How to identify any language at a glance

I have no idea how I guessed Tamil; I just looked and it and thought “maybe that’s Tamil.” I’m impressed that you got Mongolian!

Well, my first two guesses were Ukranian and Georgian, so I can’t say I recognized it immediately. But I knew that Mongolian used a Cyrillic script, so it seemed like the only plausible choice left.

Icelandic I recognized almost immediately (and could even hear parts of it in my head) but that’s only because I’ve been a Björk fan for sixteen years.


I got 72% without bothering to read the article and the hints-- I only figured out Mongolian when I realized none of the Cyrillic tongues matched, but knew Mongolia still used that alphabet. Some of the ones I missed I would have gotten given more time.

's right!

That quiz was awesome. I got 23/36 right after brain farting on some of the language names.


“No” の is common but I would think one would see nearly as much ha は(confusingly pronounced as wa which is a completely different character), followed by ga が, de で, and wo を.

Wait, I get you. You’re saying that のis both common and it stands out visually as being “impossible” as a Chinese character. That makes sense.

I think the idea behind Hangul makes sense.

In its classical and modern forms, the alphabet has 24 consonant and vowel letters. However, instead of being written sequentially like the letters of the Latin alphabet, Hangul letters are grouped into blocks, such as 한 han, each of which transcribes a syllable. That is, although the syllable 한 han may look like a single character, it is actually composed of three letters: ㅎ h, ㅏ a, and ㄴ n. Each syllabic block consists of two to six letters, including at least one consonant and one vowel. These blocks are then arranged horizontally from left to right or vertically from top to bottom. Each Korean word consists of one or more syllables, hence one or more blocks. The number of mathematically possible distinct blocks is 11,172 (see “South Korean order” below), though there are far fewer possible syllables allowed by Korean phonotactics, and not all phonotactically possible syllables occur in actual Korean words.

See? Languages can be logical!


Not bad! I got 30 before the timer ran out at around Albanian. Don’t think I would have guessed anything alter Tamil, anyway. Icelandic and Norwegian really stumped me for some reason.

I’m ok with the result considering I can actually only speak two languages and fake just enough of three others to mildly impress people who don’t understand them.

Hangul is absolutely brilliant. I was able to learn to read and write it over a weekend (note: beyond a few words and phrases I don’t know a lick of Korean but hey at least I can read/write it!). I can even touch type it using a QWERTY keyboard – it’s actually pretty easy to learn because the left half of the keyboard is all consonants while the right half is for vowels.

One really cool thing about Hangul is the “letters” aren’t arbitrary, either. They are meant to communicate how you’re actually supposed to voice the sound. ㄴ (n) evokes the tongue touching the roof of the mouth for instance. How cool is that?

I’ve always found Romanized Korean to look like English fed through a word scrambler and incredibly hard to read; Hangul on the other hand isn’t too hard for me. For instance, I find “감사합니다” or “악경하세요” (edit: fix typo) “안녕하세요” much easier to parse mentally than the Spaghetti-O’s “kamsahapnida” or “annyeonghaseyo” Romanizations.


It’s all unicode to me…

But seriously, now I’ll be able to recognize all those strange subtitles on those torrented movies I’d never download.


one small quibble,

in Czech the long u = ú or ů it is the same sound but,

ů is never written in the in the initial position of a word. If it was in the initial position it would be ú
(or capitalized if at the beginning of a sentence).

Thus you would never see Ů as a capital, since the first letter of a sentence would be capitalized.


Written: 31/36.

I failed at Portuguese (which I repeatedly tried to spell “Portugese”), Welsh (I had just recognized Irish, so I tried Gaelic, but somehow didn’t think of Welsh); I also failed at Tamil, Mongolian and Kurdish.
I’m angry at myself for Mongolian, because it is one of the more important non-Slavic languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Listening: 400 points. I misidentified Telugu and Hindi. And finally, I took Haitian for some dialect / colonial variant of French. Which isn’t that far off, I’d think. Second try, 1150. But I got the same Haussa recording three times in a row, which makes it easier.

の always stood out to me because it looks like @. Or like n overlapping o.

I’ve always been a big fan of ん which looks like h but sounds like n.

Katakana is confusing because ソ ン ノ シ ツ and it’s more angular than hiragana in general and as a direct result more fatiguing, but it looks great as sound effects in Japanese comics.

I wish the kanas were more elegant about representing f and j sounds, but there’s nothing I can do about it.[quote=“Clifton, post:19, topic:77167”]
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.

I think the term creole is generally used instead of language. A creole being a pidgin with native speakers.

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But how do you distinguish Arabic and Farsi?

Like duh…

The Persian alphabet (Persian: الفبای فارسی‎‎ alefbā-ye fārsi) or Perso-Arabic alphabet is a writing system based on the Arabic script and used for the Persian language. It has four letters more than Arabic script: پ [p], چ [t͡ʃ], ژ [ʒ], and گ [ɡ].


There are at least two different systems of romanization, and things like menus don’t always use any of them correctly, so I agree that the original is much easier to cope with.

Another nice thing about Korean is that the spelling is quite consistent. In some cases there’s more than one way to write a single sound (depending on the etymology of the syllable), but there’s almost never any ambiguity about how to pronounce a written syllable.

By the way, you’ve used ki-yok instead of ni-eun in your “annyeonghaseyo” above :slight_smile:.

Which, by the way, was called “Persian” in the aforementioned quiz.