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LANGUAGE CODES, COUNTRY CODES, AND LOCALES

LANGUAGE CODES, COUNTRY CODES, AND LOCALES

Language and country codes were created by the Organization for International Standardization (ISO). ISO 639, Codes for the representation of names of languages, includes two parts: 639-1 and 639-2. Part 1 defines two-letter codes for 136 languages and Part 2 expands the number of languages included to 460, using three-letter codes. Because most companies use well under 50 languages on their web sites, 639-1 works perfectly well, but keep in mind that there are more than 6,000 spoken languages in the world. The SIL International (www.sil.org) has proposed a comprehensive list of language codes that effectively includes everything. For the time being, however, stick with the two-digit codes.

For countries, ISO 3166, Codes for the representation of names of countries, includes two-digit, three-digit, and numerical codes. In all, approximately 240 countries are represented; the total number is rarely static because countries are often merging or splitting. The most visible use of country codes are in top-level domains, such as www.amazon.fr or www.novell.de; the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) manages the country codes as they apply to top-level domains.


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