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Comprehend Languages 5e D&D Guide

Comprehend Languages 5e D&D Guide

You can unravel the mysteries of foreign tongues, making communication and exploration far easier.

Whether seeking lost knowledge in ancient tomes or negotiating with strange beings, Comprehend Languages is a valuable tool for any adventurer.

The Player’s Handbook states the following:

Comprehend Languages 5e

1st-level Divination (Ritual)

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: Self

Components: V, S, M (one pinch of soot and salt)

Duration: 1 Hour

You comprehend any spoken language you hear for the duration in its literal sense.

You can also comprehend any written language you come across, but you need to be touching the surface on which it is written. Reading a page of text takes around a minute.

The hidden meaning of any texts or glyphs, such as arcane sigils that are not a part of written language, cannot be decrypted by this spell.

Spell Type – Utility

Which Classes Can Pick Comprehend Languages 5e?

Traditional classes, like the Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard, can freely unlock Comprehend Languages.

All the above-mentioned traditional classes can unlock and use Comprehend Languages at level 1.

No subclasses can freely unlock and use Comprehend Languages.

Is Comprehend Languages Good in 5e?

Comprehend Languages is a very simple yet highly beneficial spell. Most players can only speak up to 2 languages at the start of a campaign (if the DM doesn’t change something).

The vast amount of spoken and written languages in D&D forces players to communicate only with those they understand. Comprehend Languages ignores that disadvantage!

Advantages – Comprehend Languages

Ritual Casting

Ritual casting is uncommon because of its game-changing advantage, especially among higher-level spells.

Casting a spell as a ritual increases the casting time of the spell but doesn’t use a spell slot.

Everyone understands how precious spell slots are when playing a mage, so being able to save some is always a great advantage.


Comprehend Languages has a duration (without Concentration) of 1 hour, which is incredibly long.

To put this into perspective, a round usually lasts around 6 seconds in combat, so you can understand how effective a 1-hour spell is.

Even though it takes around 1 minute to read a page when using Comprehend Languages, it’s better than not being able to read the text. The spell is also very simple, so recasting it shouldn’t be a problem.

Understand Any Language

Understanding any language isn’t just an advantage but an incredible skill that might carry over to a permanent one.

In D&D, learning a language takes around 8 in-game weeks, decreased if the language is spoken in your party and if someone is native to the region that speaks it.

If the DM agrees, you can use Comprehend Languages to learn other languages permanently. There is enough information and a long enough timespan for this to work, so give it a try!

Disadvantages – Comprehend Languages


One disadvantage of Comprehend Languages is its range of self.

Being able only to target yourself is great, but if you could also target others, then it would save them from also needing to unlock the spell when you’re not around.

Note: The range makes sense and probably won’t be changed, as it provides such great utility, and it needs to be balanced somehow.

Material Component

Comprehend Languages has specific Material components, but that doesn’t make them any less challenging to find in the wilderness.

So before leaving your local city or town, try stocking up, as you never know the circumstances of the quests you’re about to take.

Spells Similar To Comprehend Languages 5e

Spells similar to Comprehend Languages are Tongues, Arcane Eye, and Legend Lore.

The spell Tongues is arguably the most similar, as it allows you also to understand unknown languages.

When or How Should I Use Comprehend Languages?

Understand NPCs

In D&D, you’ll likely get someone who speaks the languages you speak when receiving a quest.

There are, however, chances they won’t understand common or any language your party may speak.

When this happens, Comprehend Languages will come in handy. You can listen to what they say and then either respond with a nod or a shake of your head to indicate your final choice.

Ancient Creatures

There are many ancient creatures found in D&D that won’t speak common, speaking in their language.

Even though you can choose most of these languages, the DM might add his flavor into the mix, having these ancient creatures speak their form of dialect.

Luckily, Comprehend Languages is a very encompassing spell, so you’ll definitely be able to understand the creature. The only question is, will you even have the spell?

Note: Try thinking ahead, and prepare potentially useful utility spells like this one.

Use as a Bard

Bards are innately gifted communicators who can quickly turn a heated confrontation into a friendly chat.

If you’re a Bard, you can use Comprehend Languages to understand different situations (if you don’t understand the language spoken), then act accordingly.

In most scenarios, you’ll probably be successful. Nobody can resist a Bard’s cheery attitude, along with their musical skills and sleek comments!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Comprehend Languages the Same as Tongues?

Both spells allow you to understand any spoken language but Comprehend Languages also mentions written texts. There is also an obvious level difference, as Tongues is a 3rd-level spell.

The only downside of Comprehend Languages is that you can only cast it on yourself, while you can cast Tongues on any creature you can touch.

Does Comprehend Languages Work on Deep Speech?

Deep Speech is a recognized language in the World of D&D, so if it’s spoken, someone with Comprehend Languages active can understand them.

Note: Deep Speech is rare, but understanding it can solve a few mixups when your party eventually enters the Underdark.

Final Thoughts

Comprehend Languages transcends language barriers, enabling you to unlock secrets and communicate efficiently.

Whether traveling to far-off lands, delving into ancient ruins, or negotiating with foreign powers, it gives you an edge in a world full of linguistic obstacles.

Your journeys will not only be full of understanding, but you will uncover newfound knowledge you can use on other adventures!

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