Miscellaneous Ramblings

Resetting the iPod's Display Language When You Don't Know the Language It's Using

Charles Moore - 2008.08.18 - Tip Jar

Did this ever happen to you? While setting up an iPod nano I bought for my wife, I unintentionally switched the iPod's display language setting to a language I couldn't read and whose characters I couldn't even recognize. I'm guessing it might have been Korean.

Being used to the generously-sized clickwheel and real mechanical control buttons of my ancient original 5 GB iPod, now unfortunately out of commission due to a hard drive failure, I hadn't quite adapted to the nano's tiny capacitance actuated controls, I guess I was a bit ham-fisted, but the mistake seemed to happen quite easily and effortlessly.

Anyway, after spending a half-hour or so blundering through the machine's assorted and now inscrutable menus, completely clueless to what the labels signified, I consulted J.D. Biersdorfer's iPod: The Missing Manual in hopes it would provide a solution to my dilemma. It did tell me how to reset the iPod's settings to defaults, but that didn't switch it out of the unfamiliar language mode. I found that the iPod Help resource in iTunes was no help with this problem either.

Increasingly frustrated and burning time I didn't have to spare on a tightly scheduled day, I decided that this issue must be not that unusual, although I had never experienced it with my old iPod. I dialed up the Internet and typed "resetting language in iPod when you can't read the language" into Google's search field.

Google, as usual, came through. The first hit was an excellent iPod How-To resource by DigitalMania, which consists of an index of Apple Knowledge Base iPod support articles. Bingo! The seventh title down the list read:

"How to Change the iPod Display Language - Your iPod is multilingual and can be set to display one of many languages. If you've accidentally chosen the wrong language for your iPod, follow the steps on this page to change the language display."

The Apple Knowledge Base article, "iPod: Changing the display language", was just what I was looking for, and it's jolly that I found it, because the language reset procedure, while not technically complicated, involves enough to-ing and fro-ing that I doubt that I would ever have hit the combination by trial and error.

The article contains step-by-step instructions for resetting the display language in three classes of iPod: iPod nano or Fifth Generation iPod (iPod with video); older iPods with color displays (including iPod photo), and really old iPods (like mine) with monochrome displays.

Long story short, the instructions walked me through the steps necessary to restore English as the display language, and the nano was soon intelligible again.

If you're an iPod user, I suggest bookmarking or otherwise recording that URL for future reference.

Humble suggestion: It might be a good idea for Apple to include a means of locking the display language once it's been set so it would take at least two steps of deliberate user action to reset it. A warning dialog would be nice as well.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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