Bab.la is an excellent online language resource with online translation as one of its core services — in an impressive 22 languages.
The site makes heavy use of flags as iconography, with some interesting flag choices: Arabic is represented by the Egyptian flag, Swahili by the Kenyan flag and Hindi by the Indian flag.
Arabic is an official language in 24 countries other than Egypt (however, Egypt is by far the largest by population) and Swahili is an official language in four countries. While Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, there are 22 official languages in India.
Furthermore, English is represented by the Union Jack; however it is an official language in over 50 countries. Also, the United States which has many more English-speakers than the United Kingdom. (The same argument can be applied to the use of Spanish and Portuguese flags for those languages in relation to Mexico and Brazil respectively).
Regardless of whether flags are appropriate in this situation, another question can be posed: do the flags actually aid in legibility of the translation menu? Or are they actually distracting?
Consider the Google Translate interface that supports 65 languages:
Arguably the Google Translate is easier to read and far more compact on screen: and it achieves this in part by not using flags to represent languages.
The website Romanians are smart has an interesting and noble objective: change the results associated with “Romanians are…” on Google into something more positive.
If you go to Google and type “Romanians are” in and wait for the autocorrect to kick in and you’ll see for yourself how racist the current results are.
The site encourages users of different languages to click on a link that enters the term “Romanians are smart” into Google (in their language), hopefully moving the more positive search term further up Google’s list of autocorrect options.
On the homepage there are links in English, French and Romanian. These languages are also complimented by flags. Romanian has a Romanian flag and English gets the United States treatment. But as for French, it appears the site has the wrong flag.
Light blue on top, white in the middle and red on the bottom — the flag used for French is far more similar to Luxembourg’s flag than that of France’s.
French is spoken in both France and Luxembourg
However, the flag used could also be seen as the Dutch flag — could this flag choice confuse a Dutch user thinking they were accessing content in Dutch?
The Netherlands and Luxembourg share an almost
identical flag but share no common language
Obviously this is probably just a simple design oversight — the French flag is simply upside down. But it still demonstrates the problem with using flags to represent languages.
Continue reading "Romanians are smart" campaign and the problem of similar flags