iTunes Store launch in Hong Kong plagued with translation issues

Apple officially opened up the iTunes Store and iTunes Match in 12 new Asian countries late last month, bringing the total to 155 countries worldwide. Perhaps the most notable addition was Hong Kong. Apple said at the time that the local stores would include “an incredible selection of local and international music from all the major labels and thousands of independent labels,” but many Chinese users are disgruntled with the method Apple is using to translate the titles and descriptions of some content in the store. The Wall Street Journal published a story today highlighting the problem with translations in the Hong Kong store:

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.

For example, the popular Cantonese pop song titled “Autumn Wind, Autumn Rain” would be written and pronounced as qiu feng qiu yu using Mandarin pinyin. Though there is no broadly accepted official system for rendering Cantonese using the Roman alphabet, a transliteration for Cantonese speakers would be closer to cou feng cou yu.

“Those are CANTO pop [songs],” wrote one Hong Kong-based user on Twitter. “Use cantonese [sic] phonetics.”

In other Chinese Apple news, Bloomberg reported today that Apple is using China-based AutoNavi to power its new iOS 6 Maps app in China. Apple is already confirmed to be using TomTom and various other sources for map data in the United States and elsewhere, and Bloomberg noted today that AutoNavi signed a joint venture with TomTom in China in 2010.

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.