NAME THAT LANGUAGE!

This is a fun game; a couple of sentences from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are read aloud in thirty languages and you enter your guesses in the boxes provided. I got nineteen; I probably would have gotten a couple more except that I panicked the first time I couldn’t figure one out and didn’t know what to do, so missed the next couple of samples. (Pro tip: Just move the cursor down to the box for the current sample and skip the unknown one.) If you get one right, it stays in the box and the cursor automatically drops to the next one; if you don’t, it doesn’t. As the game progresses, the languages get harder to identify; when you’ve finished, you can, if you choose, see the correct answers. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. D Sky Onosson says:

    This is pretty cool – my 9-year-old daughter got 7 (and we only really got through about half the list in time)

  2. I got 21. I missed some pretty easy ones in retrospect. Someone on here is going to get 27 or 28; there are a couple of real tricky ones that I’ll be very impressed if anyone gets.

  3. 22/30 – Missed some that sounded quite familiar but couldn’t quite pin down the language

  4. only 16 here – sadly I failed pretty badly at the Slavic and Germanic languages (other than the obvious) but did surprisingly well with the Asian ones, considering they’re entirely out of my area of expertise. The one I was crossest about was the Esperanto, as it wouldn’t have occurred to me that it was a possibility, though it should’ve.

  5. I got 26/40; I missed Bengali, Kurdish, Icelandic, and Turkish. I can’t believe I missed the latter two. :-\

  6. Oops. Typo. 26/30

  7. Michael Farris says:

    28 here bitches.
    I got the language families of the two I missed but couldn’t pin them down in time (got closer with 16 than with 30)
    It’s fun but the sound regulation is bad and I lost some seconds turning the speakers up and down.
    Some pretty big gaps two in geography as it was missing a few languages I was sure were going to be there.

  8. The layout is kind of ineptly executed, but after my third or fourth attempt and a lot of fiddling with the buttons, even I got 16. I would have got several more, but I didn’t know the answers. Incidentally, why did they use Norwegian who obviously hadn’t brought his reading glasses with him?

  9. I got nineteen, though with some I just typed a bunch of languages from the right region and/or language family until I guessed right. (For each of “Norwegian” and “Icelandic”, for example, I tried “Swedish” and “Danish” first.) This approach backfired for “Esperanto”, where I tried even fairly obscure Romance languages (“Sardinian”? “Asturian”? “Galician”?) before giving up — like ella, it didn’t even occur to me as a possibility — and for several others (“Korean”, “Vietnamese”) I somehow had the right general region, but for some reason the right language didn’t make my list of guesses. (Especially odd for Korean; you’d think it would sound nothing like its neighbors, but apparently I have some sort of “East and South-East Asian” grouping in my mental model of languages. I guess I’m only like, half a step up from folks who say “those people” and use their forefingers to pull up their eyes into a slanty shape.)
    Of the ones that I didn’t even have the right region or language-family, I found Greek the most shocking. Somehow I would have thought I would have known what Greek sounded like, but apparently not.

  10. I got 22. I kinda brute-forced Portuguese and Romanian out — each time thinking that it might have been Occitan or Catalan. It dawned to me that the Esperanto is in Esperanto upon closer listening: the accusative -n and kaj for “and” are pretty salient.
    For the losses, there are some obvious Arabic loans in the Indonesian clip — for “right” and “reason”, but alas I tried several “Muslim” languages to no avail. I tried “Persian” and “Tajik” for the Kurdish clip. Alas!

  11. Cherie Woodworth says:

    >only 16 here – sadly I failed pretty badly at the Slavic and Germanic languages (other than the obvious) but did surprisingly well with the Asian ones, considering they’re entirely out of my area of expertise.

  12. Max Pinton says:

    Esperanto and Latin stood out for me (beyond just recognizing them) because it seemed clear the speaker wasn’t native and it would be odd that they wouldn’t have a native speaker for a living language.

  13. rootlesscosmo says:

    16/30. I got Esperanto–don’t ask me how–but, not understanding the rules, kept typing “Swedish” for what turned out to be Norwegian, instead of guessing.
    I too got several of the Asian languages (missed Tagalog) despite not knowing a word of them. Maybe this is because they sound (to my ear) very different from each other, as the Scandinavian languages don’t, together with the fact that, living in San Francisco, I hear most of them, except Japanese, on the bus or in the street.

  14. Despite having no language skills or experience at all beyond lessons in French, German and Latin 40-plus years ago I managed to get nine right: the one I was surprised to recognise was Thai, which is strangely Jungian because I don’t know the language at all, I couldn’t tell you if I’ve ever heard more than a couple of words of Thai and I’ve never been to Thailand, but for the past month I’ve been sharing a flat with a man who lived in the country for many years. and who is married to a Thai.

  15. mollymooly says:

    I recognised Esperanto from “kaj”. So why didn’t I get Greek?

  16. Michael Farris wins the Languagehat Language Recognition Award; congratulation, with a heaping dose of envy!
    Somehow I would have thought I would have known what Greek sounded like, but apparently not.
    Greek is very hard to recognize if you don’t know it; I learned this to my cost on one of my first days at grad school, when my new roommate, Paul Cardile (hi, Paul, if you’re out there!), and I went out to a local diner and started arguing sotto voce about what language the counterpeople were talking. Neither of us could quite make out what they were saying, but he was convinced it was an unfamiliar dialect of Italian and I was sure it was an unfamiliar dialect of Spanish. When we broke down and asked, it turned out to be, yes, Greek. We slunk out abashed.
    Esperanto and Latin stood out for me (beyond just recognizing them) because it seemed clear the speaker wasn’t native and it would be odd that they wouldn’t have a native speaker for a living language.
    Esperanto is a living language; the speaker just wasn’t very fluent, which may be why it was so easy for me to identify (I studied the language many years ago at the behest of my late and much loved Aunt Bettie). I was annoyed the Latin reader was so terrible; getting stresses wrong is infra dig. I’m no Latinist, and I could have done ten times better.
    for the past month I’ve been sharing a flat with a man who lived in the country for many years. and who is married to a Thai.
    You’ve clearly soaked it up by osmosis. Soon you’ll be dreaming in it, and not understanding your own dreams.

  17. Greek is very hard to recognize if you don’t know it
    In my salad days my father had a restaurant whose staff was a veritable Heinz 57 of nationalities. By the time I was in my teens I could swear in Greek, Italian, Quebecois French and Chinese (in addition to English, of course). Somehow I missed learning how to cuss in Russian, Hungarian and German, the other mother-tongue languages of the staff that I recall.
    So, yes, I correctly guessed Greek on the quiz, but my total correct responses more closely resembled my high school math grades than anything else. And of them the less said the better.

  18. Here’s a text-based one!
    http://www.sporcle.com/games/lukebradford/guessthelanguage
    I got 33/36.

  19. I got 24/30 and missed, among others, Greek and Kurdish. I would’ve gotten Persian right, though, but ran out of time before I could type it (the time limit wasn’t really needed though).
    The Finnish speaker had a speech impediment by the way (he couldn’t roll his Rs).

  20. Max Pinton says:

    > Esperanto is a living language.
    I knew someone would point that out. Yes, I suppose so, just like Klingon. Still, I think it’s telling and a tip-off that a non-native speaker did the recording.

  21. The text one is real easy: I guessed on Swahili (it looks Bantu but I don’t know which), chose Norwegian and Afrikaans because Danish and Dutch are already taken, and the other languages are readily recognizable.

  22. Yeah, the text one is easy. A nice ego-boost after the audio one.
    (But even in the text version, there was one I couldn’t get: Kurdish. The ş made me think of Turkic languages, rather than of languages spoken in Turkey. Silly me!)

  23. Many more language games here

  24. Actually, I hate to be a pedant*, but why is it “Universal” Declaration of Human Rights and not merely “Global”? Or is it universal just in case there are humans camping out on Gliese 581 g or some other Goldilocks Planet and they don’t want to have to change the name?
    * (not really)

  25. michael farris says:

    “I recognised Esperanto from “kaj”. So why didn’t I get Greek?”
    Cause the modern pronunciation is (roughly) [ke]?
    Also, many speakers palatalize the k to some degree so it can sound kind of like [kje]

  26. I’m happy with my 21, even thouvh that was only possible because it gave me enough time to run through the Scandinavian family. Very pleased that I picked Esperanto first off, and that I was geographically close with Tagalog, neither of which I’d previously heard spoken.

  27. Fun! Got 18 right. Wonder how I got Icelandic while missing Norwegian. Also strange that I immediately recognized Arabic and Persian.

  28. slurpdier says:

    What slows the sound quiz down is that it takes a long time to learn the nonintuitive interface. And then you have keep an eye on the timestamps at two different places and switch between mouse and keyboard all the time. Why did they have to glue all those sound clips together? (I suppose they’re from Wikimedia, they could have just embedded them from there.) It should be a table where you navigate with the arrow keys and the corresponding sentence starts playing synchronously, with the additional benefit of being able to shuffle them. Or an interface like a subtitles editor. Trying to be too smart is bad in UI.
    Greek was very easy for me even though I don’t speak it: it’s the language that sounds like Spanish but isn’t. No Romance language sounds as much like Spanish as Greek does.

  29. J. W. Brewer says:

    Re AJP’s not-really-regretted pedantry, maybe the same mysterious reason it’s the Universal Postal Union but merely the World Health Organization? Although actually I was talking to my 9 year old the other day and she was taking the position that the total population of “the world” would go up and down depending on whether there were currently astronauts up in space (who should be excluded from the count). I took the tack of arguing that any such adjustment would be background noise compared to all the births and deaths continually happening rather than fighting about the definition of “world.”

  30. Oops. I see that my attempt at an embedded hyperlink didn’t work.
    Lots more games here: http://www.sporcle.com/games/category/language

  31. I got 11. Greek seemed semi-obvious, but my father is Greek. (He’s ancient, but he speaks modern Greek.) I surprisingly got Mandarin, and Hebrew, though that was something of a guess. I guessed a couple of slavic languages as some other slavic language, but the rest were european languages where I could pick out a word I *knew* in that language.

  32. I kept expecting more languages from around India, and messed up most of the SE Asian ones. Sob!

  33. Fun! I used to play a similar game with my friend, using BBC World Service.
    I agree that there could be a nicer interface, and higher sound quality. But it works. I got 21 just listening straight through the tape, and 25 by going back to a few clips. The one I’m really beating myself up about is Tagalog – I’ve heard it lots’ of times before, but somehow it didn’t come to mind.
    It would have been fun with more languages, although it would have been very easy to put in tons I didn’t know – indigenous languages, many of the African languages. Even the Eastern European ones, I find it hard to separate between Slovenian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian etc. It’s either “Russian” or “some other Slavic”.
    Blogged about this here: http://reganmian.net/blog/2011/03/31/guess-that-language/
    Stian

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