Metadata Input Guidelines: Language

Element Name



The language(s) of the intellectual content of the resource.

Where Can the Language Information be Found?

Language is determined by examining the item:

Item Types Information Sources
For text
  • title page
  • words of the text
For images
  • caption
  • visible words within the image (e.g., a sign in a photograph)
  • text written on the front or back of a photo or image
For maps
  • caption or legend
  • place/physical feature labels
For music scores
  • title
  • lyrics
For videos
  • title screen(s)
  • label on disc
  • container cover
For sound files
  • spoken/sung words
  • information on disc/cassette
  • container information
For computer files
  • title page/screen
  • text

How Language Works in the Metadata Form

1. Language – drop-down menu
Yes - to include multiple languages, click ‘Add’ to repeat the field
Yes - also see more information about required fields

How Should the Language be Filled in?

Guidelines Examples
eng - English
  • Include all relevant languages

(do not include languages that are merely referenced or only appear as single words in text of another language)

eng - English

ger - German
  • For visual images that do not have a textual caption or text shown in the image, choose "no language"
nol - No Language
  • If there are special circumstances or additional information about the language uses of the item, include it in the Note field
Language: eng - English

Language: spa - Spanish

Note: book is printed in two sections, the first in Spanish and the second in the English translation
  • If the language of the item is not on the controlled vocabulary list (or cannot be determined from available resources), choose "other" and include a note in the record. Notify the metadata administrators if the language is not on the list
Language: oth - Other

Note: Language is unknown.

Note: Text is in the Kutenai Indian language.
  • If the only text on the item consists of persons' names, "no language" should be chosen and the text can be described in the content description or a display note
Language: nol - No Language
Note: The name "Bartimaeus" is carved into the top of the box.

Other Examples

French map
Language: fre - French
Laws of the Republic of Texas
Language: eng - English
Photograph of Berlin showing marquees and shop windows
Language: ger - German
Adding machine with a label saying, “Made in America”
Language: eng - English
Landscape photograph
Language: nol - No Language
Audio recording of testimony in Czech and German
Language: cze - Czech
Language: ger - German
Video in Hebrew with English subtitles
Language: heb - Hebrew
Language: eng - English
Note: Performed in Hebrew with English subtitles.
Article in Amharic with English translations
Language: oth - Other
Language: eng - English
Note: In Amharic with English translations in parallel columns.
Proceedings and abstracts in English and Spanish
Language: eng - English
Language: spa - Spanish
Note: Papers presented in Spanish or English with abstracts in English.
Recording of a music recital sung in Italian and French
Language: fre - French
Language: ita - Italian


  • Preferred usage is to utilize a standard schema for language names as defined by ISO639-2:
    • Three letter language codes, followed optionally by a two-letter country code (taken from the ISO 3166 standard).
    • To simplify data entry, the system does not currently support the addition of a country code to the language code.
  • For less common languages that are not documented in the ISO standard, codes will come from Glottolog; undocumented languages may be added to Glottolog according to their requirements.


More Guidelines: