The Linguistic Diversification of Spam

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Most of the spam that I receive is in English, but I have also received spam in French and Chinese. A moment ago I received for the first time a spam message in Hungarian (a language that I do not understand). I can't decide whether or not to be pleased.


  1. Morgan said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

    For some reason, I frequently receive spam in Hebrew. I wonder at how the Hebrew spam, er, targets people, because I can't even name the alphabet, and you wouldn't think that, statistically, very many other people would be able to, either.

  2. Greg said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

    Checking through my spam folder, I see Russian (in Cyrillic), English, Chinese &/or Japanese, French, German, and Portuguese (I think). And that's just in the last 500 spam messages I've received.

  3. Nik Berry said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

    Having read the post I looked though my junk mail folder to see what I've received today. I have English, French, German, something in the Cyrillic alphabet, Chinese, and Turkish.

  4. Sili said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

    A remearkably inept piece of spam got through the filter today. There's even a standard disclaimer at the end in a language I don't recognise (not that that limits it very much):

    send svar til
    til undisclosed-recipients
    dato 28. jul. 2008 15.25
    subject Congratulation!!!
    sendt af

    $6.8 Million Dollars has been credited in your favor contact my Secretary Miss Linda
    Hills .Provide your Name: Address: Country: Sex: Age: Send to


    Regards:Senator David Mark.

    Bu e-posta sadece yukarida isimleri belirtilen kisi/ler arasinda ozel haberlesme amacini tasimaktadir. Size yanlislikla ulasmis ise lutfen bizi bilgilendiriniz ve mesaji sisteminizden siliniz. Bu e-posta icerigi veya ekindeki dosyalar kisisel ve yazarina aittir. Bu nedenle Eti Maden Isletmeleri bu mesajin icerigi ve ekleri ile ilgili olarak hicbir hukuksal sorumluluk tasimaz ve kabul etmez. /// This e-mail is intended only for the use of the individual/s to whom it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient of the message, please immediately inform us and delete it from your system. Any opinions contained in this message belong to the author and do not constitute a commitment by Eti Mine Works.

    Ah! Looking at the Google Ads (for a change) I think it must be Turkish.

    Heh – this is fun:

    from Jaspart
    til [REDACTED]
    dato 28. jul. 2008 12.42
    subject Bishop sodomizes young priests

    Research show that London is the second capital of India

    All the headlines are in English at the moment, though. How boring.

  5. Trevor Stone said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

    I get a lot of Cyrillic (I assume Russian language) spam and have for at least the last four years. I think most of the spam that my address I only use for Slashdot (an English-language site with email address mangling) has been in Cyrillic. Other addresses have a much lower Cyrillic rate.

    I've yet to notice any spam in Thai or Vietnamese despite the growing Internet population in Southeast Asia.

  6. Bill Poser said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

    I should have noted that I am only talking about spam that got through the filter. The blocked messages are probably more diverse.

  7. Nik Berry said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 2:28 pm


    Yes, it's slightly mangled Turkish. It's missing accents and has dots/ is missing dots on some of the i's

  8. el said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

    A friend of mine constantly gets Russian spam through her email filter. Some friends who know a little Russian said it mentioned 'revolution' more than a few times. Maybe Lenin is spamming beyond the grave?

  9. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 3:08 pm

    I used to get the occasional spam in Hebrew or Thai. Not anymore. I kinda miss it.

  10. mollymooly said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

    I would think that a good default setting for a spam filter for an English speaker would be to block any message in any language other than English.

    Though obviously not the server at Language Log Plaza.

  11. bulbul said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 3:55 pm


    could you provide us with a sample of that Hungarian spam?
    I get a lot of spam in Arabic, some of which even gets through the Gmail spam filter and I used to get some in very bad Dutch and Turkish. Although I do get Czech, Slovak and Polish spam (mostly your standard phishing for bank access info), I can't recall receiving any in Hungarian. Wonder what they're selling…

  12. Joe said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

    I've always wondered if the spam in other languages contains language as badly mangled as spam in English? Unfortunately, I'm not proficient enough in any other languages to determine that, even though I understand some French and Japanese. But I'm guessing the answer must be yes, based on the discussion of mangled Turkish above.

    I do know that they're always trying to sell me "S-class goods" though.

  13. Rob Gunningham said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

    Do you know, it's a very funny thing but I practically never get ANY spam of any kind and I never have. What does it mean when even spammers won't send me an email? Of course I do have a mac and I live in a country that's a bit off the beaten track, but you'd have thought they would have caught on to me by now. What's wrong with me?

  14. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    @Rob Gunningham: Re: "What's wrong with me?": Well for one thing, apparently you don't recognize spam when it lands in your inbox.

    Haven't you ever wondered why you get such useful stock tips from so many old friends whose names you barely even remember?

  15. Ruzsa said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

    Most of the spam I receive is in medical language.

    A-hur-hurr. ;k

  16. Adam DB said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

    Looking through my gmail spam folder just now confirms my previous estimate that 85-90% of my spam is in Japanese (recognition of which is based on its use of hiragana and katakana). Don't know why.

  17. Tim Buchheim said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    I regularly get spam in Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. I just recently started getting some in French. I've also seen the occasional spam in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, as well as one or more Indian languages which I couldn't identify.

  18. Garrett Wollman said,

    July 29, 2008 @ 10:23 pm

    Non-English spam rarely makes it through my filters (I use and have been very satisfied with the CRM114 Discriminator). What has been getting through my filters lately is the "shocking headline" spam, the body of which consists of a single sentence of English text and a URL. Unfortunately, this doesn't provide much for the spam filter to key off.

  19. Guy Boss said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 3:10 am

    I'm feeling very rustic right now because I must be way out in the internet boondocks. What spam I do get is always in English even though about half of my online time is spent at Japanese sites. I did get a couple messages that were supposedly from Russian beauties offering to cure a hitherto unknown case of lonely frustration, but they were in that seemingly universal Spam form of English.

  20. Rob Gunningham said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 4:40 am

    Ran Ari-Gur: apparently you don't recognize spam

    No, but it does. It marks things it doesn't like in an ugly, pale diarrhea-brown that means 'junk', but it never — well, rarely — is. I don't ever get the stock tips, though I occasionally hear from a man in Nigeria who's trying to give me money.

  21. Stephen Jones said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 5:47 am

    You'll only get spam if somebody has your email address or can guess it randomly. If you have a little used ISP then the odds are that few spammers will bother to make random guesses.

  22. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    Personally I prefer responding to spam in other languages. I used to get tons of credit cards offer calls in college, all from the same area code, so I'd always know it was them calling. When I'd answer to phone in Haida or Lakota they wouldn't know what to do. This one guy responded with "Uh…no…no…I'll call back later."

  23. The Ridger said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

    Hmmm. Most of my offers come from born-again Christians widows whose husbands were from Kuwait and who all (oddly) live at the same address: N 38 Rue Des Martyrs Cocody in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

  24. Martyn Cornell said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    Yesterday a comment-for-approval got through Akismet to my blog from someone at the website I still can't decide if this is an example of wacky Russian humour, or someone so arrogant they simply don't care.

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