Language chooser at login

Gunnar Hjalmarsson ubuntu at
Sun Jul 3 06:01:42 UTC 2011

I have discussed briefly with a couple of developers whether there
should be a language chooser on the login screen, and we believe it's a
suitable topic for this list.

The background is that GDM has provided a language chooser for a long
time, but GNOME has (for unclear reasons) dropped it in GDM 3, which
will be an available display manager in Oneiric. LightDM, which will be
the default dm in Oneiric, had a language chooser in the Natty version,
but in the latest versions it has been disabled.

I'm of the opinion that we should keep providing a language chooser
widget on the login screen, either in the greeter or on the top panel.
Before giving the reasons for my view, I'd like to clarify which kind of
language chooser it is that I advocate.

In short, I'd like it to work as it currently does in Natty. Unlike
before, when there was a plain locale chooser that didn't play well with
the Lucid and Maverick versions of language-selector, in Natty GDM's
language chooser

- has a list whose options represent available translations (which in
some languages, such as English and Spanish, means a significantly
shorter list than before),

- persistently changes the user language, and

- is well synchronized with language-selector.

Over to my arguments:

If you change the display language within a session, it does not take
effect in that session, but only after you have logged out and logged in
again. The language setting is one of the few things that works that way.

Those who typically make use of the language chooser on the login screen
are reasonably users who alter between two or more display languages.
Maybe that group is a small share of the Ubuntu users, but to them it's
much more convenient to be able to set the language before logging in,
compared to logging in, opening language-selector, changing the
language, logging out and then logging in again.

Future growth of Ubuntu users will probably be higher outside the
English speaking countries than the average growth, so both the number
and percentage of multi-lingual users, and consequently also the group
that appreciate an opportunity to change language at login, ought to

>From an Ubuntu user perspective, the question isn't if we should add a
language chooser to the login screen, but the question is whether it
would be a good idea to remove the feature. Is there any disadvantage
with it worth mentioning for those who don't use it? Has anybody
complained of its pure existence? ;-)

i18n is a key point in the Ubuntu philosophy, and the relative
importance of i18n matters in general is growing. In the light of that,
I think that removing the language chooser from the login screen would
send the wrong signals to prospective Ubuntu users.

So let's not do so, please. :)

Gunnar Hjalmarsson

More information about the ubuntu-desktop mailing list