The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing Asian Languages on Magic: the Gathering Cards

Hello everyone! Sometimes I get irritated when asian languages are mistaken for other ones. This is a problem in places other than Magic: the Gathering, but I’ve sometimes seen eBay listings listing a Korean card as Chinese. Because China gets more time in the international spotlight, a lot of things that are from other Asian countries are referred to as “Chinese”. But that’s a rant for another place and time. Today, I’m going to provide a guide to recognizing the different asian languages on Magic cards. I’ve been learning Chinese formally for ten years. I’ve also studied in both the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan). As for Korean, I’ve had some exposure and learned it for a few years, although I have forgotten a lot of it. As for Japanese, the internet will be my good friend.


Guess! What language is it?


It’s Korean! Of the Asian cards Korean are most easily distinguished. Korean letters are made up of mostly of straight lines and circles/ovals. Below are pictures of the Korean alphabet.




It’s Japanese! Japanese and Chinese look rather similar to the untrained eye, but they aren’t actually that similar. Written Japanese is composed of several scripts. The Japanese scripts, Hiragana and Katakana are combined with kanji (Chinese characters) and occasionally even Roman letters. You will see that the kanji have a translation into Japanese script located above them. Let’s look at another card:


As you can see, there are kanji in the title at the top, with Japanese script on top of them. Japanese looks very inconsistent due to its blending of scripts.




Last of all, we have Chinese! So, I’m going to explain one thing before I help you learn how to differentiate Chinese. Chinese is written in two different ways: Simplified and Traditional. PRC (Mainland China) uses simplified and ROC (Taiwan) uses traditional. As you can probably glean, simplified Chinese has simpler characters, and traditional Chinese has more complex characters.



If you look closely, the right card’s characters are denser. That card is traditional Chinese. However, this is not a good way to do it, since it’s time consuming and is easy to get wrong. Here’s a simpler trick: in traditional Chinese cards, the commas and periods hover in the center, whereas in the simplified Chinese cards, the commas and periods are lower.


Let’s take a test:


Hope this was helpful to all of you out there!




2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing Asian Languages on Magic: the Gathering Cards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s