The Slovenia Times

Slovenian language support to be mandatory in digital tech

CultureScience & Technology
An Apple watch. Photo: dpa/STA

Manufacturers selling their electronic consumer devices in Slovenia will have to secure operating systems in the local language under legislative changes adopted by the government on 22 November.

The changes to the law governing the use of Slovenian, which still need to be passed by parliament, come in part in response to US tech giant Apple failing to include Slovenian among the languages it offers on its devices.

However, Culture Minister Asta Vrečko said that in a long overdue step protection of Slovenian was being expanded to include computer operating systems, smartphones and cars, as well as other devices that communicate with users via text and speech interfaces, with the detailed list yet to be published.

The existing law, passed in 2004 and tweaked in 2010, has not made such protection possible, having been adopted when many of these services and devices were not available yet, Vrečko said after the cabinet session.

In absence of a protection mechanism, the decision on whether to provide Slovenian language support depended on companies, which frequently felt disincentivised by the small size of the Slovenian market.

Apple most glaring example

The minister highlighted the example of Apple, contrasting it to Microsoft, whose Windows operating system got its Slovenian version 30 years ago.

Similar discrepancies were noticed with other kinds of technologies and devices, which "now also run operating and information systems that are not only necessary for the operation of these devices, but also allow users to access media, cultural and information society services," the government said.

As provisions only apply to "public use", car and phone makers have been using this as justification for failing to provide Slovenian language support.

Now the wording is being expanded to include "any written, spoken or other visual, auditory or tactile use of Slovenian in any medium, physical or digital, which is not intended exclusively for private use".

The bill also targets Slovenia-based providers of online content, requiring that they provide their services in the Slovenian language. While the Culture Ministry initially proposed exempting providers which generate more than 90% of their revenue outside Slovenia, this exemption has been scrapped.

Netflix not to be affected

Companies based outside of Slovenia, including major streaming content providers like Netflix, will not be affected even though a lot of criticism in the public debate on the draft bill focused on the absence of Slovenian subtitles at some key platforms.

Vrečko reiterated that Slovenia does not have the power to regulate some of the large corporate platforms since they are registered abroad, with Dutch legislation for instance applying to Netflix.

This makes it all the more important that "as a country, we fight at all possible instances within the EU for equal language access and equal treatment for smaller language groups and countries", she said.


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