Researching the issues of flags as language in Belgium, designer and researcher Tine Lavrysen sent me through to a brilliant site entitled ‘Front tegen taalkeuzevlaggetjes‘ — or ‘Front against language flags’.
It prompts the user to select their language by using flags: Dutch, French or English. However the flags chosen are from small countries where the languages are still official — Suriname, Monaco and Ghana respectively. A very clever take on the issue of flags as language.
Social activism site avaaz.org is beautifully designed: both visually and experience-wise.
The site is available in 14 languages: each easily accessible from the top banner and presented in their local formats. Furthermore, the site autodetects the users language and redirects them to a localised version (if one is available).
A simple yet very effective way of presenting multilingual content.
While visiting Salzburg, Austria in May 2011, I saw this sign in a shop window:
Do you speak American?
While I live in the United Kingdom, I’m originally from Australia. And one thing many Australians share with the British (along with many of our other Commonwealth compatriots) is a feeling of nausea whenever we see the United States flag being used as an icon for the English language.
Being a user experience designer, I’ve long been aware of the perils of using flags to represent languages on websites. However it seems the more I travel and the more I browse the internet, this flag-as-language convention seems as prevalent as ever.
This blog has two general aims: to show the fundamental flaws in using flags to represent languages and how to create good experiences when dealing with multilingual and multiregional content.
While the tone of the blog is aimed mainly at those working online and in software, I hope the lessons can extend through to the other industries such as travel and hospitality — who are probably the also as guilty of flag misappropriation as anyone.