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You can understand the spoken words of creatures or read otherwise incomprehensible written messages. The ability to read does not necessarily impart insight into the material, merely its literal meaning. The spell enables you to understand or read an unknown language, not speak or write it.
Written material can be read at the rate of one page (250 words) per minute. Magical writing cannot be read, though the spell reveals that it is magical. This spell can be foiled by certain warding magic (such as the Secret Page and Illusory Script spells). It does not decipher codes or reveal messages concealed in otherwise normal text.
Comprehend languages can be made permanent with a Permanency spell.