Song title translation on Spotify complicates search for users

Spotify recently addressed user concerns regarding the automatic translation of song names into English, making titles in languages such as Chinese particularly difficult to find on the platform.

The issue appeared relatively recently — a Spotify user took to the company’s user forum in mid-July to make a complaint about Chinese song and album titles being translated from Chinese characters to Pinyin (Latin characters used to write Mandarin Chinese) or English. Several other Chinese-speaking customers concurred that they’d struggled with the same issues, and the company’s representatives noted that the issue would be resolved by July 20.

“This is extremely annoying with many of the song titles in some English or pinyin form. Can’t find songs like this anymore,” one user wrote on the forum.

While it’s still not perfect, the platform does appear to have improved the way it handles non-Latin scripts. The first user to voice their concerns this month also shared a screenshot of a playlist, highlighting the Chinese songs whose names had been transliterated into Pinyin or translated into English. Upon searching for the songs depicted in the playlist, it appears that the error has been corrected, however issues with the way Spotify displays non-Latin text remain.  

Spotify stated that the error was the result of a change in how the platform “uses multilingual data.” The platform has been notably inconsistent in the way it displays text written in non-Latin scripts — for example, early on in Spotify’s history some Russian-speaking users noticed song titles being transcribed from the Cyrillic alphabet into Latin characters. This issue has been mostly resolved, though Russian artist names are still mostly transliterated into Latin characters. 

Other languages like Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic are also inconsistently displayed, indicating that there is still work to be done. The overwhelming majority of songs in Persian and Arabic, for instance, are largely transliterated into Latin script. It is unclear whether or not the changes Spotify recently made will impact languages other than Chinese.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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