Unknown language

Can any of you work out what language they’re talking and singing in this clip? This is isn’t exactly a quiz, as I don’t know the answer myself. Someone just sent me this clip and asked me if I knew this language, but unfortunately I don’t, so I was wondering if any of you can help.

27 thoughts on “Unknown language

  1. yes, I speak French. it’s obviously asian (tonal qualities). I’m also giving a complete guess but I’d have to say it sounds like khmer or lao to me. (I’ve heard Thai and it sounds similar but with different sounds)

  2. I think it may be a Sino-Tibetan language, particularly something of the Tibeto-Burman branch, because of its tonal qualities and the style of music. Also, one cannot rule out the possibility that it may be a west African language (many are tonal too). Whatever it is, it sounded pleasant and the song was nice.

  3. Sounds like Tibetan music (I have a few CD’s–though I haven’t heard this song). I don’t think this would be west African music.

  4. It definitely isn’t Japanese, unless it’s an obscure dialect, such as Okinawan. My guess is Burmese.

  5. I think it sounds sino-tibetan. Sometimes the speaker’s voice reminds me of a Mandarin speaker, though it’s obviously not Mandarin, and it seems way too different to be another dialect of Chinese. But it sounds like it’s definitely in the same family. I don’t have too much experience listening to Tibetan, but that could explain why the speaker sounds like she could be a Mandarin speaker as well.

  6. A friend of mine took the wild guess of Mongolian. I certainly cannot find any audio that really matches. I personally like the Mongolian idea based on what little audio I could find, but it seems to remind me way to much of a Chinese style language for me to go against it being Sino-Tibetan.

  7. The language sounded to me like some cousin to the Korean and Japanese family. The wonderful twang of the accompanying stringed instrument more or less confirmed this perception that there are both Chinese and Turkic origins at play. I’ve never heard Mongolian before, but my guess lies there.

  8. Mongolian is like Korean and Japane3se. (Mongolian is a turkic language related to Uygur, FWIW.)

    I first though Tibetan as well, given that Tibetan has Fre3nch-like vocalisations, but it is the same family.

    I only have two guesses here, sxince the music clinchede it for me, that it isn’t Tibetan- It’s a related language, yes, and from the Yunnan province of China, where quite a few of the Chinese non-Han nationalities reside. My guesses, then? Naxi and Yi.

    I’m leaning more towards Yi, here, but I think it’s either one.

    The musical style doesn’t resemble any of the SE Asian styles, but the Naxi and Yi do.

    An additional possibility is Taiwanese- Just offering that.


  9. I’ve heard Mongolian- Like Tuvan, it’s related to Uygur, a turkic language, and is polysyllabic. (There’s an Uygur sample in an earlier language challenge, if I recall.)

    Naxi, on the other hand, is closely related to Tibetan, and has a rich musical tradition, as well as two rather unique writing systems. (I’m still leaning towards Yi, though, but I have been wrong before!)


  10. ok all i know is its not korean, chinese, thai, vietnamese, hindu or any turkic(uzbek, azeri, azerbaijani, turkish)…

  11. Listening to the music it sounds similar to what the Evenk have in Siberia. The language doesn’t but the style the same.

  12. I know virtually nothing about languages in China, but I DO know that none of these languages so far have sounded like French— I don’t know exactly what it is that people hear that reminds them of that particular language.

    Ok, so- my guess is that this mystery language is a Chinese language. It’s not Mandarin because Simon would have known. It’s not Cantonese or Taiwanese because those would also be too readily identifiable, plus- there doesn’t seem to be enough tones (I only detect maybe two or three). I’d guess Shanghainese if it hadn’t already been a quiz topic on these boards. My guess is either Hakka or Gan- those are the only two other Chinese langauges that I could think of that would have a population substantial enough to merit having a radio braodcast in their language. I’m probably wrong though. One thing’s for certain, ça ne pourrait jamais être du français…

  13. I’ve been listening to some Tibetan radio, and it does sound a bit like this recording, though it also sounds somewhat like Khmer or Lao.

  14. I know it’s not Lao. I had my wife (who is a native speaker) listen to it and she agreed. I’m also certain it’s not Khmer either. Umm…it sounds like Hmong or a perhaps a similar language to me.

  15. Hehe, I knew people would tell me it was nothing like French. 🙂 Truth be told, I find it incredibly difficult to distinguish languages by sound unless I can recognise words (so on a good day I could recognise English, German and Japanese…). I’m not convinced I’ve got any of the quizes right yet, although sometimes I get the right family!

    Back to the point: I listened to some Tibetan radio and that sounded like French to me too, so I guess I’d support the suggestion that it’s Tibetan.

  16. Actually, I’ve just finished listening to some clips of Tibetan, and I think I’ll have to agree with Nikki. Not that it sounds French (though I did notice some nasal-sounding vowels), but that it’s probably Tibetan.

  17. The spoken bit is definitely Tibetan (Central?)… I’m learning Lhasa Tibetan now, and I recognized a part near the end when they say a time (“at 8:27” – chutsö gyä tang karma nyishu tsa btün la). Dunno what the song is though…

  18. to anyone who knows vietnamese and thai… can u add me to ur msns? i have 2 more clips, i think they are thai and vietnamese but i want to be sure…

    my msn: FIR_Lama at hotmail.com

  19. Bingo It is Tibetan. The speaker must be originally from Eastern Tibet(Kham or Amdo) but in this programme she’s speaking in the dialect of Central Tibet and makes the language sound funnier. She seems like a multi lingual speaker meaning she can speak Tibetan from Eastern Tibet, Chinese and Tibetan from Central Tibet – She has heavy influences of Chinese (Mandarin) in her tonne. I am a Tibetan born and brought up in India and speak Tibetan (Central), Indianises Tibetan or International Tibet which is a hotch potch of all the three major dialects of Tibet, I speak Hindi, English and a bit of Korean

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