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Fun with The Great Language Game
How's your Tagalog?
The puzzle of foreign languages becomes clearer the more you play.
The puzzle of foreign languages becomes clearer the more you play. (Thinkstock)
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f you like languages, you'll love The Great Language Game. Data scientist Lars Yencken was inspired by his love of languages to create a simple game where you listen to a sample of a language, and then have to guess which language it is. The game currently uses 78 languages, from Albanian to Yiddish. It starts with a choice between two languages that are usually pretty easy to distinguish ...

... and gets increasingly difficult as it adds more languages to choose from.

You can listen to the sample as many times as you want before making a choice. Each correct answer is worth 50 points, and the game ends after your third incorrect answer, at which point you will see a helpful summary of the characteristics of the languages you missed.


If you keep on playing (and if you are a certain type of person you won't be able to stop), you will find your ear tuning to subtle distinctions in rhythm, intonation, and phonology. Though you may not be actually learning the languages, you will be learning to really hear the differences between languages, an excellent place to start.

Like Geoguessr, the game where you guess the locations of Google Street View pictures, The Great Language Game can leave you frustrated by what you don't know, but also occasionally impressed by the accuracy of your gut instincts. Both offer a interactive experience with a wide yet detailed view of the world. Hear the details, and get more familiar with the world by playing a few rounds of The Great Language Game here.

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

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