Re: Flags and Language icons (was: Re: Official ISO 3166

From: A. Vine (
Date: Wed Dec 01 1999 - 17:31:22 EST

Alain LaBonté wrote:
> À 13:10 99-12-01 -0800, John Hudson a écrit :
> >I quite like the 'little portraits of famous poets' idea, but who is the
> >most renowned Esperanto poet? And would you recognise his picture?
> I had forgotten to say that I also liked the idea, the problem being to
> recognize 6000 individuals, and some languages not having a highly
> recognized icon (what about Wendat [Huron] or Innu [Montagnais]?). For a
> limited area though, and for widely known poets or writers, I guess that
> the idea is quite sympathetic indeed, and very human. Marco had a good
> idea, excellent indeed in certain contexts.
> But who said anyway that an appealing icon, which is in the artistic
> domain, needs to be standardized? The language code is a good idea for
> cataloguing purposes, and the name of a language in that language in
> universal characters, is probably the best of ideas for use in a user
> interface. Icons can be used as long as they are understood by the speakers
> involved.

I concur. For example, if a Web site has locale-specific info to impart, such
as prices, telephone numbers, store locations, geographic data, etc., flags are
excellent icons. For language only selection, however, I prefer the
language-name in the language, e.g. English, Deutsch, Français, Italiano, etc.
Obviously, until Unicode rendering is prevalent in browsers around the world,
the language names would have to be GIFs if they expand beyond the capabilities
of the Web page charset. Of course ALT text should be provided; that text would
be limited, so transliteration or a translation of the language-name would be

However, I readily recognize the British flag as a symbol of English. In fact,
based on the spellings and expressions used in some text, the English is often
truly British.

Andrea Vine

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