Changing the system language in Windows 8 can be a complicated process, especially if you don’t understand the current language. If you’ve sat down at a Windows computer and found it’s in an unfamiliar language, trying to puzzle out where the language options are located can take a while. This process is now easy and available to everyone on Windows 8 — on Windows 7, you needed the Ultimate edition to do this.
We’ll walk you through the process of changing the Windows system language on Windows, complete with screenshots for every step of the process. If your system is in a different language, just click the options in the same place. How to change system language may be different in different languages, but they’ll be in the same place no matter what your language is. This process also applies to Windows RT.
Open the Language Pane
First, open the Charms bar from the desktop, as seen on the right edge in the screenshot below.
To bring up the Charms bar, either press Windows key + C to open it, swipe in from the right on a touchscreen, or move your mouse to the top right or bottom right corner of your screen and move it upwards.
Click or tap the Settings option in the charms bar, and then click the Control Panel option. It’s the first option you can click at the top of the screen.
Of course, there are other ways you could open the Control Panel — you could also right-click in the bottom-left corner of the screen to open the system tools menu and select Control Panel, for example.
Click the Add a Language option under Clock, Language, and Region. If the interface is in another language, just look for the icon containing a globe with a clock in front of it and click the first option in the list under the heading.
Add a New Display Language
If you don’t see the language you want to use in the list, click the Add a language option — it’s located at the top-left corner of the language list. If the language you want to add is already in the list, you can skip the next few steps.
Select any language you want to install from the list and click the Open button. You can also use the search box at the top-right corner of the window to search for languages in the list.
The language you’ve added then appears in the list. You can now use it as an input language, but note that it says Windows display language: Available for download next to the new language. This means that you can’t yet use it as your Windows language — you don’t have the necessary support on your computer. To download display language support, you’ll need to click the Options link to the right of the language.
Click the Download and install language pack link to download the language pack from Microsoft and install it on your computer. It’s the link with a shield icon next to it because installing a new language requires administrator privileges.
A progress bar will appear while Windows downloads and installs the language pack. After the process completes, you may be prompted to restart your computer. After your computer restarts, log in and re-open the Language pane after doing so.
Set Your Display Language
Select the language you want to use and click the Move up button — third from the left — to move it to the top of the list. This makes it your highest-priority language. As long as the appropriate display language support is installed, it will now be used as your display language.
However, your system language won’t change immediately. You’ll need to log out of Windows and log back in for your change to take effect.
To log off, open the Start screen (press the Windows key), click or tap your username at the top-right corner of the screen, and select the Sign out option. It’s the third option down in the list.
Log back in and Windows will be using your new display language. To change your language again, go back into the Language pane, drag a different language to the top of the list, then log out and log back in. You can follow the screenshots above to walk back through the interface and change the language back to English even if you don’t understand the current language — just click the options located in the same places.
Wrapping Up Your Windows Language
The system language you set only applies to your specific user account, not for everyone who uses the computer. Every user can select their own language of choice in the Language pane and Windows will switch between languages when users log in.
Note that installing multiple languages can decrease Windows system performance. Only install languages you actually want to use. If you want to uninstall a language, you can do it from the Language pane — just select it and click the Remove button.
Do you have any other questions or comments about Windows 8’s support for multiple languages? Leave a comment!
Updated by Tina Sieber.