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What is the ISO 639-2 language standard?

ISO 639-2 is part of the ISO 639 language code standards, which exist to identify the languages, dialects and languages scripts around the world. ISO 639-2 has three-letter codes for languages.

What are ISO language standards

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 language codes exist to provide an international standardization of linguistic codes. 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 important for localization are: 639-1, 639-2 and 639-3 ISO code set.

The ISO 639-2 standard was released for the first time in 1998, as a build up of ISO 639-1. The ISO 639-1 language provides a list of two-letter identifiers of mostly macro languages. On the other hand, the ISO 639-2 standard provides a more extensive list and a three-letter codification.

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Which languages does ISO 639-2 include?

The ISO 639-2 language standard includes:

  • Individual languages

  • Macrolanguages - a group of linguistically varied dialects within one “umbrella language“.

  • Language collections - or collective language codes refer to languages which have a similarity, but not a high enough level of similarity to be considered dialects (example, Germanic, Slavic languages)

  • Special situations

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Special situations group include 4 generic codes, which are also present in the ISO 639-3 standard:

  • mis - uncoded or miscellaneous languages

  • mul - when several languages are used simultaneously

  • und - undetermined, when a language is not identified

  • zxx - non linguistic content, such as onomatopoeia (animal sounds)

How to choose the right language code?

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 639-2 Code Language Checklist

ISO 639-2 Code Language ISO 639-2 Code Language
aarAfarladLadino
abkAbkhazianlahLahnda
aceAchineselamLamba
achAcolilaoLao
adaAdangmelatLatin
adyAdyghe; AdygeilavLatvian
afaAfro-Asiatic languageslezLezghian
afhAfrihililimLimburgan; Limburger; Limburgish
afrAfrikaanslinLingala
ainAinulitLithuanian
akaAkanlolMongo
akkAkkadianlozLozi
alb (B), sqi (T)AlbanianltzLuxembourgish; Letzeburgesch
aleAleutluaLuba-Lulua
algAlgonquian languageslubLuba-Katanga
altSouthern AltailugGanda
amhAmharicluiLuiseno
angEnglish, Old (ca.450-1100)lunLunda
anpAngikaluoLuo (Kenya and Tanzania)
apaApache languageslusLushai
araArabicmac (B), mkd (T)Macedonian
arcOfficial Aramaic (700-300 BCE); Imperial Aramaic (700-300 BCE)madMadurese
argAragonesemagMagahi
arm (B), hye (T)ArmenianmahMarshallese
arnMapudungun; MapuchemaiMaithili
arpArapahomakMakasar
artArtificial languagesmalMalayalam
arwArawakmanMandingo
asmAssamesemao (B), mri (T)Maori
astAsturian; Bable; Leonese; AsturleonesemapAustronesian languages
athAthapascan languagesmarMarathi
ausAustralian languagesmasMasai
avaAvaricmay (B), msa (T)Malay
aveAvestanmdfMoksha
awaAwadhimdrMandar
aymAymaramenMende
azeAzerbaijanimgaIrish, Middle (900-1200)
badBanda languagesmicMi'kmaq; Micmac
baiBamileke languagesminMinangkabau
bakBashkirmisUncoded languages
balBaluchimac (B), mkd (T)Macedonian
bamBambaramkhMon-Khmer languages
banBalinesemlgMalagasy
baq (B), eus (T)BasquemltMaltese
basBasamncManchu
batBaltic languagesmniManipuri
bejBeja; BedawiyetmnoManobo languages
belBelarusianmohMohawk
bemBembamonMongolian
benBengalimosMossi
berBerber languagesmao (B), mri (T)Maori
bhoBhojpurimay (B), msa (T)Malay
bihBihari languagesmulMultiple languages
bikBikolmunMunda languages
binBini; EdomusCreek
bisBislamamwlMirandese
blaSiksikamwrMarwari
bntBantu languagesbur (B), mya (T)Burmese
tib (B), bod (T)TibetanmynMayan languages
bosBosnianmyvErzya
braBrajnahNahuatl languages
breBretonnaiNorth American Indian languages
btkBatak languagesnapNeapolitan
buaBuriatnauNauru
bugBuginesenavNavajo; Navaho
bulBulgariannblNdebele, South; South Ndebele
bur (B), mya (T)BurmesendeNdebele, North; North Ndebele
bynBlin; BilinndoNdonga
cadCaddondsLow German; Low Saxon;
caiCentral American Indian languagesnepNepali
carGalibi CaribnewNepal Bhasa; Newari
catCatalan; ValencianniaNias
cauCaucasian languagesnicNiger-Kordofanian languages
cebCebuanoniuNiuean
celCeltic languagesdut (B), nld (T)Dutch; Flemish
cze (B), ces (T)CzechnnoNorwegian Nynorsk; Nynorsk, Norwegian
chaChamorronobBokmål, Norwegian; Norwegian Bokmål
chbChibchanogNogai
cheChechennonNorse, Old
chgChagatainorNorwegian
chi (B), zho (T)ChinesenqoN'Ko
chkChuukesensoPedi; Sepedi; Northern Sotho
chmMarinubNubian languages
chnChinook jargonnwcClassical/Old Newari; Classical Nepal Bhasa
choChoctawnyaChichewa; Chewa; Nyanja
chpChipewyan; Dene SulinenymNyamwezi
chrCherokeenynNyankole
chuChurch Slavic; Old Slavonic; Church Slavonic; Old BulgariannyoNyoro
chvChuvashnziNzima
chyCheyenneociOccitan (post 1500)
cmcChamic languagesojiOjibwa
cnrMontenegrinoriOriya
copCopticormOromo
corCornishosaOsage
cosCorsicanossOssetian; Ossetic
cpeCreoles and pidgins, English basedotaTurkish, Ottoman (1500-1928)
cpfCreoles and pidgins, French-basedotoOtomian languages
cppCreoles and pidgins, Portuguese-basedpaaPapuan languages
creCreepagPangasinan
crhCrimean Tatar; Crimean TurkishpalPahlavi
crpCreoles and pidginspamPampanga; Kapampangan
csbKashubianpanPanjabi; Punjabi
cusCushitic languagespapPapiamento
wel (B), cym (T)WelshpauPalauan
cze (B), ces (T)CzechpeoPersian, Old (ca.600-400 B.C.)
dakDakotaper (B), fas (T)Persian
danDanishphiPhilippine languages
darDargwaphnPhoenician
dayLand Dayak languagespliPali
delDelawarepolPolish
denSlave (Athapascan)ponPohnpeian
ger (B), deu (T)GermanporPortuguese
dgrDogribpraPrakrit languages
dinDinkaproProvençal, Old (to 1500); Occitan, Old (to 1500)
divDivehi; Dhivehi; MaldivianpusPushto; Pashto
doiDogriqaa-qtzReserved for local use
draDravidian languagesqueQuechua
dsbLower SorbianrajRajasthani
duaDualarapRapanui
dumDutch, Middle (ca.1050-1350)rarRarotongan; Cook Islands Maori
dut (B), nld (T)Dutch; FlemishroaRomance languages
dyuDyularohRomansh
dzoDzongkharomRomany
efiEfikrum (B), ron (T)Romanian; Moldavian; Moldovan
egyEgyptian (Ancient)rum (B), ron (T)Romanian; Moldavian; Moldovan
ekaEkajukrunRundi
gre (B), ell (T)Greek, Modern (1453-)rupAromanian; Arumanian; Macedo-Romanian
elxElamiterusRussian
engEnglishsadSandawe
enmEnglish, Middle (1100-1500)sagSango
epoEsperantosahYakut
estEstoniansaiSouth American Indian languages
baq (B), eus (T)BasquesalSalishan languages
eweEwesamSamaritan Aramaic
ewoEwondosanSanskrit
fanFangsasSasak
faoFaroesesatSantali
per (B), fas (T)PersianscnSicilian
fatFantiscoScots
fijFijianselSelkup
filFilipino; PilipinosemSemitic languages
finFinnishsgaIrish, Old (to 900)
fiuFinno-Ugrian languagessgnSign Languages
fonFonshnShan
fre (B), fra (T)FrenchsidSidamo
fre (B), fra (T)FrenchsinSinhala; Sinhalese
frmFrench, Middle (ca.1400-1600)sioSiouan languages
froFrench, Old (842-ca.1400)sitSino-Tibetan languages
frrNorthern FrisianslaSlavic languages
frsEastern Frisianslo (B), slk (T)Slovak
fryWestern Frisianslo (B), slk (T)Slovak
fulFulahslvSlovenian
furFriuliansmaSouthern Sami
gaaGasmeNorthern Sami
gayGayosmiSami languages
gbaGbayasmjLule Sami
gemGermanic languagessmnInari Sami
geo (B), kat (T)GeorgiansmoSamoan
ger (B), deu (T)GermansmsSkolt Sami
gezGeezsnaShona
gilGilbertesesndSindhi
glaGaelic; Scottish GaelicsnkSoninke
gleIrishsogSogdian
glgGaliciansomSomali
glvManxsonSonghai languages
gmhGerman, Middle High (ca.1050-1500)sotSotho, Southern
gohGerman, Old High (ca.750-1050)spaSpanish; Castilian
gonGondialb (B), sqi (T)Albanian
gorGorontalosrdSardinian
gotGothicsrnSranan Tongo
grbGrebosrpSerbian
grcGreek, Ancient (to 1453)srrSerer
gre (B), ell (T)Greek, Modern (1453-)ssaNilo-Saharan languages
grnGuaranisswSwati
gswSwiss German; Alemannic; AlsatiansukSukuma
gujGujaratisunSundanese
gwiGwich'insusSusu
haiHaidasuxSumerian
hatHaitian; Haitian CreoleswaSwahili
hauHausasweSwedish
hawHawaiiansycClassical Syriac
hebHebrewsyrSyriac
herHererotahTahitian
hilHiligaynontaiTai languages
himHimachali languages; Western Pahari languagestamTamil
hinHinditatTatar
hitHittitetelTelugu
hmnHmong; MongtemTimne
hmoHiri MotuterTereno
hrvCroatiantetTetum
hsbUpper SorbiantgkTajik
hunHungariantglTagalog
hupHupathaThai
arm (B), hye (T)Armeniantib (B), bod (T)Tibetan
ibaIbantigTigre
iboIgbotirTigrinya
ice (B), isl (T)IcelandictivTiv
idoIdotklTokelau
iiiSichuan Yi; NuosutlhKlingon; tlhIngan-Hol
ijoIjo languagestliTlingit
ikuInuktituttmhTamashek
ileInterlingue; OccidentaltogTonga (Nyasa)
iloIlokotonTonga (Tonga Islands)
inaInterlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association)tpiTok Pisin
incIndic languagestsiTsimshian
indIndonesiantsnTswana
ineIndo-European languagestsoTsonga
inhIngushtukTurkmen
ipkInupiaqtumTumbuka
iraIranian languagestupTupi languages
iroIroquoian languagesturTurkish
ice (B), isl (T)IcelandictutAltaic languages
itaItaliantvlTuvalu
javJavanesetwiTwi
jboLojbantyvTuvinian
jpnJapaneseudmUdmurt
jprJudeo-PersianugaUgaritic
jrbJudeo-ArabicuigUighur; Uyghur
kaaKara-KalpakukrUkrainian
kabKabyleumbUmbundu
kacKachin; JingphoundUndetermined
kalKalaallisut; GreenlandicurdUrdu
kamKambauzbUzbek
kanKannadavaiVai
karKaren languagesvenVenda
kasKashmirivieVietnamese
geo (B), kat (T)GeorgianvolVolapük
kauKanurivotVotic
kawKawiwakWakashan languages
kazKazakhwalWolaitta; Wolaytta
kbdKabardianwarWaray
khaKhasiwasWasho
khiKhoisan languageswel (B), cym (T)Welsh
khmCentral KhmerwenSorbian languages
khoKhotanese; SakanwlnWalloon
kikKikuyu; GikuyuwolWolof
kinKinyarwandaxalKalmyk; Oirat
kirKirghiz; KyrgyzxhoXhosa
kmbKimbunduyaoYao
kokKonkaniyapYapese
komKomiyidYiddish
konKongoyorYoruba
korKoreanypkYupik languages
kosKosraeanzapZapotec
kpeKpellezblBlissymbols; Blissymbolics; Bliss
krcKarachay-BalkarzenZenaga
krlKarelianzghStandard Moroccan Tamazight
kroKru languageszhaZhuang; Chuang
kruKurukhchi (B), zho (T)Chinese
kuaKuanyama; KwanyamazndZande languages
kumKumykzulZulu
kurKurdishzunZuni
kutKutenaizxxNo linguistic content; Not applicable
  zzaZaza; Dimili; Dimli; Kirdki; Kirmanjki; Zazaki

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