Just got the results of a very quick test we did for a multilingual app (test performed on people from US and Canada), and to my surprise I found that the word Espanol worked better than Español. This reminded me of a time when we had a lot of problems with people reading the german character ß as the letter B so it had to be replaced by SS to be understood.

In the specific case of Español, it's worth mentioning that changing the way it's written changes how it's pronounced. In order to accurately write the word as it should sound, it should be Espaniol or Espanyol rather than just Espanol. So, using Espanol effectively changes the way it's pronounced for people who speaks Spanish

So I'd like to know if there's any kind of study demonstrating it's better to use international characters even to the cost of lesser understanding by people who speaks the language, or if it's better to stick to the language the way it's supposed to be, no matter how people who doesn't speak the language reads it (just in case, I'm inclined to the latter, but data shows me I might be wrong)

  • How much could your survey data be broken down though? For example, when you say the word Espanol worked better than Español, do you know how true that was for native speakers as well, or do you only have one result based on the overall sample? My inclination is the same as yours, unless of course your survey (or other research) shows that Espanol is actually preferred by native speakers.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:57
  • What exactly is your use case? Are you asking native speakers to select their own language, or non-speakers? It seems counterintuitive for native speakers not to understand the correct and definitive spelling of their own language. I would challenge the result by reconducting the survey, checking that you're targeting the right group to study or expanding the sample size. I would also ensure there were no problems with character set encoding, sometimes just copying/pasting non-ASCII characters things can be muddled. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 1:21
  • @TimFitzGerald, as I said, the survey was conducted on an English speaking audience, they're not native, quite the opposite. However, the way they recognized language was the one with known characters (for them). Personally, I will continue with what I planned to do, but I got curious, hence asking for previous research to see what other people found rather than doing an in-depth research for something I have no use right away
    – Devin
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 1:51
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    @Devin No research that I know of. My question is, does your use case actually involve English-speaking users identifying "Español"? Because if it doesn't, then I'd question the relevance of your survey. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 2:32
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    As a native german speaker, I would see no point in replacing ß by SS except in the case where it would be wrong according to spelling rules. The days where stuff like that had to be done because devices were not capable to show latin characters are long gone and there are places where exchanging one thing for the other will mess up the semantics because there are word regularly spelled the other way ( Masse - Maße) - just my 2c Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


In my humble opinion, use the local characters when using that language.

For instance: If I an reading / writing in English, there is no reason to use the word "Español", instead use the word "Spanish".

My native language is Swedish using the language specific characters Å, Ä and Ö. In Swedish, there is a huge difference in the words "Bar" and "Bär". "Bar" has the same meaning as in English, while "Bär" means berries, such as blueberries or raspberries.

Conclusion: If you replace language specific characters with similar common latin characters, the meaning might be totally different.

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