Using Flags to represent Languages considered problematic
I do think this is a legitimate issue for certain languages.
The Indian flag representing Gujarati is the most obvious problem, since that is not the language most immediately associated with the whole of India (that would most likely be Hindi). There is likely to be confusion should languages such as Hindi or Tamil be added in the future.
This issue is sometimes resolved by blending the different flags, often diagonally separated, such as UK/US, or Portugal/Brazil (LingQ does it, in this case!). Of course, that doesn't account for languages spoken in many countries, perhaps most obviously Spanish. Blending e.g. Spain and Mexico would only highlight the exclusion of other countries even more.
One observation I would make is that LingQ already does make somewhat political choices in their flags: e.g. Belarusian is represented by a flag associated with the opposition, rather than the arguably illegitimate Lukashenko regime. Persian is represented by an Iranian flag (note that Persian is also spoken in Afghanistan and other places), featuring the tulip-shaped "Allah" emblem, but not the religious writing in the seams. Latin is represented by an anachronistic SPQR flag, rather than e.g. the Vatican (where it is still an official language).
I think the flag icon is preferable even for countries like India where there are several major languages. In those cases, the Indian flag (for example) would just be on the list a couple of times instead of just once.
The best viable alternative would be to get rid of any icon whatsoever and just have the list of languages, but that seems comparatively boring and unnecessary IMO.
Can you just leave politics out of it?
I strongly prefer the flags. It's not perfect, but it is both fairly accurate and educational.
In the case of India or a similar country, if Hindi or another language located within an already-represented country (Scots Gaelic in the UK, for example) gets added later, it should also have the national flag. Users are pretty smart and will quickly figure it out.
Maybe for some or even all languages, there could be a combination of a flag and initials. It could solve some matters of confusion. You could have the Indian flag with the letters "HI" inside it for Hindi and the Indian flag with "GU" inside it for Gujarati etc. This could be done for all languages, or only for the ones needed, or perhaps only the smaller languages associated with each flag could have them. I am sure LingQ has more pressing things to be fixed at the moment though, just interesting to wonder what might be the best solution.
Initially, the title sounded a bit pedantic, but after reading your post I actually agree with you. But what better iconography could LingQ use? I can't think of any other imagery that wouldn't also have the same issues.
This is really a non-issue for me. Having a Spanish flag to represent the Spanish language makes sense because Spanish is from Spain. It's the same reason I speak "English" and not "American" or "Freedom". Plus, it is a visual that many will recognize. It might not work for every language, but that does not mean we have to always use a flat.
I think you are right about everything, but at the end of the day, with all it's problems, having the flags is probably still the best way to present languages or the least bad way, if you may.
Representing the languages with letters/initials like EN, ES, IT, FR, NL, DE might not be too bad but I don't think all people will get that either. The German language is called german, deutch, duits, alleman, alemana, tedesca, tyska, þýska just as far as I know, for example. Anglophones, Italians and Spanish speakers might not always know that DE is for German/Germany. Do people who are used to hearing "Dutch" or "holanés" always know that it will be presented by "NL"? You also understand pictures faster than letters/initials etc.
With languages like German, it shouldn't be such a problem that it is also spoken in Austria and Switzerland or that Spanish is widely spoken in most Latin-American countries. People know where these languages came from. I think there is a bigger problem when a country has several languages, like in India. You might use the Indian flag for the most widespread language (Hindu?) and other regional flags for the less spoken ones, but I am not sure if that would even be accurate enough for India. Then you can have the problem where a language doesn't necessarily so much have a country and/or region it is considered the most associated with. What would Jiddish have for a flag for example? We don't have a lot of African languages or Native American languages here on LingQ but they could pose some huge problems, because of how many of them exist within the same country and how much they cross borders.
To the people who want to talk about the OP being "woke" and throwing insults, you need to clam down. The problems listed are not just about someone possibly being offended, but also just about confusion and practicality. We should be able to talk about matters like this without having people being called "insane" or worse. We should be better than that and be able to talk about pros and cons of these approaches without losing it.
It is also impossible to completely separate politics and distinctions of languages, although you can do it to a greater or smaller extent. Politics already determine quite a lot about how you decide what is a dialect and what is a separate language and often it has to do with borders of countries. The Norse Scandinavian languages (DK, SE, NO) are similar enough that they might be considered dialects if they were all within the same country. The written vocabulary of the Bokmål version of Norwegian is nearly identical to Danish, but the Nynorsk version starts to be a bit more like Swedish, for example. Since we have 3 separate nations, it is more practical to identify one language per country though. The different dialects of Arabic are quite different but are all considered the same language. Swiss German is normally not talked about as a separate language, but children in Swiss schools often learn standard German as a separate language because it is practical for them.
I think you're right in every point you listed, but on the other hand Lingq has so many UX problems that this feels really not top of the list for me personally...
A small fun fact regarding the example of not showing the Austrian flag for German: When I was studying in Sweden many people asked me what my native language is or straight up assumed we Austrians have our own language.
I wasn't expecting stuff like this from fellow europeans though :)
But how do they say? "What separates the Germans and the Austrians is their common language." ;)
Coming late to the party...
Sorry, that you had to be confronted with some very rude comments in this thread from certain people. It is the distance and anonymity of the internet or maybe their lack of manners in the first place...
I think this is an interested debate. I can see the appeal of visual icons (flags) compared to text to symbolise languages and make the interface more appealing. Since there are no symbols for languages that I know of, flags might be the best approximation. Therefore, personally, I would be inclined to overlook/forgive the political incorrectness of it for the sake of convenience. Having said this, my flag identification skills are not as good as in 4th grade anymore and I do come across flags on Lingq that I cannot identify...
bit woke, does it really matter?
Hello, I only have a passing familiarity with the term 'woke' but I don't see how it applies here. This is a rather technical issue and the idea behind not using flags is expressly to keep politics out of the realm of language learning.
My opening post seems to have elicited some strong negative reactions, I had not anticipated this. My best guess is that the phrasing must have been off, so let me try again and give a more parsimonious statement of my original point:
Do flags do a good enough job at representing languages?
Or more fundamentally:
Why should the flag of a country be used to represent a language?
The original issue that prompted this topic was, by the way, the potential addition of more languages to LingQ, namely Hindi and Tigrinya. Currently Gujarati is represented by the Indian flag. So, use the same flag for both, Hindi and Gujarati? But by that logic one could just use the EU flag for most European languages? As for Tigrina, should it be Eritrea or Ethiopia, or one of of the diaspora countries?
I normally treat the forum as a way to practice writing in English and I do enjoy the occasional intellectual exchange, but judging from some reactions here it seems I have overstayed my welcome and probably shouldn't respond anymore. Therefore, I wish everyone a good day.
Judging by some of the repies in the thread, I'd say it's some of CS:GO discord servers has been down for a while, so the kids needed to take it out somewhere.
While spring is ongoing, we should expect things... Today my neighbour runs into me and asks me if I can help him (as a computer guy) to stalk out his ex, because she's hacked his phone, TV and kettle and is spying on him :D
I do think this is a "real" discussion, whatever that means, and one I do not immediately have a good solution for. There is a "joke" that the difference between a dialect and a language is a flag and an army/navy. In that respect listing a language as a language is inherently political, which is something one should be sensitive about.
The issue comes in however, is people like categorize things and like simple, easy-to-digest logos for those things. I think this is easier to solve if LingQ was prescriptive in its approach. Other tools tell you what you are learning when you use the tool. You are learning Standard German as it is in Germany. In that context, a flag makes perfect sense.
What should a user of LingQ expect to find when they look at a language supported within the tool, and how can you clearly communicate that to the user most effectively, without communicating something unintended or excluding something?
What if LingQ supports several varieties equally well within the same slot? How do you communicate that? What if it doesn't? What do you do if the written language has different official standards and LingQ only supports some of them?
I like what Glossika does, to typically just give a description of what variety you will be learning, and an image, but it is not as immediately clear from the image. I like what Readlang does, where they have the name of the language in its language, and then a translation into the UI language, but on their website they also have flags.
I think giving users the ability to add a bit of their own customization could help. Pick from a set a flags or images, have them specify exactly what variety they are learning, using ISO language codes could help. Even being able to do this when uploading or sharing content could be helpful, beyond the tagging system we have today.
As I think about it, I would almost take the language concept out entirely. That is, what if I want to use my Spanish LingQs to review Portuguese content? I certainly can do that by importing content to my library, but what if I could just see library content agnostic of the language slot or profile I am using and search for content tagged how I would like. In that case, my selection of a "Language" just pre-enabled a set of features that I could customize.
I definitely got off topic here, but my point is that this an interesting and difficult question.
"Maybe this isn't such a big deal and I making a mountain out of a molehill?"
Yeah I think you are making an Elephant out of a Mosquito like we say in Germany. I think it might be beneficial if we not start a political discussion about things that are not indented to be political statements.
Flags have the advantage that they are more ergonomic in terms of UI design. It's easier to navigate a dropdown with 50 icons vs navigating a dropdown with 50 texts.
So I vote pro keeping the flags. As a compromise we could of course change the flag for German to the Austria flag, or flag for russian to the Belarussian flag or the flag for Spanish to the Mexico flag.
I love the flags.
We should have more flags.
Also please make sure this site never uses the american flag for english.
God save the King!
"Using flags to represent languages can be inaccurate. For example, using the flag of Germany to represent the German language may not accurately represent German spoken by Austrians and Swiss"
That's more of a point for the countries flags... When you click on the french flag you know that you will learn french from France, and not from Sénégal or Québec.
As I wrote in my opening post I wanted to start a discussion and I think I succeeded in that. It's always great to have an open exchange and I appreciate everybody's honesty. Rest assured, I am just a simple user and don't make any decisions at LingQ, I'm sure the flags won't go anywhere. It's a curious fact that the paragraph that most likely kindled the controversy was actually written by ChatGPT, I do apologize for this lack of originality.
By the way, I tried to find examples of how other companies implement a language selector, I looked at a number of operating systems, Microsoft Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS interestingly none of them show flags to represent languages, they only show flags to represent countries.
Using Flags to represent Languages considered great
In the context of languages flags are commonly used as symbols. They are visual, quite easy to recognise (instanty) and don't need much space. Furthermore, flags tend to be colourful and stand out much more than plain text.
Many people tend to associate languages with regions or countries where those are commonly spoken. Sometimes the name is similar (e.g. Spanish Language and Spain / Spanish Country) - that makes the association even easier. However, these are useful associations and not political statements. There is no unnecessary exclusion of dialects, people or countries and colonialism is not supported - not by a flag as symbol for a language.
bamboozled did not get 1.4K likes on her/his comments by being batshit insane. s/he? has been a pleasure to work with as a librarian and is an extremely helpful member of the forums. No need to be an ass while disagreeing with her/him.
I think you're just mentally ill, and trying to look for ghosts where they don't exist like a schizo. Everything you've written is batshit insane and falls apart with 10 seconds of thought.
It is not exclusionary to represent the language by using the flag of the country from where it originates. In fact, it's the most accurate and most well understood way to represent a language. Just because some Austrians speak German does not change the fact that German is from Germany. Just because some Ukrainians speak Russian does not change the fact Russian is from Russia. These are not political statements or controversial, the flag merely represents the geographic area where the language is from. This has nothing to do with identity or some batshit theory of colonialism. You have created a problem out of thin air, out of something literally almost nobody even notices or cares about.
you are unnecessarily rude here, even if you disagree... also: languages came first, countries later, so your point is kinda wrong too, but OK
If the questions is whether anyone could potentially be offended or consider something to be problematic, then nothing (meaningful) could ever be expressed, written or said.
What a world.
I'm convinced that national flags are better be replaced by abbreviations (or full names). EN - for English, DE - for Deutsch and so on. In fact, that's exactly how it's been done for quite a while.
Unlike languages, countries are temporary entities, not to mention flags - for example, Germany has gone through at least seven flags, and Afghanistan has changed its flag 30 times in 100 years! No one can keep track of all these changes.
I do agree with you that the national flag is not a correct representation of the language.
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