My colleague and I recently had a nice chat over lunch. I’m relieved that I’m not the only guy struggling with language codes. I’ve been working on multilingual localization projects for an IT company in the last 13 months, and I still get confused by the 4 sets of language codes. They are used by different teams and systems, sometimes interchangeably. Can you guess what PO stands for? And ABC?
Well, I have to ask for the full names from time to time, although I had a hard time to learn such fancy abbreviations by heart. To make it worse, I find that some languages are not included in these codes. For example, Catalan.
Here ISO 639 comes into play. Maintained by The Library of Congress, the series of ISO 639 standards provide lists of short codes of 2 – 4 letters of language names. They are used for bibliographic purposes and, in computing and internet environments, as a key element of locale data. The codes also find use in various applications, such as Wikipedia URLs for its different language editions. You may also find a complete list of ISO 639-5 in our blog post Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages.