to insert your smart card and type your smart card PIN. > Morat ćete umetnuti pametnu karticu i upisati njezin PIN.

Taking into account the differences in the meaning of verbs unijeti and upisati in the monolingual normative dictionaries of the Croatian language and in the reference terminology bilingual set of computer nomenclature, we can conclude by saying that between unijeti u polje and upisati u polje, one should use upisati u polje, especially in the case of a password, a piece of data or a user name.

So, after one finally types in the password and accepts Terms and Conditions of use, in comes the following screen with a new error.


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Two main errors are visible on this screen. The first error refers to the use of an internationalism in Croatian (it is one of the characteristics of Serbian where such words are also phonologically adapted), because the basic set of rules regarding the choice of words has been broken: If there is a corresponding word in the target language, and it is part of the standard lexis, it takes precedence over an internationalism which can also be incomprehensible to a large number of the target language speakers (especially when it comes to older speakers of that language). The second error is more pronounced because no difference is made between the terms of ELEKTRONIČKA PORUKA[12] (eng. e-mail in the sense of an electronic message) and ELEKTRONIČKA POŠTA (eng. e-mail in the sense of service for sending/receiving e-mails). To explain more clearly the terminology error and hence this mistranslation, we will use the analogy of LETTER (the form of content being sent) and POST/MAIL (the sending service). In this case it is not clear what the term refers to.

In the next step of the initial setup the following screen appears:


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The above example shows that the mistranslation arose due to not knowing one’s mother tongue enough and because of language interference. The term SIGN IN is translated always as PRIJAVA NA/ PRIJAVITE SE NA, and that is not completely correct and in this screen it is erroneous. During the initial sign up (i.e. when the access details are received for the first time), one should use PRIJAVA ZA/PRIJAVITE SE ZA because the preposition ZA in this case emphasises the fact that the user is not using that service and is not familiar with the way it works. According to VHR, one of the meanings of the preposition ZA is the object of intention, and of the preposition NA doing something with the aid of a certain means. It is therefore clear that the preposition ZA must be used to express intention to use a service which after that becomes the user’s means of doing something. The above translation is not only wrong but it also implies a legal obligation – if the user signs up for the service, it means that s/he previously signed up FOR the use of service because the service cannot be used unless s/he receives credentials that allow that.

Therefore, due to legal reasons (accepting Terms and Conditions to use the iCloud service), there are two translations of LOGIN:

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Continuing the setup process, the following screen appears:


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This example shows a classic error made usually by translators with exceptionally limited knowledge of Croatian. According to VRH, Croatian has the following verbs: KORISTITI KORISTITI SE[13], but these two terms have different meanings. The verb KORISTITI is used with accusative only when it means biti od koristi, služiti svrsi (to be of use) in a certain administrative context, while the verb KORISTITI SE means to use something.  Therefore it is completely semantically unjustified and erroneous to use KORIŠTENJE with supplement in ACCUSATIVE because the meaning of the sentence would be: I have read and accept Terms and Conditions because useful Game Center. That sentence has no sense in Croatian. Another proof that the verb KORISTITI is wrongly used with the ACCUSATIVE supplement may be found in the enclosed screen shot with the aforementioned verb:

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After completing the initial device setup, the device runs the basic operating system interface in which we found several more mistranslated terms.


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Within the device settings we find POSTAVLJANJE, the term which is by no means suitable for the context in which it is used. It is primarily erroneous as translation of the English word (UPLOAD/UPLOADING) since the noun POSTAVLJANJE is directly tied to the verb POSTAVITI (SET UP). This analogy proves that the term has been mistranslated and that it cannot be used in this case. Since using the above translation creates a terminology mess and translation inconsistencies, it is better to use DOSTAVA/DOSTAVITI (upload/uploading) in relation to their antonymy units PREUZIMANJE/PREUZIMATI (download/downloading). Using this solution also avoids the problem of translating TRANSFER whose only possible translation in Croatian is: noun form – PRIJENOS or PRENOŠENJE, while the verb form is PRENIJETI. Additionally, this noun, as well as the verb, are usually used with concrete nouns, not abstract nouns, therefore this use is wrong not only lexically, but also semantically, because one cannot physically take or install anything in a device’s interface.

Within settings, there are several new errors:

h)     CURRENT translated as TRENUTNO instead of TRENUTAČNO

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This error is extremely common with Croatian speakers who do not speak their language well nor do they particularly hold it dear. Croatian has both TRENUTNO and TRENUTAČNO[14], but they both have different meaning. TRENUTNO means: quickly, abruptly, unexpectedly, all of a sudden, suddenly, while TRENUTAČNO refers to something happening in this moment, right now. Even Croatian dictionaries differentiate between these two terms, therefore it is extremely important to be careful when using these two adverbs. In this case TRENUTNO is wrongly used. TRENUTAČNO should be used because the term TRENUTNA STRANICA is semantically wrong – as if it were a page that appeared suddenly or unexpectedly.

i)       SEARCH ENGINE/MODUL translated as PRETRAŽIVAČ instead of TRAŽILICA


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The term PRETRAŽIVAČ[15] is not common in the Croatian IT terminology and when it is used in the above contexts, it refers to BROWSER, i.e. the applicationwith which webpages are browsed. The abovementioned term is common in the Croatian IT terminology. Since it is used here as SEARCH ENGINE/MODULE, its use is completely erroneous because it indicates the wrong function of the above feature. Additionally, the term WEB-STRANICA is not suitable for the Croatian language standard, since it is recommended to use the term MREŽNA STRANICA[16].

j)       MATCH translated as POGODAK instead of PODUDARANJE

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The term MATCH was translated in this context as GOAL or GOOD COMBINATIONPOGODAK is not common in the Croatian IT terminology. According to VRH, the basic meaning of the word PODUDARANJE is coincidence, matching i.e. overlapping. Taking into account the meaning, it is easily concluded that MATCH was mistranslated because by entering words into a search engine one obtains results that MATCH the term searched for, definitely not results that are a good combination or a goal.


This article provides only a short insight into Apple’s operating system interface terminology. We applied a comparative-analytical approach which showed that the localisation procedure of Apple’s products is quite lacking in all aspects, especially quality-wise. This non-quality not only makes the professionality of Apple’s relationship towards customers questionable, it also shows a considerable negligence toward Croatian. Although it is a small language with only a few million speakers, it deserves respect i.e. all content, whether tangible or intangible, should be localised in the Croatian standard language for all Croatian speakers, regardless of their age groups. The localisation process is based on the wrong approach which is a result of poor term base (glossary) creation and a choice of translation services providers i.e. translators and testers based on the native speaker principle. The current localisation of Apple’s products is most definitely not a good localisation example. The localisation is unfortunately completely secondary compared to marketing activities in order to sell a product which is rotten in its core, and beautiful like a paradise garden apple on the outside.



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[1] Website: http://ihjj.hr

[2] Website: http://www.lzmk.hr

[3] Website: http://www.matica.hr

[4] Website: https://www.apple.com/hr/

[5] Version: 12.1.

[6] Version: 10.14.2.

[7] A group of authors, VRH – Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga standardnog jezika, Zagreb, Školska knjiga, 2015.

[8] Link: https://www.prevoditelj-teksta.com/dobrodosli-ili-dobro-dosli/

[9] The language expertise is available on the following link in Croatian (Question 1)): https://www.dropbox.com/s/psengf216uxkw5s/Jezi%C4%8Dna%20ekspertiza%20PDF.pdf?dl=0

A few more sources: https://www.fsb.unizg.hr/atlantis/upload/newsboard/04_02_2013__18303_jezicni_savjetnik_2013.pdf


[10] Question of the Croatian War of Independence (Homeland War) and the Serbo-Croatian language

[11] Marko Kovačić, Serbian and Croatian: One language or languages?, Jezikoslovlje, 2005.

[12] Link for extensive explanation of the term e-mail (in Croatian): http://www.enciklopedija.hr/natuknica.aspx?id=17645

[13] Link for KORISTITI i KORISTITI SE: http://bujicarijeci.com/2012/10/koristiti-se/

[14] Link for TRENUTNO TRENUTAČNO: https://projektp.hr/trenutno-ili-trenutacno/

[15] The term PRETRAŽIVAČ: http://hjp.znanje.hr/index.php?show=search

[16] The term MREŽNA STANICA: http://bolje.hr/rijec/web-stranica-gt-mrezna-stranica/34/

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