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Technique H57:Using the language attribute on the HTML element



This technique relates to 3.1.1: Language of Page (Sufficient).


The objective of this technique is to identify the default language of a document by providing the lang attribute on the html element.

Identifying the language of the document is important for a number of reasons:

  • It allows braille translation software to substitute control codes for accented characters, and insert control codes necessary to prevent erroneous creation of Grade 2 braille contractions.
  • Speech synthesizers that support multiple languages will be able to orient and adapt to the pronunciation and syntax that are specific to the language of the page, speaking the text in the appropriate accent with proper pronunciation.
  • Marking the language can benefit future developments in technology, for example users who are unable to translate between languages themselves will be able to use machines to translate unfamiliar languages.
  • Marking the language can also assist user agents in providing definitions using a dictionary.


Example 1: Defining the content of an HTML document to be in French

<!doctype html>
<html lang="fr"> 
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <title>document écrit en français</title>
  ... document écrit en français ...

Other sources

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Examine the html element of the document.

  1. Check that the html element has a lang attribute.
  2. Check that the value of the lang attribute conforms to BCP 47: Tags for the Identification of Languages or its successor and reflects the primary language used by the Web page.

Expected Results

  • Checks #1 and #2 are true.

Test Rules

The following are Test Rules related to this Technique. It is not necessary to use these particular Test Rules to check for conformance with WCAG, but they are defined and approved test methods. For information on using Test Rules, see Understanding Test Rules for WCAG Success Criteria.

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