One of the things that irk me about Origin, Uplay and a couple of other digital distribution platforms for games is that, because I live in Belgium, I cannot choose to browse their store in English. I am forced to use Dutch or French. I'm Flemish, so I'll always go Dutch in this case, but I'd much rather prefer to go English, because more often than not, the Dutch translation is inadequate to provide understandable information.

I honestly cannot understand why this is the case. Many of the games they sell don't even offer a Dutch translation, and again, those that do have horrible translations. I don't see any reason not to offer customers in a non-English country an English translation. And I know that it's possible, because Steam does offer me the option to use English.

As an aside, this problem is also present in other countries. I had trouble approving refunds in Spain because the store kept redirecting me to the Spanish version.

Is there any specific reasoning behind forcing users into a local language and preventing the choice of English?

  • +1 Probably providing the solution which in the cheapest way covers the most ground. Customization is more expensive to maintain. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:33
  • 1
    Why would it be more expensive to let global users choose English in addition to whatever local languages they use?
    – Nzall
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:36
  • Indeed. Either you have customization (in which case it should also take care of the choice Dutch vs Franch), or you don't, in which case offering more language options is not more expensive. In fact, simply offering the same list of languages to all users would be the cheapest option, and probably the best.
    – User 1
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:41
  • @NateKerkhofs If the content is region specific then it becomes more expensive the more languages you provide that content in. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:45
  • @user9109 I take it you don't have much experience working on international products? Localization is definitely an expensive process and at times also very tedious. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:47

4 Answers 4


Since there is no correlation between preferred language and location, no software should force you to choose a language based on the location.

Let's take your example. If you are located in Belgium you get to choose between Dutch and French. That is wrong for two reasons:

  1. Belgium does not have 2 but 3 official languages. What do German speaking Belgians have to choose?
  2. Many people living and working in Belgium have a language as mother tongue that is not one of the official languages. Think of migrated people, expats etc. Spanish, English, Italian, Polish, Arabic, Berber... Why are all these people forced to choose either Dutch or French.

So to summarize and answer your question: there is no rationale, it's just wrong. There is no relation between preferred language and location.

Also have a look at this question, which touches the same problem.

  • 1
    The only reason I could possibly think of is that Belgium has regional legislation which states that you need to provide services in that region's language if you have an office there. But even then that still shouldn't be a reason to not allow users to choose other languages.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:41
  • 1
    I actually have a minor language as native and the forced redirects to "localized" pages that only have fraction of content available is a major pain. It is not as it could ever be economically feasible to localize all the text I might need. But yeah, it is required to offer service in local language, people are just doing it wrong. Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 8:03

The rationale for localization goes like this:

  1. Preselecting the language your user is most likely to be comfortable with is good customer service. It makes it obvious that your application is available in other languages at all, and a well localized application is usually better received than an English language application even by people who speak English decently as a second language
  2. most likely to be comfortable with is a heuristic, and as all heuristics, it can guess wrong. So you provide the opportunity to users to override the selection made by your heuristic and use whatever language they like.

The sad truth is that most people who develop software don't know the above. They have this great idea of appearing customer friendly (and also expanding their potential market to non-English-speakers). And they implement it in the most straightforward way they can up with without giving it much thought. They forget completely about the second point. And for the first point, they use the first heuristic which springs to mind "well Germans will get the German translation, and everything is fine" and when somebody notices that some countries have two official languages, they quickly slap on a choice functionality - not to support the second point, but just as an extension of their first-point-solution. In fact, even if they wanted to stop at the first point, they could have used a better heuristic than land of residence, but this doesn't always happen.

So there isn't a rationale for doing it that way, but at least there is an explanation.


I know from experience a case in which we did this. Not all relevant texts were available in all languages. For instance, the Canadians have some annoying language laws. The texts explaining the consequences were translated to French only.

Now if this happens you still have two options: restrict Candians to those two languages, or allow Canadians to select Dutch but fall back to English where necessary.

BTW, Fallback languages are very tricky. You can have a fallback Flemish->Dutch, but Polish->Russian or Polish->German is a no-go for political reasons. English is an acceptable last resort, and often should be the first resort.


I can't think of such rationale, or at least it's not very rational. There is just no way to say what language someone speaks based only on location info.

And you pointed out the perfect reason why exact opposite - to give users all possible choices - is a very good idea. Horrible localisations are far too common. It might be even out of your control as a software developer. You want to reach more native speakers, but can't do localisation for so many languages in house, so you outsource it and from now you just can't guarantee quality.

So, even if platform normally mandates usage of language configured by system for apps as well (very common in mobile platforms), it's still actually very good idea to give your users a choice. I've seen in many cases where users just can't use some app, because:

  • Their OS is configured to use their native language.
  • The app uses the info from system choose their translation.
  • But the app has a horrible translation for their language.
  • It doesn't give a choice to switch to English or to other languages either.

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