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How to adjust SharePoint language settings

Posted on August 10, 2017

Hablas español? Parlez-vous français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? No matter what language you speak, you want to make sure you can display SharePoint in your native tongue. Moreover, if you are part of an international company, you want to make sure your SharePoint can support multiple languages at the same time. This post explains how to adjust SharePoint language settings to the desired language of your choice.

First things first: There is no single language setting that controls it all. Depending on where you are and what you want to be translated, you will need to navigate and enable certain settings in various Office 365 assets. So don’t be surprised if this post is all Greek to you  :-)

This post covers instructions on how to change the language in the following:

  1. SharePoint
  2. Term Store
  3. OneDrive
  4. Office 365


Translating SharePoint into a different language involves several steps.

Step 1: Check the default Language

When you just start using SharePoint/Office 365, your top level site (and all subsequent subsites) will be set to a certain default language. The default language of the site is set when the site is first created. Depending on the country you reside in, it could be English, Spanish, German, etc. You cannot change default language on a site once set, but you can add alternate languages (which I will cover in the next step).

To check the default language of your root site (or any site for that matter):

  1. Navigate to Gear Icon > Site Settings > Language Settings (under Site Administration) Languagesettingssharepoint1
  2. Your default language will appear up top SharePoint language settings

If you want to add an alternate language to the site – proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Add a language to a site

There are two ways to add a language to a site:

  1. Set a default language when you create a new site
  2. Add an alternate language to any existing site

Set Default Language during site creation

If you want your site to be in a specific language from the start, you need to specify that language at the point of site creation. Go ahead and create a new subsite:

  1. Gear Icon > Site Contents > New > Subsite Languagesettingssharepoint3
  2. Navigate to the Template Selection language drop-down Languagesettingssharepoint4
  3. Choose a default language for the site you are creating. As soon as you choose another language, template names get translated into the language of your choice. SharePoint language settings
  4. Once you create a new subsite, it will be created in the language you have chosen Languagesettingssharepoint6

Add an alternate language to a site

Since there can only be one default language which is locked (set) when the site is first created using the step above, you might need to add an alternate one. The perfect use case a multi-language work environment (think English and French in Canada) or an international company.

To add an alternate language to a site:

  1. Navigate to Gear Icon > Site Settings > Language Settings (under Site Administration) Languagesettingssharepoint1
  2. Scroll down to the Alternate language(s) section. Choose a language you would like to add to the site and click OK at the bottom. SharePoint language settings

The site will now be translated into a language of the user logged in. Proceed to next step to learn how to set language preferences for a user.

Step 3: User personal language settings

The steps above made the specific languages available at a site level. Which language the site is displayed in depends on whether or not an alternate language has been chosen and whether the user specified his or her language preferences in their User Profile.

Scenario 1: Only site default language has been set

If no alternate language(s) have been added, the site will always be displayed in the default language

Scenario 2: Alternate language has been added

If the alternate language(s) have been added, the site will display default language unless the user who is logged in has chosen the same alternate language in their User Profile.

As an example, say, a company in Canada has a SharePoint Intranet, which of course, must be in both English and French. The default language is English, and French has been added as an alternate language. For English-speaking users – there is nothing extra to do here. For French-speaking users, for sites to be in French, the users must set French as their language in User Profile/Delve. Here is what they need to do:

  1. In the upper-right-hand-corner, click on your name, then About Me Languagesettingssharepoint8
  2. Click on Update Profile Languagesettingssharepoint9
  3. In the middle, expand “How can I change language and regional settings?“, then click on “here” link Languagesettingssharepoint11
  4. In the profile page that opens up, click on Language and Region under Ellipsis (***) SharePoint language settings
  5. Choose the language you want to add, click Add SharePoint language settings
  6. Make sure to make the language primary language (move all the way to the top using the arrows) Languagesettingssharepoint22
  7. Click Save all and close at the bottom Languagesettingssharepoint14
  8. You will get a pop-up message saying that it might take a while for changes to take effect. Languagesettingssharepoint15

It might indeed take some time – up to 1 hour for language change to occur on a site. Go and drink some coffee. You’ll need it to keep reading this post  :-)

It is important to note that if the Site Owner did not add alternate languages in the previous step, the user personal preference language change alone would not do the trick.

Term Store

The above steps will take care of translation of the various menus and buttons in SharePoint, but will not translate the Term Store metadata. Term Store has its own language mechanism. The way it works, you build your metadata terms using one language and then spell out same labels/terms in other languages. Here is an what you need to do to make this happen:

Add additional languages to the Term Store

  1. Navigate to SharePoint Admin Center (App Launcher > Admin Tile > Admin Centers > SharePoint )
  2. Click on Term Store on the left-hand-side Languagesettingssharepoint24
  3. Within the Term store, add additional languages you desire to have available within the term store. Once added, click Save SharePoint language settings

Provide translation for all the terms in a Term Set

Once you added the languages above, you can now provide translations of terms, manually, one by one.

  1. Navigate to the term you want to translate Languagesettingssharepoint25
  2. From the Language drop-down, choose a language you want to translate to and provide translation in the Default Label field Languagesettingssharepoint26
  3. Once translated, the term will now be available in the alternate language when the user tries to tag an item. SharePoint language settings

It is important to note that just like with a SharePoint Site above, for the term to be displayed in an alternate language, two additional things also need to occur:

  1. The SharePoint site where the list or library resides needs to have alternate language added (SharePoint Section above – Step 2)
  2. User must add an alternate language to his or her User Profile within Delve (SharePoint section above – Step 3)


Switching OneDrive to your language is much simpler than SharePoint. OneDrive site collection is already configured with all the alternate languages. So the only thing you need to do as a user is set your language in your own User Profile, using instructions above and you are good to go! Just allow some time (up to 1 hour), as with SharePoint.

 Office 365

No, we are not done yet (I told you learning Greek might be easier!). There is another place where you can alter language settings. SharePoint and Term Store we covered above will get you to translate SharePoint Intranet Portal (department and project sites), but not other Office 365 assets like Planner and Delve. To change the language for those, you need to adjust Office 365 settings.

  1. Click on your name again, but this time, choose View Account Languagesettingssharepoint16
  2. Under Settings, click on Language and time zone Languagesettingssharepoint17
  3. Choose the desired language and click Save SharePoint language settings
  4. Certain (not all) Office 365 properties will now be translated into your language


Example of Office 365 App Launcher translated into another language


Example of Microsoft Planner translated into another language

SharePoint language settings

Example of Office 365 Admin Center translated into another language

About Me

I’m Greg Zelfond, a U.S. based SharePoint consultant, and I provide affordable out-of-the-box SharePoint consulting, training, and configuration assistance to small and medium-sized businesses all over the world.

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