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ISO 639 2-letter language codes

You have probably seen 2-letter codes referring to languages, e.g. FR, EN, DE for French, English and German respectively.

Such codes used to be rather arbitrary (GE or DE or German? DU or NL for Dutch? Is PO Polish or Portuguese, etc.) but more and more companies are now using standardized codes, in accordance with ISO 639.

2-letter codes are covered by ISO 639-1, and are mostly based on the language name in the local language (so it’s DE for Deutsch, NL for nederlands, etc.). The standard also serves to resolve ambiguities like PO (Polish = PL, Portuguese = PT and PO is not used).

Here are the codes for some major languages (actually the ones we see the biggest translation demand for):

Code Language Comments (some diacritics may be missing)
AR Arabic
BG Bulgarian Blgarski ezik (Cyrillic script български език)
CA Catalan Català
CS Czech The digraph cz- is English is odd. It is used in no other word and does not appear in Czech.
DA Danish Not to be confused with the DK used on car number plates
DE German Deutsch
EL Greek Ellinika in Greek – Ελληνικά
EN English
ES Spanish Español
EU Basque Euskera
FI Finnish Odd, since in Finnish it’s suomen kieli
FR French Français
HI Hindi हिन्दी
HU Hungarian Odd, since it’s Magyar in Hungarian
ID Indonesian Bahasa Indonesia
IT Italian Italiano
JA Japanese Another anomaly: Nippon go in Japanese 日本語
KO Korean Han in Korean 한국어
NO Norwegian Norsk, but the literary variety is called Norsk bokmal (NB)
NL Dutch Nederlands
PL Polish Polski
PT Portuguese Português
RO Romanian Româna
RU Russian Russkii yazik (русский язык – Cyrillic alphabet)
SV Swedish Svenska (SW = Swahili)
TR Turkish Türkçe
ZH Chinese 中文 – Zhong wen, i.e. Mandarin Chinese. You sometimes see ZH-S and ZH-T for simplified and traditional forms respectively, though this is not part of the ISO standard.

For a complete list, see for example Wikipedia

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