‘Pokémon Go’ Issues: Hebrew and Arabic backwards text bug still exists a full year after launch

‘Pokémon Go’ Issues: Hebrew and Arabic backwards text bug still exists a full year after launch
‘Pokémon Go’ Cooper Fleishman/Mic
‘Pokémon Go’ Cooper Fleishman/Mic

It seems like Niantic has neglected a major text fix in Pokémon Go while focusing on all the minor ones — Hebrew and Arabic text in the game is written backwards.

How did this happen? And why is it still an issue a full year after Pokémon Go originally launched? The answer isn’t clear, and Niantic doesn’t make it easy to find it.

Patch notes don’t often reveal much about the game’s inner workings so we’re not sure what (if anything) has been done to alleviate the issue. The developer is often so tight-lipped that “minor text fixes” have become something of an in-joke among the community. Although the last two updates have been fairly robust, it usually falls on data miners to suss out what’s to come for Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go issues: Coding difficulties may account for backwards Hebrew and Arabic text

According to a player on Pokémon Go community the Silph Road, Hebrew text for Pokémon caught in Israel has been backwards since the game’s implementation a year ago. At the bottom of the image below, the word “Israel” is spelled backwards.

Hebrew text has apparently been backwards in the game since its release back in 2016.
Hebrew text has apparently been backwards in the game since its release back in 2016. ofrire1/Imgur

Here’s how it should look:

Google Translate
Google Translate Mic/Google Translate

To test this, we asked a friend in Israel to try using the app. After catching a Squirtle, they named it “Pokémon” in Hebrew, but the text appeared backwards once it was entered.

Dan Schwartzman named his Squirtle “Pokémon” in Hebrew. This is how it’s displayed in the ‘Pokémon Go’ app.
Dan Schwartzman named his Squirtle “Pokémon” in Hebrew. This is how it’s displayed in the ‘Pokémon Go’ app. Dan Schwartzman/Mic

When run through Google translate however, the same nickname would (and should) register like this:

When translated into Hebrew, it becomes clear that Squirtle’s nickname in the preceding screenshot is written backwards.
When translated into Hebrew, it becomes clear that Squirtle’s nickname in the preceding screenshot is written backwards. Mic/Google Translate

This isn’t just a problem with Hebrew text either. Mic confirmed that Arabic, which is similarly written from right to left, has a similar formatting problem in Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go issues: What’s causing this bug?

So why the confusion? According to Wikimedia Software Engineer Moriel Schottlender, it’s because meshing left-to-right scripts like English and right-to-left scripts like Hebrew is complicated. For Pokémon Go, the problem appears to be that even the Hebrew text of the game uses some LTR functionality as well, which leads to a lot of confusing issues. Most notable is that without explicit code to note that the text should be RTL, it will in fact default to LTR — which could cause the words to appear backwards.

So what can players do? They can report a ticket to Niantic about the error. However, given that it’s code-based problem, it might take more than a minor text fix in order to remedy the issue.

More Pokémon Go news, updates, tips and tricks

Raids are here! See why they may be the key to legendary Pokémon. Find out how to determine how long it will take you to reach level 40, and see what we think of the Gen 2 Pokémon added to the game. Here are the kinds of Pokémon you get from 10-kilometer eggs, and here’s where you can check out what you missed during the Water Festival and Solstice events. Find out more about the upcoming Chicago event and why you’ll probably be able to catch Unown while you’re there — if you’re not busy searching for rare evolutionary items, that is.