On using flags to represent languages

Recently, i came across this new website of RockyLinux which is a successor of CentOS as CentOS was killed by RedHat and people wanted a similar operating system that they could rely on.

One of the former founders of CentOS took on the task of creating the variant of CentOS that people would make together and want.

They also setup a site rockylinux.org to communicate the projects vision and clarity. Being a global community project, it was obvious to have make the website multilingual. A contributor in the Github repo made a contribution to show the multiple languages by referring to the flags.

While all this sounds great, another contributor pointed out that using flags for represent languages is not good and in can be offensive as well. He also posted a link to http://www.flagsarenotlanguages.com/blog/why-flags-do-not-represent-language/.

Flags are not languages is a website by James Offer a UX Designer who has worked extensively on multilingual software. That’s where he shares the learning’s about designing multi-lingual experiences.

Throughout my design career i never had this consideration that representing languages by flags is not just incorrect but also could be offensive.

Some of the important reasons are that nations do not equal to languages.

  1. People residing in another country could know other languages that they prefer over other language.
  2. A country may have more than one language that a flag can represent. E.g. India where more than 25 recognized languages are there.
  3. you can read up more in the link that i have posted above.

As a learning, it is good to use explicit languages instead of country flags. Some other alternatives are also suggested

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