How to identify any language at a glance

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Link to the article?


And now that you have those hints, see how well you can do.

Or if you prefer the spoken word-


Pretty sure English becomes every language if you yell it at someone loudly and slowly enough.


5 years in South America / Central America and I didn’t learn anything but the raw basics in Spanish. Oh how I hate myself…


26/36 for your first link. It took me astonishingly long to find the correct English name for some languages I recognized immediately.


Fun! I sucked. 52%



don’t need no got-dayum computer to tell me that

Japanese, Korean, and Chinese are easy to tell apart at a glance if you can recognize the difference between Chinese han-zi (kanji, in Japanese), the Japanese phonetic hiragana alphabet, and han-geul (the Korean syllabic alphabet.) This seems easy to me except when I go to explain it, and then I have no idea exactly how to do it. Granted I learned some Japanese as a kid, but I never learned any Korean and it’s visually very distinct to me.

My best stab at how to explain it is:

  • Chinese han-zi characters 漢字 or 汉字 (used both in Chinese and Japanese) range from very simple to very complex, but are always built up of gentle curves, hooks, and straight lines, with a lot of right angles, horizontals, and verticals.
  • Korean han-geul 한글 look similar to Chinese characters at first glance, but they have a fixed complexity and are all put together from a small number of elements making up half or a quarter of the total “block”, so Korean has a very even visual density, which is lighter and less varied than Chinese. (They may contain circles, tight curves, and S-curves as in the example above, which you wouldn’t see in Chinese.)
  • Anything written in Japanese (nihongo 日本語) will be a mixture of kanji 漢字 (the Chinese hanzi) and Japanese hiragana ひらがな which are never too complicated and always have flowing lines, connected like cursive writing - unless it’s written for children こども in which case it will all be the flowing hiragana. There’s an exception - sound-effects and words imported from other languages, always written in katakana カタカナwhich are simple shapes with all straight lines and shallow curves, like アニメ (anime) and マンガ (manga.)

Navajo ałso has łots of łs. Very obviousły not Połish though at even the słightest of głances.

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I know most of my kanas now, but the very first clue I learned was the very same no-particle. It’s used a lot, and it’s noticeable.

Got 66 percent. I clearly did not absorb the articles lessons.

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Didn’t read the article with hints, but got 27/36.

Must know lots of foreign people or something.

ETA: I have studied Japanese and Korean, though. Did some world traveling, too.

Few of those I’d never have guessed (Esperanto, Old English). Should have gotten Turkish and Scots.

It was my kids who pointed out that Korean is the only one of the three with round/circular characters.

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Great quiz! I got 31/36 though it took me a couple tries on some of them.

I don’t feel too bad about the ones I missed either: Icelandic, Turkish, Albanian, Mongolian, and Kurdish. I doubt I’ve ever seen anything written in those last three languages, and I wouldn’t have guessed the alphabet used on one of those.

Omniglot is a fun site for people who are interested in this kind of thing.

Yeah, I was surprised by Albanian and Kurdish. And not sure that “Scots” is kosher.

I don’t think the article helps that much with those example sentences.

Except Albanian, which I just realized I would have gotten if I’d paid more attention. The hint for Icelandic would just mislead you in this case.

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I’ve been won over to the argument that Scots really was a distinct language from English, albeit a very close relative, even if it’s not much written these days. In this case the giveaways were 1) they changed the model sentence, probably because the original one came out too similar to English, and 2) the third and sixth words of the sentence.

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I missed Albanian, Kurdish, Tamil, Scots, and Old English. But yeah, 31/36 feels pretty good, I must admit. Can’t believe I was able to recognize that many.