Working on Multiple Languages for SharePoint

Topics: SharePoint Tips

Written by Sajin Sahadevan

We have been serving customers across North America, Europe and Far East. Most of our clients have operations in different countries as well. So, the million-dollar question is: Does SharePoint support multiple languages simultaneously? Well, for French, Spanish, Cantonese it should work fine, but for other languages: watch out for the translations!

Before I start, let us understand that there isn’t any single language setting which has control over the entire site. You got to navigate and fix certain features in many O365 assets (Depends on which content you want it to be translated).

I will be writing on how to change the language in SharePoint and Office 365.

#1. SharePoint

  • Changing the default language

The default language is setup by your SharePoint Administrator when the Office 365 Environment is setup. Depending on the region you belong to, the language setup could be English, Spanish, Chinese, French etc. You cannot change the default language; however alternative languages can be setup easily. 

  1. Navigate to Gear Icon > Site Settings > Language Settings (under Site Administration)

SharePoint default language settings

      2. Your default language shows up at the top:

SharePoint default language settings 2

  • Overwrite Translations

This comes in handy when user-specified text like Title, site description can be translated to alternative languages. You just need to select Yes to get it working.

SharePoint Overwrite Translations 

To add an alternate language to the site, follow the below steps:

  • Adding Language to a Site

There are two ways to accomplish this:

  1. Setting up default language while creating a new site.
  2. Adding alternative language to your existing sites.

Setting up default language while creating a new site.

Go to Site Contents, click on the + New dropdown > Subsite.

Creating Subsites in SharePoint

Scroll towards Template Selection language drop down area.

Select your desired language (I have chosen Spanish for illustration purposes). The moment you turn to another language, the items shown in the box automatically changes to that language.

SharePoint Site Language Spanish

When clicked on “OK”, you can see that your newly created site shows up with your chosen language.

SharePoint Site Settings Spanish Page

Adding alternative language to your existing sites.

There’s no way that you can change the default language in SharePoint. All you can do is creating an alternative language to the existing sites. 

To add an alternate language to a site:

  1. Navigate to Gear Icon > Site Settings > Language Settings (under Site Administration)

SharePoint Site Settings

      2. Scroll down to the Alternate language(s) section. Choose a language you want to be added the site. Select OK to finish.

SharePoint Alternate Languages choices

The site will now be translated into a language of the user logged in.

User personal language settings

What you have seen so far is to setup your desired languages at the site level. When alternative languages are setup, the user has the provision to change them from their User Profile/Microsoft Delve.

P.S. Ensure that your SharePoint Admin has added/selected additional languages to make this working.

Case 1: You have only a default language set for your SharePoint.

In this case, your site will always display the default language and unable to setup other languages.

Case 2: When alternative languages are setup in SharePoint Sites.

In this scenario, you will be able to switch to alternative languages. As mentioned above, companies that have both English and Spanish as languages can have English as the default language and Spanish as the additional language. For English speaking users, no changes need to be done on their settings. For Spaniards, sites should be in Spanish and the users need to set their language in User Profile or Microsoft Delve.

Go to your Delve profile:

Delve Profile Sajin

      1. Click on Update Profile

      2.When scrolled to the middle, please expand “How can I change language and regional settings? “.

      3. Click on “here” hyperlink.

Delve Profile Settings 1

      4. In the profile page that opens, click on Language and Region under Ellipsis (•••)

Delve Language and Region settings

      5. Choose your desired language, and select Add.

SharePoint Language settings

      6. Turn Spanish to primary language (use the arrows to move to the top).


      7. Save all and close at the bottom.

SharePoint Language Settings

      8. You will get a pop-up message saying that it might take a while for changes to take effect.

Profile Changes SharePoint

It should take an hour’s time to get it done.

#2. Office 365

Let’s check out the next best way to work on multiple languages. The above steps help you to change languages for your SharePoint and no other O365 apps like Delve, Planner, Stream etc. Don’t worry, it’s very simple to do!

Click on your name at the right-hand side top of the browser. This time, instead of clicking on My Profile, select My account.

office 365 settings

Go to settings as shown in the image below:

Office 365 Settings - Language and time zone

Select Language and time zone. Select your desired language and time zone. Click Save. 

Office 365 Admin Center in Spanish

Office 365 Admin Center translated into Spanish

Well, that’s it from my side. What are you waiting for? Give it a try today and let your employees know that SharePoint and Office 365 supports many languages!

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