Has anybody studied, seen a study or even just gathered anecdotal knowledge about which type of affordance works best for switching between languages on a website. My guess would be that spelling the name of the language out in that language would be the most obvious. ...but I've seen a drop-down used that says "English" by default, I've also seen links that say "language" ..etc.

  • 1
    If you want to study this subject, I would suggest you to see this website. It has many use cases about languages in websites :)
    – Dinei
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 4:03
  • I would also suggest you to read the answers to this question :)
    – Dinei
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 4:17
  • @DineiA.Rockenbach Those are good articles. Thanks!
    – pixelfairy
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 5:58
  • @DineiA.Rockenbach I am exploring some options here: github.com/city72/city-72/issues/156
    – pixelfairy
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 6:00
  • You could show a small flag of the countrys language. The only problem is, that some countries have the same language but diffrent flags such as Spanish, English or French
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


There are some common rules for this.

You should always spell the name of the language in it's native form.

E.g. "Deutsch" for German.

One good test is to switch to Chinese and if you can still find the language switcher you're on a good way. Imagine if they would have written German in Chinese letters. You could never find it. A world symbol is also a fairly well understood symbol for the language switcher.

The blog globalbydesign covers this topic fairly well. I got the book also, it does not have too much content, but it's fair for the price.

I wrote a blog post that specifically covers the language switcher topic:

  • I agree that the language names should be spelled out in their native alphabet. So your answer is, in my opinion, the right answer. However, I think it's only part of the answer. There is still the question of where on a page to put the language-toggling affordance. I would love it if you wanted to elaborate on that.
    – pixelfairy
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:27
  • The 2nd link I posted has some inputs about that. I would put in on the right side (for western cultures) and either on top of in the footer. Often websites list all available languages in the footer and have a dropdown in the header. This post did a lot of tests with this: flagsarenotlanguages.com/blog/2013/10/…
    – Remy
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:26

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