How to figure out the language of a book?

I sell books(among other things online) and I won a real life auction of some pretty old books but they are in a foreign language

OK I know about this place but my problem is…I cannot read the stupid font well enough to be certain of the letters I am plugging in(I put in a paragraph and it came back as a choice of 60% for about 4 different languages)

This is a page from one of the books

I am thinking this is German since one of the books in the same box looks like it is a religious book from 1869 and the forward is written by a guy from Hamburg(Germany(?))

Darned old style fonts…can’t tell a T from a F or a J

In the future is there a better way of finding this kind of thing out without prevailing on you guys for help?

It’s German, no doubt about it. One way to identify it might be to extract as many words as you can confidently decipher, and then just do a Google search on those words. The results should give you a clue as to the language. In this case, words like ‘auf’, ‘von’, ‘einen’ and ‘machte’ are clearly readable, and definitely German.

It is German. The first paragraph reads: “where it is spring and the mice are coming out of their holes.”

I could probably read and translate more from a better scan.

And the Fraktur font itself is characteristic of old German print. If you’re going to do this kind of trading regularly, I advise a spot of study. Look at a few samples of different languages on the Web. You’ll soon get to recognise the ‘flavour’ of the main ones.

[nitpick]Fraktur is not a “font” but rather a “script.” In the case of this manuscript, it’s a “typeface” (again, not a “font”) based on the Fraktur script. A “font” is a display of all the characters in a particular typeface.[/nitpick]

Point taken!


Thanks for the link…I put it in my favorites(just in case)…my problem was when I plugged in as best I could a paragraph into the language IDer it gave me only 60% for four different languages

Thanks to the rest of you guys too…that font(or script) was giving me fits

I figured it was either German or Czechoslovakian…a lot of both in my area of the woods(Wisconsin)…thinking it was probably German wasn’t good enough not if I was gonna list it at eBay…I had to KNOW

The OP asked about a particular text. But when I first saw the thread title, I took it as asking about language identification in general.

There are visual clues you can spot in each written language that allow you to identify it right off, even when you don’t know any of that language. You can even tell written Japanese from Chinese at a glance without knowing any of the characters.

But nowadays, the suggestion to just google a few words from the text is a good one. A close perusal of clues in the results should reveal which language it is. One such clue would be the two-letter domain code in the URLs. .de=Germany, .lt=Lithuania, etc.

Actually if it was just a matter of the language I would of just done the Googling a few of the words thing but because of the illegible script I couldn’t even do that in this case

That first link I gave in my OP is a program to ID languages and using my best guess as to what the letters in the words were the results I got were inconclusive

Apparently I wasn’t alone in being confused as to what letters were what since someone felt the need to provide a transcription of the letters


From the link provided by raygirvan

There was my problem…30 letters in this alphabit VS the 26 I was trying to transcibe…no wonder I was having fits figuring it out

Up to this time all the books I had to figure out the language to were much easier because for those I could Google the words or use the program to ID the language

Thanks again…I knew this was the right place to go for help

Very, very much off-topic, but Google is a phenomenal tool for language learning. Take a vocabulary list, google the words and see how they’re actually used. It gives you a living context instead of the dry and often not so accurate translations you find in some textbooks.