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What Language Is This? 5 Tools to Identify Unknown Languages

Ben Stegner Updated 27-04-2020

Have you come across a language that you can’t identify? Even if you don’t speak multiple languages, it can be useful to know what a language is just by looking at it.

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Let’s look at some language finder services to show you which language you’re looking at.

1. Google Translate

Google Translate Detect Language

You’ve probably used Google Translate before. But did you know that it has a “detect language” feature that lets you work with unknown languages?

To use it, copy some text in the unknown language and head to Google Translate. Paste your text in the box on the left. Above this, you should see a Detect Language option. If this doesn’t appear, click the dropdown arrow to show all supported languages and select Detect Language.

After a moment, the Detect Language text should change to [Language]—Detected. This lets you easily identify a language and see what the text says, to boot.

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Google Translate offers a lot of cool features on its mobile apps 7 Google Translate Mobile Features You Must Know Google Translate's mobile app can do more than you might think. Here's a guide to all of Translate's features on Android and iOS. Read More , too. There you can translate handwriting or even use your camera to translate text in front of you.

2. What Language Is This?

What Language Is This

This aptly named tool identifies any language when you paste or type text into it. It doesn’t translate the text, but that’s not a big deal if you only want to know which language the text is in.

After entering your text, give it a second and you’ll see what language you have. In cases where several languages are similar, the tool will suggest possible other languages. When this happens, you should try pasting a different sample from the source so you can confirm which language it is.

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3. Translated Labs Language Identifier

Translated Labs Identifier

Here’s another simple tool to help you find out about unknown languages. Simply enter some text and you’ll see its best guess instantly. The service supports 102 languages, so chances are that whatever you’re looking for is here.

There aren’t any frills, aside from the Pick a random language button if you want to challenge yourself to identify languages on your own.

4. Yandex Translate

Yandex Translate Images

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Looking to detect a language from an image? Yandex Translate’s image translation tool makes this easy. Simply upload an image from your computer or drag it onto the page and the service will detect the language in the image.

Like Google Translate, auto-detect should be enabled by default. If it’s not, click the language name at the top-left and check Auto detect. The text will then change to show which language is in the image.

If you like, select the language you want to translate to on the right. Then you can click text in the image to display it in your language.

5. Language Identification Games

You’ll find many tools to help you tell what a language is that are almost identical to the above. For something a little different, why not try a website that challenges you to identify various languages? Not only is it enjoyable, but spending a bit of time with these languages will help you to identify them in the future.

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LingYourLanguage is a great site for this. It allows you to play by yourself or in multiplayer mode in four difficulty levels: Easy, Regular, Hard, and Omniglot.

On each stage, you’ll hear a clip in a certain language and must pick the correct answer from a few choices. After you answer, click a language to learn a bit more about it if you like. You only have a limited number of lives, so see how high you can score!

The game contains over 2,000 samples in 80 languages, so there’s plenty to discover.

LingYourLanguage Game

Another fun game like this is Language Squad. It offers both Audio and Alphabet challenges. Audio is a lot like LingYourLanguage, and offers four difficulty levels that progressively include more languages to increase the challenge level.

Alphabet, as you’d expect, presents you with a text sample of a language and asks you to identify it from several choices. Pick from Easy or Hard mode depending on the number of languages you want in the pool.

Language Squad Language

If you’re interested in general language identification, these will help you spot certain characters and phrases more easily.

Learn Language Basics to Better Identify Them

We’ve looked at five ways to quickly identify what language you’re looking at. Whether you want to identify a picture or text on a website, it’s not hard with these resources.

If you want to take this a step further, consider learning the basics of several languages. This will increase your knowledge of the world’s tongues and help you identify the differences between languages more easily. Have a look at the best language learning apps The 8 Best Language Learning Apps That Really Work Want to learn a language free? These are the best free language learning apps that will have you speaking a new language before you know it. Read More to get started.

Image Credit: Kanko*/Flickr

Related topics: Google Translate, Language Learning, OCR, Translation.

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  1. Jennifer
    December 9, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Sorry dude the first picture is not korean its chinese

  2. laptoptamiri
    February 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I have serious problem. Google thinks that my Turkish site language is in english. Someone help me

  3. citizenearth
    January 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Hey, what about Polyglot 3000? I think it is the best tool to identify languages out there.

  4. Sprachreisen
    January 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for the links to these excellent tools.
    Have to tell the readers of my newsletter about them.

  5. Mr On Line
    August 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    you haven't tested for Arabic ..

    Well you should have .. it's very common ..

    Good Luck !

  6. Darko
    August 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Polyglot is recognized as a potential dangerous application by my Anti Virus. Don't try these old ways to promote your apps, guys...

  7. qwertyweb
    July 28, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Polyglot3000 is a desktop based application for Windows that doesn’t require web access for language detection!!
    PolyglotRecognizes more than 400 languages

  8. Niefer
    July 22, 2009 at 8:47 am

    You can try standalone Polyglot3000 - an excellent program: http://www.polyglot3000.com/

    Also Opera has a widget - Wørd - very good one too.