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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).


They had to compromise eventually, for fear of forever foreclosing the possibility of a Luxembourgish course ;)


The Dutch flag is already the Luxembourgish flag; the Netherlands has quite rightfully been entirely subjugated by ever-victorious Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on Duolingo. This is all part of Mr. Junker's master plan, of course, for the en...; ah, I've said too much!


Well I didn't expect some sort of Luxembourgish inquisition......


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?


A three letter code is actually less informative than a flag. If I see the US flag I expect English with an American slant. If I see ENG I don't know if it's English from Boston, Birmingham or Bangalore.


Then why not full-on "English (American)"? Why did we put the flag of Spain on the Spanish course that teaches Latin American pronunciation? Isn't that inaccurate as well? Why not "Español (Mexico)", "Français (France)", or "日本語(日本)"? At least it's accurate and straight-forward. But what if people can't understand that? Then why not "JA (Japan)", "ES (Mexico)", or "CEB (Bohol)"? The world's supposed to recognize those?

I mean, with the whole Yiddish situation, flags are offensive to the Yiddish community and history in general. They have no specific country to belong to, nor have they had a flag in their history because of they don't like the nationalism within it. What if they decide to use an inaccurate flag? Or even, the Hebrew flag? What if they decide to teach Tagalog and Cebuano? Aesthetics-wise, they are both part of the same country, so they have to use the same flag. At some point, people are going to have to accept that languages don't always have flags, nor is there a flag belonging to only one language.


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.


Who exactly is offended besides non-Yiddish speakers? I've never met anyone who was offended by the current most popular flag. I've been to Yiddish only school almost all of my life, and have never heard the word "peacock" in Yiddish. It might be a part of a Yiddishist's community, but it's definitely not a popular symbol, or a symbol at all for other Yiddish dialects/groups.

The only people who take offense to the idea of a Yiddish flag are the people who weren't born/raised with Yiddish, nor speak it fluently, or at all. I live in a Yiddish-only community, where English is at minimum, and nobody even speaks of a flag, nor would they care if it had one.


There will always be people who will condescend to be offended on other people's behalf. There is generally some political undertone to this behaviour; it is a way of dressing up one's own views to make them appear to come from some other group.


I think the only reason I seem to have this undertone is because I highly respect communities' thoughts, decisions, and histories. It makes total sense for a community to reject flags because of their tie-in with nationalism.

I personally believe the start to most wars was stemmed from nationalism, but this isn't the forum for that. But I understood that and I, being Asian and having dual-citizenship, love understanding new cultures and trying to be as respectful as possible. If my culture felt it to be offensive to have something nationalistic and progressive like a flag, then so be it, no flag. I'll fight for that right to be represented appropriately.

If you've listened to Stromae's song "Humain À L'eau", he adresses things such as primitive communities not wanting to conform to progressive ideals. At first I thought this song was strange, but soon later, through deep thought and connecting with my own Filipino roots, I understand in many ways.

Although this doesn't seem to be the situation with Yiddish people, I could totally see a situation where that is the instance, that the culture's community would be against such. I'm here to create discussion and see what could be done as an alternative for these groups.

If you find this to be condescending, then so be it. I can't stop you from thinking what you want. I'm here for discussion, not to attack people and degrade their opinions, unless they're just being ignorant and offensive.


I think the only reason I seem to have this undertone is because I highly respect communities' thoughts, decisions, and histories. It makes total sense for a community to reject flags because of their tie-in with nationalism.

What could be found condescending is treating 'communities' as monolithic entities with a single mind, rather than, as they all are, collections of individuals with their own thoughts and opinions.
A single article by someone who appears to be advancing a considerable anti-Israel bias is not a sound basis from which to extrapolate the views of all Yiddish speakers on this matter. You are perfectly entitled to agree with him, of course, but your grounds for agreement should be based on the facts he asserts, and not rely on his being a self-appointed spokesman for everyone who speaks the same language. The mere fact that one or more people find something offensive is not, in itself, an argument for anything. No doubt a lot of people were offended when Copernicus proposed heliocentrism—offence is not a criterion upon which to base any argument.

I'm certainly not degrading your opinion—indeed, I share your dislike of the current Yiddish flag. What I take issue with is the way you are conjuring up collective offence to support this view, rather than simply arguing its merits.


Well then I agree. I have acted as if the whole Yiddish community has been offended by these flags when that's obviously not the case. There are many communities within a culture and peoples, and what one community thinks is never what the majority's opinion. I have many relatives that I disagree with about topics of our culture and other things. I should try and be more accepting of others' suggestions. But with Yiddish aside, I still think there is a problem with the flag situation. Although we haven't encountered the problem yet, there may be a day when we have two languages in the incubator or out of the incubator that both have the same flag. And for aesthetic reasons, well, here's a discussion on ways we may be able to solve them. :))


I respect your insight. Like I said, I have no Yiddish blood or knowledge as far as I know. But it's definitely understandable for a community to not accept a flag anyways. Perhaps Yiddish people truly don't care, you don't seem to. I mean, it is just a flag, so if you like it, you know, get it out there, let people know how you feel. Do you still live in your Yiddish community btw? I just feel like if you still do, you should ask people how they feel about it and if they don't mind, I think it would really help the Yiddish language's case with the incubator, getting it forward and out there again.

In my opinion, I'm more worried about other things. I feel like each language should have a flag that isn't a flag for a country. I feel like sooner or later, Duolingo will realize that there is more than one language in one country. I mean, what if Duolingo put in Cebuano after already having done Tagalog? They'd have to use the same flag anyways. What if they just use the ISO Language Codes? I dunno.

But imho, if you think this is a good flag for your community, make it then. Show your community the flag and tell them that it represents Yiddish from now on. Who am I to stop that? But if I made that flag, I'd splash more color in it tbh. Maybe make the colors the German colors, make the menorah gold, etc. I dunno, maybe you like it all black. You do you.

But sooner or later, languages are going to be less "aesthetically-pleasing" (only mentioning this because this seems to be all that people care about) once a flag is shared for two or more different languages. I think it'd just be cool if Duolingo found a better alternative for it anyways. Idk what though. The more I think about it, the more hopeless it seems. How could we replace these flags? I think the best is making a flag for each language, one that belongs to no state/country. That seems like a lot of work though. But they've done it for Yiddish apparently. :)


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. :)


Flag <-> language. There's no guaranteed connection, is there? So why the fuss?

You're still here learning, you presumably /understood/ what the flag was being used to /represent/ - just get on with it....


This is highly ignorant on the fact that the Yiddish community has no flag for a reason. What do you suppose then, using the same flag for two different languages? Use the Hebrew flag instead of some made up flag that only offends Yiddish people and has never been used before in an actual Yiddish community?


Flags do represent languages in Duolingo but English was first the language of England not America, so the flag of St George should be the one displayed.


English was the language of Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia before the nation of England ever existed. Should we use one of their flags?


Today we speak modern English which was first spoken in early medieval England. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England, and was a period in which the language was influenced by French. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London and the King James Bible, and the start of the Great Vowel Shift. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language. If Duolingo starts a course in old English by all means they should use one of those relevant flags, if they had flags.


"Today we speak modern English which was first spoken in early medieval England."

The Early Medieval Period lasted from the 6th century CE to the 10th century CE. In that period, Old English was spoken.

The paragraph you copy / pasted from Wikipedia actually states that Early Modern English wasn't in use until the 15th century, leaving actual Modern English to a period well outside of the Medieval.

To be clear, the only thing I took issue with was your statement of 'English was first the language of England'. It wasn't. England did not exist as a nation when English was first spoken. Modern English, however....


Although these all seem historically correct, it isn't the case with Duolingo. The course teaches with the American accent, and uses the American flag hence. If anything, it is still inaccurate to the course, acting as if it has the British/English accents, and it is still inaccurate to English overall. A symbol for English could very much be an Eagle, tea, a turkey, etc. Symbols and flags alike just seem very problematic and diverse.


If you held up a picture of tea and asked me which language it represented, my first two guesses would be Hindi and Mandarin.


Hahaha, I would've guessed Japanese, or something else Asian tbh. Which signifies my point exactly. Symbols are too diverse, and flags are too specific. This debate on language representation has been a debate for many years, the best/most common solution being the language's name in the language's most common script or with the dialect in parentheses. i. e. English (Pirate); Français (Québec); 日本語(日本); etc.


English in the USA is closer to what was in the British Isles a couple of hundred years ago than British English today is. Both have evolved but British moreso than American, so the US version has a better claim under that argument.


Better claim to what?


In pronunciation maybe (non rhotic R preceding a consonant in some dialects is a recent phenomenon) but not likely in dialect.


However, that's not the case whatsoever. Even with Portuguese, the flag used is the flag of Brazil, not Portugal. The course for Spanish has a more Latin American accent in the audio, but the flag is of Spain, not of the other Latin-American Spanish-speaking countries. In my opinion, choosing one flag for a language is inaccurate and problematic. If anything, I'm more for the three letter code being used than a symbol or a flag for a language.


A lot of people seem to complain that some might not understand 3 letter codes, but...they're supposed to be international. Their whole point is to be understood by people from all over the world. Although, I can totally see someone with an A2 or so level of English starting a course for English speakers and becoming confused. They probably wouldn't know how to Google it properly either... Hmm...there's no winning this debate.


Yeah, very true. Seems like this debate has gone on for years. I almost wish that a language had its own flag separate from any country as a solution, but then, I dunno, some people think that's too "sectarian". Some Esperantists even thought their flag was a bit too nationalistic (hence the Green Jubilee Symbol). I guess normal flags are also supposed to be understood internationally, and that's why both are pretty beneficial. But one's less problematic than the other. It's all a lot to think about, that's for sure. I don't think it's really possible to please everyone though I guess.


Somebody will always complain about something, no matter how good a change might have taken place. I could definitely see someone from my country (Albania) being very confused at 3-letter codes (sigh I wish I could at least develop an English from Albanian course but that's a whole other story). What's good about this though is that it'll raise awareness about this issue! It's more likely that we will get more feedback if it's out there.


Yes! I totally understand your situation kind of. I wish we had more freedom and interaction with the incubator, and my relatives of the Philippines always have these differing opinions from me. Ahh lol. I'm hoping more awareness does evolve from this! :)


Yep. I wish there was some kind of list or something that would let us see what languages they're even considering. I'm sure I could apply for Albanian countless times but it would be of no use because they might not even be considering such a course. And what a shame, the number of courses entering the incubator was anticipated to be much larger, but alas... I'll definitely keep hoping, but I'm aware that the odds are not in my favour. I wish they'd communicate with us more. Whenever a new course enters the incubator, it's kind of a surprise to everybody. And I understand. I don't think like or agree with a lot of things a typical Albanian would, so I get you.


Yeah, they truly are surprises. (Klingon?!) But hope one we shall. Maybe in the future, they'll be more inclusive with us. I honestly wish they'd let the people vote for the languages. Also, really wish they kept track of people in the incubator, some of them don't seem to be working as hard as others have been. I mean, tbh, some of them have been in there for years, and it's quite discouraging. But, gratitude and hope, I have to keep that in my mind. :)

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