Use of Flags as Language Identifier on the Web (was: About cultural/languages communities flags)

Shervin Afshar shervinafshar at
Fri Feb 13 11:41:15 CST 2015

I'm neither proposing nor implying what should or should not be done or
whether Unicode can or can not interfere with anything anywhere. I'm just
curious about use of flags in language selectors or as visual language
identifier on websites which you wrote about.

I know of some organizations that strictly avoid using flags altogether to
represent languages. Did you encounter that during your research?

Also, do you have your research on this matter documented somewhere else so
I can refer my colleagues in i18n to it?

↪ Shervin

On Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 9:13 AM, Philippe Verdy <verdy_p at> wrote:

> This is just experience of visiting sites commonly using these flags to
> represent (inappropriately) languages *visually*. And even if it is not the
> best way to represent languages, this is what happens (Unicode cannot
> interfer with the freedom of speech and the choice of authors if they
> prefer visual icons to plain words).
> 2015-02-13 16:37 GMT+01:00 Shervin Afshar <shervinafshar at>:
>> On Feb 13, 2015 3:12 AM, "Philippe Verdy" <verdy_p at> wrote:
>> > This is completely a non-issue with the Unicode standard itself.
>> There's an ample enough space to use various designs that match character
>> properties as well as user expectations *without* breaking the character
>> identity itself. So even if the US flag is often used for English, in
>> Britanic sites they will use the British flag. In the Republic of Ireland
>> they'll won't use the Irish flag for the English language (prefered for the
>> Irish language itself) and will unlikely use the British flag. In South
>> Africa or India to, they won't use their national flag for English
>> (multiple official languages there, and English is not even the preferred
>> language).
>> Are these statements about use of flags for language selectors on
>> websites, based on some UX study, survey, or commonly accepted guideline,
>> or are they just speculations?
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