My language has disappeared from my phone! How do I get it back?

A problem frequently seen on the Nokia Support Discussion forums relates to people who have just had to reset their phones or who have just updated their firmware. Upon restarting the phone, they are faced with a problem in that their language has disappeared! Actually, the problem goes much deeper than that. The language disappearing is merely the visible part of willful deceit on the part of some rogue retailers.

Nokia phones are sold all over the world. It is unreasonable to expect them all to "speak" all the languages of the world, so, depending on which part of the world each individual batch of phones is intended for, it will have a particular set of languages installed. For example, phones sold in Western Europe have English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and sometimes Dutch languages installed. Those sold in Nokia's home country, Finland, have English, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

I'm going to use the examples of Malaysia and Arabic language below purely in order to make writing this article easier. If you lost your Russian, Chinese, Greek, Turkish or whatever language support when you reset your phone or upgraded the firmware then substitute for Arabic where necessary. By no means am I implying that cheap phones only come from Malaysia or that only retailers in Arabic-speaking countries are deceitful.

In order to remain competitive in local markets, phones are sold at different prices in different countries. It is not uncommon, for example, for phones to be sold cheaper in Eastern Europe or in parts of the Far East. Some retailers, particularly in the Middle-East, are aware of this, so instead of ordering their stock from their local representative, they order them in bulk from, for example, Malaysia.

This presents another problem. Neither Arabic nor Farsi are official languages in Malaysia, so the phones intended for that market come only with English, Chinese and Malay (and possibly an Indonesian language or two). In that state they are not fit for sale in the country where the retailer who ordered them from Malaysia is located.

There are two potential solutions to this problem. The first is to install an Arabic language pack. This language pack is composed of fonts supporting Arabic script and right-to-left text, menu labels and other files for the localization of software.

The second solution is to reflash the phone with the firmware of a version of the same phone intended for sale locally and therefore containing that language pack as part of the firmware itself.

In both cases, the phone will have support for Arabic language after the operation and will be "fit" for sale.

I put "fit" in quotes because it's not entirely true.

There may come a time when you need to reset your phone because some software you installed just isn't playing ball and you need to get rid of it and wipe the phone clean. If the retailer from whom you bought the phone opted for the first, "language pack", solution then you're in for a nasty surprise because this operation will ERASE the language pack that was installed.

You'll still be okay, though, if your phone was reflashed with local firmware.

Let's fast-forward in time now to the day you find out that there's a firmware update. Quite sensibly, you decide to update your phone in order to benefit from the latest versions of the various applications built into it and from improvements in stability and speed, and in memory and power management.

Once again, you're in for a nasty surprise. Just like a reset, a software update will wipe out any extra language packs installed independently of the firmware. If, however, the retailer opted for the second solution and installed a local firmware variant into the phone, you'll still lose your Arabic support if you update the firmware. Why? Because the software updater will look at the phone model and pull down the original firmware variant for the phone rather than the updated version of the variant for your country. Instead of the language set you were used to, the phone will revert to its original language set (English, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian).

It's unfortunate for you but this is not a fault in your phone. It was simply not intended for sale in your country.

If anyone should take responsibility for this it's the retailer who sold you the phone. They should have told you that the phone was bought from another part of the world and modified to support your language, and warned you that a reset or a firmware update would remove your language from the phone.

The thing is, you have no warranty on your phone because of the retailer's actions. The warranty on a phone intended for sale in Malaysia is not valid in the Middle-East. Not only that, but in tampering with the phone by installing a language pack or by flashing a local firmware variant, both of which can only be done with software that is only available officially to Nokia Care Points and not to retailers or the general public, the retailer has voided any warranty that there may have been on the phone anyway. Given this, Nokia are within their rights to refuse to support the phone at all regardless of any warranty issues. They may, however, be willing to help you. It's a bit of a lottery, but some Care Points will be willing to install the missing language pack for a nominal fee. They are within their rights to charge for the service because the language missing from the phone is not a fault in the phone and is therefore not covered by the warranty, which is void anyway.

On the other hand, if ever the phone needs service of any kind, you can forget Nokia Care. Your only options are independent repairs shops, do it yourself, or bin the phone. Whichever option you choose, you're going to be out of pocket and the retailer will undoubtedly refuse to pay a penny.

While the phone may have been cheaper than if you had bought it directly from Nokia in your country or from a reputable dealer, it does come with a risk and, above all, without a warranty. It's always best to buy from Nokia directly or from a reputable dealer.

Caveat emptor!


Unknown said…
I do expect my Nokia to "speak" all the languages of the world if Microsoft Windows can.
G. Stewart said…
Microsoft Windows is installed on machines that put gigabytes of memory at its disposal. There's plenty of room to store the localization files for loads of languages. This is not the case of a mobile phone, which has far less space available in its ROM. There just isn't room for many languages.

I do, however, strongly agree that Nokia should make it possible for users to install and use whatever language they want. In this day and age of globalization it seems rather pathetic that you have to go to a Care Point and pay for this, and that it isn't always even possible with some language combinations.
Sazji said…
I think Nokia's approach to language packs has overall been dismal. This rigid language pack approach leaves many users in the cold. I live in Turkey and use Turkish on my Nokia. I also speak and use Greek a lot. But even though Turkish is a major minority language in Greece and the Balkans, it is not included on the Balkan pack, and there has been no way to have both languages on a single phone. It seems that there should be some solution - perhaps a "language pack + wild card" language would make the phones more attractive to a wider public.

If I understand right, on the 5800 and other smart phones I can install more than one pack? If paying for it at a care point were the only option I'd still do it.

I've tried to find some address to write to at Nokia to talk about this but I just get referred to the Turkish Nokia office, which simply says "no it's not possible."

Any suggestions?
G. Stewart said…
I do agree that Nokia's "management" of i18n is not far short of shameful.

Nokia tends to equate "country" to "language". Because of local legislation and things that must be put in place for various countries (eg. the camera shutter rlease sound is mandatory in some), you are not allowed to change the "country" of your phone and therefore cannot change the language since both are permanently tied together.

It really is antiquated and in dire need of reorganisation. My native language is English, but I also use French, German, Dutch and Italian. Can I find a phone that supports all of these languages? No!

The combination of Turkish and Greek got me thinking. There has to be a language pack that contains both of these languages. If not, how do they manage in Cyprus, where both are official languages? Do they have a Turkish version and a Greek version for sale in Cyprus?

Maybe you'd have better luck asking a Nokia Care Point there or in Greece? Wherever you go, it's going to be an operation that has to be carried out by a Care Point, and it isn't covered by the warranty so you'll have to pay anyway.

Only Care Points have access to the files that need to be flashed into your phone and the software needed to do that. At least officially, anyway. I can't describe how to bypass these restrictions here since these pages are linked to from Nokia's official support forums.
Sazji said…
Nope, there's no such packet. Cyprus is officially divided into two countries (even if N. Cyprus is not widely recognized as a country). The Greeks are to the south, the Turks to the north.

The care points in Greece and Turkey are little more than mouthpieces for the Nokia status quo. You can ask, you can suggest, but the only answer you will get from them is "it can't be done." I have my main phone I use in Turkey, and another cheaper one I use in Greece. I also use it for another carrier in Turkey, where rates between carriers are outrageous.

Increasingly I'm moving toward being through with Nokia; there are so many requests for help on this issue that either the developers are living in some isolated Never-Never Land, or they simply don't give a crap.
Y said…
yea.. I hope i can get back my Chinese.. because without Chinese.. it really make me full of trouble..
so last but not least, i hope Nokia service department will do their job for this problem.. thank u.. =)
Al Wang said…
I do expect my Nokia to "speak" all the languages of the world if Microsoft iphone/android can.
Unknown said…
I have got Nokia N97 purchased from Nokia direct selling point and its built in keyboard has additional Arabic language keys as well. I when i bought it was with English and Arabic after i updated the software I am unable use arabic at all. How come a phone with arabic language keypad and puchased from Nokia has such problem.
morton said…
"It is unreasonable to expect them all to "speak" all the languages of the world"

This attitude is why Nokia is failing. People travel. People move to other countries - I moved from the to China to take a job quite suddenly, and if I had a Nokia then then I would officially have no option to use it. Here, because the Chinese government did not allow WiFi on phones to promote some home-grown technical standard, I knowingly bought an phone from overseas. It turns out, from the Philippines, which I now know supports only English and Philipino. Do you know many millions of Philipinos travel abroad to work? How big the Chinese community in the Philippines is?

Its quite irrelevant. My 5800, which I bought with high hopes, is just a plaything now I'm curious if I can get it working as a backup phone. I've since bought an iPhone4, which comes out-of-the-box ready to go with 33 languages. That is the expectation people have, it is possible, and companies that don't meet it will fail, no matter how effective their distribution.
Sazji said…
Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm not quite in the financial place to go with an iPhone (living in Turkey where they cost about double what they do in the US) so I've gone to Samsung android and am very happy with it.

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