You might have noticed short strings of letters next to subtitle languages when selecting subtitles to play with a video. These short strings– like en, es, ru, fr, zh-cn, and others– are language codes.

Language codes allow the files to be read, labeled, and organized as the correct language by online video players.

Why do we need language codes?

We use language codes to mark video, audio, and subtitle files with the appropriate language.

Let’s say you’re a video creator uploading multiple video and audio files which all have different languages. It is important to keep them all organized! Otherwise, your audience might get very confused when they click play. Even just one letter can make a huge difference. Your Danish video (language code “da”) might have German subtitles (language code “de”).

What if subtitles aren’t available in my language?

Amara supports over 300 subtitle languages. We support so many languages because we want to give anyone the power to create subtitles in their mother tongue. And we welcome requests for new languages!

How do I request a new language on Amara?

If your language is not currently available on Amara, you can submit a request. Check this list of Amara’s supported languages before you decide to submit a request.

For your request, you should submit the following to support@amara.org:

  • ISO 639 language name
  • ISO 639 language code
  • Direction: Is your language written from left to right or from right to left?

Further reading: What is the ISO?

The ISO is an independent, nongovernmental organization doing work in 165 nations. The ISO creates standards for many areas, from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture, and healthcare.

It’s called the International Organization for Standardization in English. But, wait, shouldn’t the abbreviation be “IOS”? 

As an international organization, most translations of the name would end up being different from one another. For example, let’s compare the English name with the other official languages of the ISO: French and Russian.

In French, it is the “Organisation internationale de normalisation,” or OIN.

In Russian,  Международная организация по стандартизации (Mezhdunarodnaya Organizatsiya po Standartizatsii) or MOS.

The ISO website has this to say about their name choice:

“Because ‘International Organization for Standardization’ would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek ‘isos’, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, we are always ISO.

Happy subtitling!

About the author

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I am a Product Specialist and Recruiter for Amara. I am passionate about making online content accessible to global audiences!

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