While browsing the internet, you may have come across a number of translated websites where different languages are marked with flag icons. Many WordPress translation plugins also allow selecting a flag icon as the language symbol. This may be visually appealing, but is not the best choice when translating your website.
Why are flag icons not a very good idea when translating your website?
Russian is much the same. It is the official language in five countries. Russians are the largest ethnic minority in Estonia, and, according to the 2011 census, there are more than 300,000 Russians living in Estonia. Many Estonian Russians were born here and many have Estonian citizenship. Many people living in Estonia who speak Russian as their mother tongue consider themselves Estonians and do not automatically associate themselves with the Russian flag.
The WPML translation plugin also offers this option when choosing the language. If there is no space for displaying full language names on your webpage, you can also use international abbreviations (RU, FI, FR, EN). It may not be as self-evident to everyone, but is still more intuitive.
Flag is not a language
Flags are attributable to countries, but not people. For example, Spanish is spoken in Spain, Colombia, Peru and many other countries. Russian is the official language in five countries. Russians are the largest ethnic minority in Estonia, and, according to the 2011 census, there are more than 300,000 Russians living in Estonia. Many Estonian Russians were born here and many have Estonian citizenship.
Some countries have several official languages. For example, the official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansh. The official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. The official languages of India are Hindi and English. Zimbabwe has the the largest number of official languages – a total of 16.
Use the translated name of the respective language or international abbreviations
Instead of the flag icon, it is much better to use the translated name of the respective language, e.g. English, français, русский, Deutsch, eesti. It is more accurate, clearer and easier to understand. The WPML translation plugin also offers this option when choosing the language. If there is no space for displaying full language names on your webpage, you can also use international abbreviations (RU, FI, FR, EN). It may not be as self-evident to everyone, but is still more intuitive.
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