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What are ISO 639 language codes?

ISO 639 language codes exist to identify the languages, dialects and languages scripts around the world. It is an international standardization of linguistic codes.

The most important for localization are: 639-1, 639-2 and 639-3 ISO code set.

ISO 639 basics

ISO 639 language codes were released by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO standards are the most frequently used linguistic codification - from language recognition to translation, ISO language codes have proven to be crucial for neural learning.

ISO 639 contains language designators that allow assignment of target locales for localization projects. A locale is a set that defines the language and region preferences that the user wants to see in their user interface. Usually a locale identifier includes a language code and a country or region code.

The most famous ISO language standard sets are the ISO 639 for the language codes and ISO 15924 standard of codes for language scripts.

ISO 639 language standard has several different sets, while the following 3 are currently the most relevant:

ISO 639-1: two-character code which serves as identifiers for major (macro) languages from the world, as well as some ancient languages.

ISO 639-2: three-character code, covers almost all the languages of the world and has identifiers for language families. Includes as well historical and constructed languages.

ISO 693-3: largely overlaps with ISO 639-2, but includes several less-known languages. Created with computer systems in mind.

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How to choose the right ISO code for your project?

Here are several things to take into account when choosing the right language code for localization of your project:

  • Will you be able to reach your target audience with a macro language?
  • Is your audience’s language region-specific? Is there a language variant that exists in several different territories?
  • Does your localization project require different scripts for the same language?
ISO Code Language ISO Code Language ISO Code Language
aaAfarhyArmenianorOriya
abAbkhazhzHereroosOssetian
afAfrikaansidIndonesianpaPanjabi
akAkanigIgboplPolish
amAmhariciiNuosupsPashto
anAragoneseikInupiaqptPortuguese
arArabicioIdoquQuechua
asAssameseisIcelandicrmRomansh
avAvaricitItalianrnKirundi
ayAymaraiuInuktitutroRomanian
azAzerbaijanijaJapaneseruRussian
baBashkirjvJavaneserwKinyarwanda
beBelarusiankaGeorgiansaSanskrit
bgBulgariankgKongoscSardinian
bhBiharikiKikuyusdSindhi
biBislamakjKwanyamaseNorthern Sami
bmBambarakkKazakhsgSango
bnBengaliklKalaallisutsiSinhala
boTibetankmKhmerskSlovak
brBretonknKannadaslSlovenian
bsBosniankoKoreansmSamoan
caCatalankrKanurisnShona
ceChechenksKashmirisoSomali
chChamorrokuKurdishsqAlbanian
coCorsicankvKomisrSerbian
crCreekwCornishssSwati
csCzechkyKyrgyzstSouthern Sotho
cvChuvashlbLuxembourgishsuSundanese
cyWelshlgGandasvSwedish
daDanishliLimburgishswSwahili
deGermanlnLingalataTamil
dvDivehiloLaoteTelugu
dzDzongkhaltLithuaniantgTajik
eeEweluLuba-KatangathThai
elGreeklvLatviantiTigrinya
enEnglishmgMalagasytkTurkmen
esSpanishmhMarshallesetlTagalog
etEstonianmiMāoritnTswana
euBasquemkMacedoniantoTonga
faPersianmlMalayalamtrTurkish
ffFulamnMongoliantsTsonga
fiFinnishmrMarathittTatar
fjFijianmsMalaytwTwi
foFaroesemtMaltesetyTahitian
frFrenchmyBurmeseugUighur
fyWestern FrisiannaNauruukUkrainian
gaIrishnbNorwegian BokmålurUrdu
gdScottish GaelicndNorth NdebeleuzUzbek
glGalicianneNepaliveVenda
gnGuaraníngNdongaviVietnamese
guGujaratinlDutchwaWalloon
gvManxnnNorwegian NynorskwoWolof
haHausanoNorwegianxhXhosa
heHebrewnrSouth NdebeleyiYiddish
hiHindinvNavajoyoYoruba
hoHiri MotunyChichewazaZhuang
hrCroatianocOccitanzhChinese
htHaitianojOjibwezuZulu
huHungarianomOromo 

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