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The Yiddish Flag Debate And The Flags For Languages Debate In General

First of all, before reading this post, please read these two short articles:



Now, back to my opinion.

As a person who knows no Yiddish, my opinion shouldn't matter. But an outsider's view, still has some worth right? My father is Jewish, that makes me half-Jewish basically. I think that what the first article proposed is very important for the Yiddish Language.

The Yiddish Language has no nation, it isn't exactly equal to Hebrew, and furthermore, with the arguments of the first article, I enjoy the Khai symbol flag more and more. But not enough. The Khai symbol, is almost like a mocking way of showing Hebrew speakers that Yiddish is very much alive. Almost like how Americans stole the colors of the English flag. But it's also still a character.

I very much like the idea of a Golden Peacock symbol for a theoretical Yiddish flag. Like the first article states, any kind of flag is quite offenseive for Yiddish speakers and the history of Yiddish. Maybe Duolingo should do a better job with symbols rather than flags? I mean, flags are cool and all, but English isn't just American, French isn't just French, Spanish isn't just Spanish, Portuguese isn't just Brazilian, etc. etc.

It's a huge truth in the language community that a language doesn't apply to only one flag. To say such is offensive and ignorant. For now, I don't mind the flags, but maybe just for consideration, maybe find better cultural symbols for languages? I mean, a language is a language, and although the cultures of a language matters enormously, the language is more diverse in that it is not contained in culture alone. I guess you could use this argument for or against the Yiddish flag and other flag debates. After all, it's just a flag, it's just a language. I always love playing Devil's Advocate to understand things better and get discussions going.

What do you guys all think? Maybe the Yiddish flag should be the Golden Peacock, German and Hebrew Colors instead of fully black, or with a colorful menorah, or whatever?¿? I think this is a great topic that needs to be addressed further. Especially since the Yiddish course has been in the incubator for over two years now, and flags continue to represent languages on Duolingo.

EDIT: By Yiddish having no nation, I meant that Yiddish doesn't have a specific state or country that it belongs to. It is a recognized language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Ukraine. Also, my personal opinion, symbols are much less problematic than flags are to represent languages, and I personally like the idea of using the three letter language code more than a symbol or a flag because it's probably the least problematic thing out there for languages.

Another Note: A cool factor that could arise from this are course-finished badges, perhaps badges of an animal, food, etc. that's in gold or whatever, to show that someone finished the course, which is still an awaited desire by many Duolingo users!

Also, this is an open discussion, please be respectful to my opinions and each others' opinions! :)

July 7, 2017



"Almost like how Americans stole the colors of the English flag."

The British flag. There's no blue on the English flag.

"English isn't just American, French isn't just French, Spanish isn't just Spanish, Portuguese isn't just Brazilian"

Absolutely true, but each of the countries mentioned has their own dialect of the languages mentioned. It's often the case that the dialects of specific nations are taught on Duo, which is why the nation's flags are used. That being said, I have no idea why the Spanish flag is used when Duo teaches Latin American Spanish.

I like the idea of some kind of cultural symbol instead of flags, but it may be difficult to choose one as instantly recognisable to most learners as a national flag.


That being said, I have no idea why the Spanish flag is used when Duo teaches Latin American Spanish.

From what I understood, Duolingo thought the flag of Mexico could too easily be confused with the flag of Italy (although, strangely, the potential for Netherlands/Paraguay confusion doesn't seem to matter—although it has to be said that both of the languages these flags represent are considerably less popular than Spanish or Italian).


I do see that distinction in the determination of which flags to use for a language, but like you and garpike said, it still ended up as the flag of Spain, but doesn't have those qualities of a Spanish accent. And in addition, there are many countries in Latin America, other than Mexico, that could have been used in place of Mexico's flag. Agreably, a symbol might suffice better, but still be very problematic. I mean, it's very true, Spanish isn't tacos, French isn't the Eiffel Tower, German isn't a schnitzel (if schnitzels are even from Germany?¿?), and surely, Yiddish isn't just a golden peacock or some menorah. But how else should one categorize a language, without being problematic, and still being aesthetically pleasing? I like my idea of just using the Three Letter Language Code, but how does one decorate such?


Flags are arbitrary things, and flags Duolingo invents to represent languages that don't have an associated national flag are even more arbitrary. Personally, I find the previous proposed Yiddish flag more aesthetically pleasing that the current one, but this is my entirely subjective opinion (as are statements like 'the grim color scheme implies only mourning for Yiddish, rather than its celebration' in the article you linked to—Cornwall must too be a grim place...)
No language truly has a real flag; a natural language is never so politically constrained. I am not an American, yet I do not feel the need to manufacture offence from Duolingo's use of the US flag to represent English—the idea that this use links me with political decisions in the US is laughable. So too would it be in the case of Yiddish; the importance of the flag compared to that of the course is minute.

Having said that, feel free to make a mock-up of a peacock flag. Consider, however, that the flags here are supposed to provide the layman with an easily-recognisable symbol, and peacocks are not popularly associated with Yiddish, folklore notwithstanding (personally, I'd associate it more with Melek Taus and expect the course to be Kurdish). The menorah, on the other hand, universally references the Jewish identity of most Yiddish speakers whilst being clearly different to the Hebrew flag.


26 languages and only one below level 6? Color me impressed. (And bonus points for having the highest score in Swedish. ;)


Yes, but like I have said, it's simply just inaccurate and overall problematic. I'm sure you have read the articles, the whole use of a flag for Yiddish is overall offensive to its history anyways. Why use a flag that has never been used in an actual Yiddish community rather than a flag that has been used or using a symbol that the Yiddish people actually recognize? Also, yes, peacocks are a large symbol used in multiple places, but a GOLDEN peacock, is a specific one to folklore. Likewise, also problematic tbh. I think the best, least problematic thing to do for a language is to use its Three Letter Language Code. However, it is true that a flag and a symbol is more aesthetically pleasing, but aesthetically pleasing does not beat being offensive to the culture of a language. Using a three letter language code shouldn't be offensive to anyone as it simply just states the language basically. A flag can be a symbol itself for nationalism mostly and other things, which makes total sense as to why lots of Yiddish speakers are opposed to a flag, generally.


Regarding the use of flags to represent languages: If I were moving to Quebec in the near future I would want learn some French in advance, so I would select the flag of France. Would I learn French as spoken in Quebec? No. But it would be better than if I selected some other flag. So while the flag of France does not include all things French, it does exclude all things that are not French.


You're totally right in that the use of a flag doesn't exclude all things French or whatever, but doesn't that just seem inaccurate regardless? I mean, if you were to move to Quebec, would'nt you like more recognition or at least accuracy? I find it quite centrifugal to the speakers of a language kind of. I mean, in your case, we might as well use the Israeli flag for Yiddish, not some made up flag. I mean in a way, yeah, the menorah flag looks great, the khai symbol is boring and plain, the only reason I like it is because it shows how the Yiddish community is alive and rubs it all over Hebrew speakers' faces. But the flag with the menorah is fake, hasn't been used before in actual communities, and is a flag in general. To the Yiddish community, flags have been historically rejected and many Yiddish people take offense to it. In this way, symbols can be a better alternative to flags. But as always, this is a discussion, so there should be nothing personal in this. We can continue sharing opinions. :)


Khai is very dumb in my opinion, as a native Yiddish speaker. First off, it's Hebrew, why would we have a Hebrew word as a Yiddish flag? Also, I personally would like to see the original Menorah flag, or the golden peacock, although I'm really curious how that would look. Also, Yiddish does have a nation, just not a very popular/liked one. Chassidish people use Yiddish in their daily lives, whether in schooling or at home. It's not an entire nation with a designated country to live in, but it still is a people, and should be considered as such


Here's an extra, short article that also adresses the problems of identifying a language solely by the flag:


We could just use the three letter language code with the language color background already in use? Perhaps like the French color on Duolingo is purple, Spanish is yellow, just put that as a background, maybe make it more gradient, etc. And then just put the three letter code in front of it all. Idk, all just ideas.


Disclaimer: I can't read everything so this is just from a skim.

I think too much of Duolingo would need to be changed to have a language without a flag. flags communicate in shorthand what language a person is studying they dictate scarves on golden owls, and they dictate the overal colour scheme at the select a language page (except japanese dictated by their sports team.)

I find the idea that the black symbolizes mourning and therefor shouldn't be on a flag strange, but perhaps that is me not being Jewish.

Using a three letter language code is a poor shorthand as most people don't know three letter language codes.

Duolingo has partly won popularity by being simple and visually pleasing, as much as those of us on the forums may hate the childish updates, language nerds is a poor demographic to be advertising to and using ISO codes will only be useful for language nerds. Flags have proven to be popular and understandable with most of the general population.


In some ways I agree with you and in some ways I still don't. Although teaching new people the flags of the languages they are learning can be beneficial in world-awareness, these flags don't have much to do with every language. What do you propose we do with Yiddish then? They don't want a flag because it's offensive, nor do they really have any flag either because they have no specific country.

Although language nerds are a poor demographic to sell to, they're usually the only ones who stick through with Duolingo in the long run. Knowing the three letter code of the language you're learning can be beneficial as well. And aesthetics-wise, there are always symbols, flags with the letter codes on top, colors, words, etc. etc. that could be less problematic. The proposed Yiddish flag is offensive to Yiddish history, has never been used before in a Yiddish community, and, as far as people know, wasn't even made by a Yiddish person.

ISO codes only being useful for language nerds btw? GREAT! If you're here to learn a language and a culture, I'd rather you do it right and appropriately. Yeah, Duolingo is becoming like a game more and more, but in the end, it is a language site, and it would be nice if people took Duolingo more seriously in its approach to language and culture.

You're right in that it's a huge change, but luckily with the new website it's possible. And, nobody's expecting even an overnight change or anything. This could take months. The Yiddish language has been in the incubator for over two years already, has no flag still, shouldn't really have a flag either, etc. etc. If Duolingo wants to sponsor a language, they gotta do it right and respectfully. Flags are too limited with languages and symbols are very diverse. Unless you have a better idea than colors, words, and ISO codes, be our guest, we're here for ideas. :)

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