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I am looking for a little advice more than anything, my company develops software ( a java image viewer to be precise), and to this end we are in the process of translating this into a number of different languages. Our problem stems from the fact we use flags on our home page to denote existing product translation ( Tricolor for french, half Union Jack, half Stars and Stripes for English etc etc )
However we have recently translated into Arabic, and are at a loss as to what flag to use, has anyone encountered this problem before? In addition, what are your thoughts on the Half Union Jack, half Stars and Stripes issue? I personally think it looks a little naff.
What flag denots arabic, what a question, obviously the flag of islam would illustrate arabic, but its not political, and i think it would have an extremely detrimental effect to business.
Their is possibly the opec nations flag, though that does denote more than just arabic. I think their is a political flag representing arabic nations but for the life of me i can't remember what it is, give me a mo, i'll see if i can find out.
Hence, i suggest that you choose a flag that is of an arabic nation, but as a nation well outside of the current and potential war footing of the west and the allicane co-allition.
Possibly UAE, united arab emirates flag, or poss Suadi Arabia - as these flags denote language when listed with other language orientated flags, plus you would have text/alt text links, in case pics are switched off, due to download times of web pages in some countries.
I agree with heini though that it's best to avoid flags, unless you're specifically targetting one country. How about using images with text in each language ('Site in English', 'site en francais', 'seite in deutsch' etc)?
Imagine someone in the middle east, unfamiliar with the internet... they come across a site with flags listed, and maybe think they're links to national offices... Could they mistakenly think the company *doesn't* have an office in their country, because they see a Saudi flag?
If they see a link that says "Site in Arabic" (written in Arabic, of course ;) ), there's no mistaking the meaning.
what do you use for English, is it actually appropriate?...how about German? Hindi?...then try Chinese?...can you choose a flag for Chinese that won't offend some of your potential visitors?...and as you have spotted, Arabic, where a flag is simply not an option
however, text links also create a problem to...they have to be in the relevant language and that becomes a problem when you start getting into non-western languages...if the language navigation is on a single page the simple solution is to use unicode...if the language navigation is to appear on every page then if anyone has a simple solution I'd love to know it
at present we have text links in English to 15 languages...I'm hoping to change that soon to a single animated gif link to a unicode languages menu...it adds an extra page to navigate through but means that everyone will get to the language they want
I've avoided language detection since a number of people will be using computers that may not be set up in the language they wish to view the page in
the primary line of attack as far as I am concerned is making sure that all sites, SEs and directories direct people to the language they are looking for...but that will never be 100%
With that many languages, a single language menu is a great idea...
On the other hand, you could do a text graphic in an appropriate font. I'm pretty sure that's what was suggested above... That way, the browser renders a graphic instead of worrying about fonts.