Pokémon cards were first released in Japan on October 20, 1996. This set included 102 cards and almost immediately skyrocketed in popularity. Soon after, cards were issued in other languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and more. These cards have made their way around the world and into the homes of collectors. What happens when you come across one of these cards in a language you can’t read? How do you identify which foreign language Pokémon cards you have? Is there a way to do this without understanding the language?

Identifying a card in a language that you do speak can be tricky. If you’re just starting out and feeling overwhelmed, check out our Pokémon Card Collecting 101 blog to help with this. There are an incredible amount of Pokémon cards on the market, and more are released roughly every 3 months. Many Pokémon are featured several times over, and with sets like Base and Evolutions, it can be challenging to identify the card without knowing the set symbol.

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For Sean and I, our card collecting isn’t limited to just English, our native language. We have cards in German, French, Italian, and Japanese. We’ve acquired them in various ways over the years, and to correctly identify the cards and post them on Gemr, we needed to know just what it was that we were looking at.

There are three cards at the top of this blog. After you read through, can you identify them? The answers will be at the bottom!

The easiest way to identify a card is to know your Pokémon. This can be difficult because as of the date of this being published, there are over 800 Pokémon and more coming with Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield later this year. When a new Pokédex is released, I buy it immediately and study the Pokémon. I learn everything I possibly can about each one, and I take notes. I enjoy that stuff, but you may be like Sean, where he likes to look things up online and watch videos.

Identifying a Pokémon

Let’s show you how it’s done! The best way to learn is to do!

Use the most straightforward method you can: what stands out about this Pokémon? This Pokémon is blue, it seems to be a fish of some sort, and its mouth is open. Type that into your search engine and look at the images that show up. Your Pokémon will be there and will either have the name of that Pokémon below the picture or it will show up if you click the image.

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We also know that this card is a Japanese card. This card has a number on the bottom right-hand corner. You can search, “Japanese Pokémon Card No. 130” and the image results will show you each Japanese card with the number 130. Either of these methods will help you find your card.

Now you want to know which set this card is from. The set symbol on this card is below the Pokémon portrait on the right-hand side. It is the letter, “R.” Sean and I use Pokecardex, a free app that shows each set in order of release, and each set symbol. A scroll through Pokecardex tells me that this card is from the Team Rocket set done by Wizards of the Coast. You can also do a search of “Pokémon Card Set Symbols” and use either images or Bulbapedia to find your symbol.

All this research on this card has given me this information: my card is a Dark Gyarados from the Japanese Team Rocket set. You now know what your card is and can look for the counterpart in your language to read what it says.

Identifying the Pokémon by Name

You can identify the Pokémon, or you can use an easier method for this type of identification. No matter the language, the cards have something in common: the name of the Pokémon is always in the same place. While pictograph based languages like Japanese are harder to do this with, anything that uses a shared alphabet is much easier! The grass type card above is a Pokémon named, “Papilusion” and the fighting type card is a Pokémon named, “Rizeros.”

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Use your search engine and type in, “Pokémon (name) (your language)” and look at the pictures. The first result showed me that Rizeros is Rhydon in English. Now that I know that, I will move on to the set symbol, the little flower at the bottom right of the Pokémon portrait. Pokecardex tells me that this is from the Jungle set by Wizards of the Coast. With that information and a search, I now know that this card is a German card. The same was done for the French Butterfree, also from Jungle.

There are cards, like this 1st Edition Holo Machamp, and Pikachu, that have the Pokémon name in English, but the rest of the card is in a different language. Again, start with the set symbol. These cards don’t have a set symbol, which means they came from the original set of Pokémon cards, Base Set. The easiest way to identify the language, in this case, is to take a word off the card, put it in your search engine, and add “translate” to the end of it. Now you have your language. Both of these cards are Italian.

Armed with these tools, you should easily be able to identify your cards!

Who’s that Pokémon!

Did you use these methods on the cards in the header? If you did you would know they are a Japanese Greninja from the Premium Champion Set, a Japanese Sabrina’s Gastly from the Gym Heroes Set (Leader’s Stadium), and Japanese Dark Vaporeon from the Team Rocket Set!

We hope this helps you to identify any foreign language Pokémon cards in your collection!

Written by Andrea Norton
Sean & Andrea Norton are obsessive Pokémon collectors, Gemr Bloggers and Gemr Ambassadors. They collect everything Pokémon, which fills their entire house. Their Pokémon Card Collection is at 25,000 and counting. They have three cats; Gemma, Scarlett and Ollie, and three other spirit cats at the Rainbow Bridge; Rhett, Diesel and Tinkerbell. Known as SANorton_Pokemon, they are exclusive to Gemr. They take Litten everywhere and she is the third member of the group! Sean is a US Army Combat Veteran and Andrea is a former Welfare Fraud Investigator. They live in the Fox Valley, Wisconsin, above Andrea's parents, Teri and Joey, who are a big part of their Pokémon Collecting and life. Andrea's favorite Pokémon is Buizel, and Sean's is Greninja. They truly Gotta Collect It All!