Another method of familiarization for my language learning

I am a geek, unashamedly. Even though I am a real beginner in Italian, I have something I would really like to do: I’d like to change the interface of my computer and iPhone to Italian. I know what each of the menus and submenus are, so I’d love to see what things are called in Italian. It’s not an irreversible step, and it follows the dictum, “If it’s important to you, use it in your language learning.”

Also, I would like to pick up an Italian tabloid mag from our local news store; could I read even one article? Of course not. But the ads! And would teach me some of the culture (well, about as much as American advertising teaches about our culture…) Still, makes me feel closer to the language. For reading, of course.

I don’t see a downside to this, but I’m not an experienced language learner.

Listening daily on my iPhone. Good stuff.


I upgraded my mac o.s. recently and changed the interface to french. Because I already know more or less where things are it’s easy, like you say. Go on, I definitely recomend it!

Some people have said here before that changing the OS only brings a short-term benefit, as it is a limited vocabulary. But go for whatever tickles your fancy - I buy shedloads of books and magazines wherever I go and am still hoping for osmosis to take place.

I did this once to facilitate my learning of Swedish. Guess what? No go.

Reason #1: Mac OS is very shortcut driven. This is a great advantage it has over other OSes in every aspect, except language learning. I know all my shortcuts. Those that I don’t, are intuitive enough to figure out. So I rarely see the menus.

Reason #2: It’s really frustrating when you need to get something and you cannot figure out an alert message. Granted, this happens very rarely, but when it does, it can drive you nuts.

Reason #3: Shortcuts, again. Some of them don’t work (either because the keyboard layout changes, or because they’re programmed differently). Can also drive you nuts, especially, if it’s basic stuff you use ten million times a day.

Reason #4: Sorting options. You can leave them in English in the Finder, but some apps are affected.

Reason #5: Also pertains to lists. Spotlight is smart enough (usually) to find the correct item, based on it’s English name, but navigating in the Finder is hindered significantly. For example, if I need to look for something in ~/Library/Images, I’d normally hit Command-Shift-H to go home, then “L” to highlight the Library folder, then Command–Option–Down Arrow to open it (and close the parent folder), then “I” to highlight the Images folder, then Command–Option–Down Arrow again to open it. Now, the entire drill usually takes less than two seconds. When I switch the UI language, the names of some system folders also change (also, then names of some apps change). You can imagine what follows . . .

This is not to discourage you from doing it. I just thought you’d want to be aware of those things early on. Maybe knowing them will prepare you, and, learning from my mistakes, you’ll be able to get much, much better result with your “geek immersion method.”

Good luck, man. Seriously.

P.S. Guess what the About This Mac item in the Apple menu changes to in Swedish. Literally, it reads “Of this here computer.” :wink: Cheers.

P.P.S. Some apps are a little quirky when you change the primary UI language to anything other than English. Just so you know. If you experience some problems (like apps not launching, or quitting when they shouldn’t), switch back to English.

I appreciate everyone’s comments so much. Grazie! I’m not trying “immersion,” per se (man, I wish we had italics for our comments…). I just thought it would be nice to get a feel for the language in my field (IT)…but that only works if the translations are good. Astamoore, your comments give me pause. I would rather wait (“Of this here computer?!”–that’s a very very Deep South idiom in US English!) than learn a bad habit I would have to unlearn later (or worse, have no idea I was making).

Perhaps I’ll just get a glossy, colorful magazine and flip through it, perhaps a couple, and check out some Italian tech sites…just to scan the headlines (no way am I far enough along to read the articles). :slight_smile:

Then again, it’s easy to go back if I decide to do it. Oh, another thing I found: on Mac, if you change your language, Google knows this, and starts returns results at the top in your chosen language as well!

Marco :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t do that to my computer. Sometimes I am working on things and errors or messages come up that I need to be able to read in English.

On the other hand, I did change my Xbox360 settings to Spanish. It is nice because sometimes, in some games, they will speak Spanish. I have only a few games where this happens but it is cool when I play those games and all the characters are speaking Spanish. Another thing that I like about it is when I put in a film to watch, the settings of that film will switch to Spanish. No need to go into the language section, which is nice.


Heh, well, the actual Swedish was “Om den här datorn,” but the literal translation would be that of a Deep South character. (That’s just how Swedish works.) I just thought it was amusing and would give you an incentive to look for such memorable “quirks” in the UI.

I guess you can begin by changing the UI language of a few apps first, rather than the entire OS. If you’re on 10.5, you can simply deselect the unnecessary languages in the Get Info window, thus forcing the app to launch in the only UI language enabled. I hear you can’t do this in 10.6 any more, though. (I’m still on a PowerPC machine, so I can’t check.)

P.S. I hear ya on the lack of editing/formatting options in the forum software. A big bummer.
P.P.S. Yes, Mac OS send its locale to Google, so it knows your language (could be just Safari, though). Google and some other web sites checks your IP and sends you “country-related content.” This can be very annoying as well. For instance, I’m in Russia now, and MySpace spews out its pages in Russian. Quite ridiculous, in my book. What if I’m traveling in a country the language of which I don’t speak? Better build web sites that take into account the end user’s system locale, rather than “guess” it, based on his IP address. But I digress.

I have tried this method and while it is very appealing as an immersion technique, i feel it is better suited to when you become very familiar with the target language. For me, i am at beginner level in italian also, so this would help me to gain a few phrases but all in all i think it would confuse me more than teach me. Please tell me if you have any luck in this method its great we are mixing up the way we do things


It wouldn’t mind changing the language settings for Facebook, Youtube, etc. However, I wouldn’t want to mess around with my OS. If something goes around and you can’t figure out what the error message means, you are going to get more than a few anxious moments.