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.
Coincidently, the nature of this site highlights another case of near-identical flags: that of Romania and Chad.
Can you tell which is the Romanian flag and which is the Chadian?
Romania also shares a very similar flag with its neighbour Moldova — the main difference being the presence of the ensign in the centre and different proportions.
Romanian and Moldavian languages are mutually intelligible and extremely similar
But compare Moldova to Andorra’s flag and again they are very similar:
Catalan is the official language of Andorra
There are many more examples of national flags being almost identical or very similar: Indonesia and Monaco; Slovakia and Slovenia. There are some interesting articles on Wikipedia and Wikia that cover the topic in more depth.
The fact that flags can be identical or very similar again shows that relying on flags to represent languages can be very problematic. In fact the same issue also goes for country selection in general. At large sizes these flags can be confusing: but what about at an icon level?
The famfamfam icon set is a free set of flag icons that are very popular around the web. They work especially well at small size. But as the examples below show, many flags look even more similar when reduced in size, increasing the chances of possible confusion. Furthermore, many of these countries share geographic areas:
United Arab Emirates
Adding country name labels is a simple and effective way to prevent confusion with flags — as is organising alphabetically or by geographic region.
But for languages, geographic regions don’t necessarily apply — and nor do flags, as both transcend geographic and national boundaries.