Mysterious note at the United Nations

Location: UN headquarters
Date: Unknown

You have just had a presentation on world wide economic reform which would be enforced by the UN. It felt good! The presentation had gone well, really well. The UN assembly could be so intimidating at times. Not even one hiccup on your part!

You have gathered up your papers and material and are walking to your office. There are two people walking in front of you, you think you recognize them from your presentation. One of them drops a folded note on the floor behind them. You pick it up:

[Clues below]

zero einn deux*-tri-ثلاثة* ຫ້າ-sest เจ็ด-átta neun-hiç
หนึ่ง-zwei* तीन-négy-semmus-shídà επτά-आठ-nouv cero*uno สอง-þrír fā five*
sest sept-kaheksa nine zero-واحد* สอง-þrír quatre-ხუთი
sest sieben-osem-neuf* noa jedan-ሁለት तीन fyra-cinco*-ስድስት Șapte-ثمانية*
níu-zero*-üks dois*-tre cuatro*-पंज, seis*-sette ocho*-nine* zero-አንድ dos*-तीन
four*-cinco* ຫົກ sept
eight-nueve ສູນ uno*-dva-três*

What is this? You look up, they're gone. Very suspicious! Note-passing is strictly forbidden at the UN. What country could they even be from, no, you know, it must be a code message!

You know many languages but this just seem like a mess. There seem to be a hard to read scribble on the backside, it says something about the asterisks in the message meaning 'watch out'. You have no idea... Or hold on...

What does the message say?


In a world where languages and countries have a 1:1 mapping there would have been no asterisks in the puzzle. I also meant to take out the asterisks from the puzzle completely but forgot, they are/were meant to be an aid.

  • $\begingroup$ Umm... the Lao in the first line seems to translate to bear, not a number... is this intentional? $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Nov 10 '17 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ Definitely not intentional ^^', I'll try and fix it $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Nov 10 '17 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Also, there is a single comma in the entire message, is that intentional too? $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Nov 10 '17 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ fixed some things if, you took a copy you should update it!, @boboquack The comma is intentional $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Nov 10 '17 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ Is language / foreign language tag applicable for this? $\endgroup$ Nov 10 '17 at 9:33

Puzzle creators explanation of imagined solve procedure for first sentence:

First step:

See that the words in the message is simply counting up from 0 to 9 before repeating. Realize this by general language knowledge without translating anything.

Second step:

Figure out what language the words are. Many but not all languages get recognized by e.g. Google-translate auto language chooser.

zero einn deux*-tri-ثلاثة* ຫ້າ-sest เจ็ด-átta neun-hiç
English icelandic french-albanian-arabic lao-Montenegrin thai-icelandic german-albanian.

Third step:

Figure out what country the language corresponds to. Languages such as arabic can be tricky and must be honed in on with the help of context. Arrive at

England Iceland France Albania ?? Lao Peoples democratic republic Montenegro Thailand Iceland Germany Albania

Fourth step:

Translate to 2-letter country codes with some list e.g. https://countrycode.org/ and construct words as the hyphens suggest.

en is fr-al-?? la-me th-is de-al

Fifth step:

Revise things that does not make sense. First zero is probably Italian so the word becomes 'It'. The Arabic could be Libya 'ly'. Then 'Fr' doesn't make much sense, Reunion has french as official language and with its country code 're' seem to fit.

Which gives the first sentence as: It is really lame this deal


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