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Re: Howto provide and link to foreign language translations?

From: Jesper Tverskov <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 21:52:42 +0200
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <PMEDKJMNFKKCPMNLCCFIKEJNCHAA.jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>

Using flags to indicate language or not is no big deal. It is a problematic but common practice on the web and in printed material, tourist guides being the most obvious example. 

Yucca has a more or less convincing list of arguments. Let me add a twist to some of them:

1. Even with just one flag for another language on a web page, this flag is very likely to attract too much attention. This is probably not what we want. If we use two or more flags, they are almost bound to draw all attention of the user arriving at the web site. This is not what we want.

2. Even if we use flags there should also be text links for easy navigation with the keyboard and to make the symbols easier to understand for many users. A couple of flags can soon turn a simple task into big business on a web site.
3. In diplomacy and foreign affairs flags for language are bound to be problematic and to stir up controversy again and again. I find it very silly to spot Union Jack on a web site of a Danish or Italian embassy or consulate, etc.

4. What flag should represent Arabic, and should we use the North or South Korean flag for Korean. What flag should we use for Latin and Esperanto? What about Hebrew and Greek talking about the Bible?

5. No business should use Union Jack to indicate English language in many parts of the world. It could stir up hostile feelings. Sorry, that is a fact.

The above, and the arguments in Yucca's article, don't mean that flags should never be used to indicate language. It is a common practice most people find natural in many situations. I see no reason why flags should not be used, if the web designer feels it is the right choice in a given situation.

But any web designer should know that flags to indicate language cause problems for usability and accessibility in many situations. Flags are very often not the right choice and even a very bad choice.

Best regards,
Jesper Tverskov

Received on Monday, 22 September 2003 15:45:35 UTC

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