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Since the user's language preference can be retrieved from navigator.language or the Accept-Language header, is it necessary to provide a language switcher on the page itself?

Some reasons given to do so are:

  • If my language is not well-supported and the localization of my browser in my language is poor or nonexistent
  • I'm using a shared browser

I don't know of any currently spoken languages that are not available in the browser's preference.

Using a shared browser seems like a red-haring to me. If you are using a shared browser in a country that doesn't speak your language, then the whole interface isn't going to be in your language anyways. Also, if it's a country with more than one language spoken, that should be accommodated.

The compromise is to provide a language switcher, but set the initial language based on what the browser provides. This is how it should be done with a language switcher, but is the switcher necessary at all? If so, why?

  • I am a Korean living in English speaking country. My clients and my colleagues use English so my machine's default language is set to English. BUT I feel much more comfortable with my native language, which is Korean so I often set website language settings to Korean (e.g. Expedia, Agoda). – ehoon Apr 27 '18 at 10:29
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I can provide an example. My browser settings are in english. Thats because at my working place a lot of the communication is in english. But I have a different nativ language. If the content of a site is available in my nativ language i prefer to consume it in my nativ language. That's why i would appreciate a language selector.

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Bruno's answer gives one very good reason. Along the same lines, if an English speaker in a multi-national company were to visit their French offices and used a "spare PC", the locals probably wouldn't appreciate if all the browser settings were changed to English.

Another advantage of having a language-selector "in app" (in cases where you log-in to the app) is that you can make it an account-preference. When the above English speaker logged-in on a French PC, the app would see that their preferred language was English and automatically switch without them needing to do it manually.

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