What the issue is
Automatic language detection inaccurately assesses the user's preferred language, leading to a webpage being displayed in a language the user cannot understand. This often occurs with websites trying to automatically set the language based on the user's location (via IP address) or browser settings, without allowing an easy way for the user to change the language back to their preferred choice.
Why this is important
Users should have the ability to access content in the language of their choice, particularly on multilingual websites. Relying solely on automatic language detection can alienate users, especially when it misinterprets the user's language preference or when users are traveling. A clear option for manually selecting language ensures that all users can access content in the language they are most comfortable with.
Who it affects
This issue primarily affects:
- Users who speak languages different from the one predominantly spoken in their geographic location.
- Users who are traveling and are accessing the web in a country with a different primary language.
- Immigrants and expatriates who prefer to use their native language online.
How to remediate the issue
- Implement a clear and accessible language selection option, and ensure it is easily found on every page of the website.
- Avoid using automatic language detection as the sole method for setting the language. If used, always permit users to override the detected language with their preferred choice.
- Store the user's language preference in their profile or as a cookie to remember their selection during subsequent visits to the website.
Providing control over language preference respects user autonomy and improves the accessibility and usability of multilingual websites.
Success Criterion 3.1.1 Language of page, 3.1.2 Language of Parts, 3.2.5 Change on Request