How to Change System Language in Ubuntu

When you first install Ubuntu on your computer, you have the option to change the system language to your preferred language. However if you have set English as the default language and later wish to change to another system language, there is an easy way to do so in the System Settings. This article will show you how to change the system language in Ubuntu.

In case you are wondering, the system language is the language that show up in the menu bar and everywhere in the system. It is, however, not the same as the input language, which is the language you use for typing. If you are passing your laptop to your Dad/Mum/Granny who are not familiar with the English language, you might want to change the system language to one they are familiar with so they can navigate around easily.

In Ubuntu, open the System Settings and launch the “Language Support” option.

ubuntu-system-settings-language-support

You will see a list of languages in the “Language for menus and windows” section. This list contains all the languages already installed in your computer. If your preferred language is in the list, you can drag it to the top of the list. This will set it as the default language for menus and windows. Click the “Apply System-wide” button.

ubuntu-set-default-language

If your preferred language is not in the list, click the “Install/Remove Language” button. This will open up a window with the full list of languages. Scroll down the list to find the language you want and put a check beside it. Click “Apply Changes”.

ubuntu-select-language-to-install

After the installation, you should see your preferred language in the list. Drag it to the top of the list and click “Apply System-wide”. Restart the computer and you should see the new system language in action.

ubuntu-new-system-language

Using the above method will only change the menu and window’s language, but it will not change the input method. For example, if you have changed to Chinese (like I do above), when you type in the keyboard, English characters will still appear instead of Chinese.

To change the input language, simply change the option for the “Keyboard Input” from “Default” to “IBus”. You should see a keyboard icon at the system tray. Click on the icon to switch the input language.

ubuntu-change-keyboard-input

In addition, the numbers, dates and currency format will remain the same even though you have changed the system language. To change the number format to match the region you are at, go to the “Regional Formats” and select the format in the dropdown. Click “Apply System-wide” and restart the computer.

ubuntu-change-number-formats

That’s it.

6 comments

  1. There is a very old problem with language change in Ubuntu. As far as I remember if somthing goes wrong with Firefox and you get it in English instead of your Idioma, it is very difficult to revert it to your wanted translation. Will they ever fix it?

    • What do you mean by “something goes wrong with Firefox”? I haven’t been able to reproduce anything like that. “Will they ever fix it?” – I am not really sure about this as I am not seeing it in my machine. Or perhaps they have already fixed it???

  2. I often install Linux systems for friends and always use some kind of ‘buntu’ flavour. I live in Italy and would like to have firefox in Italian. This is what happens (or better, I presume is the reason): If after installation I open Firefox before running the Language Support Option it will show up in English no matter what I will do later. If instead, just after the installation, I open the Language Option in the settings panel I’m always prompted to complete the language installation due to some missing file. This is strange ’cause the install process clearly states that it is downloading and installing the ‘language files’. When I ‘correctly’ go this way everything runs smoothly

    • I am testing it out on the latest version of Ubuntu (13.04) and it doesn’t seem to have this issue. Could it be the different “buntu” flavour that you are using?

  3. is there any way to change which language ends the list.
    Because I’m trying to set english as the primary language and japanese as the secondary.

    • @Anon, perhaps you can rearrange the language in the order you want (English, follow by Japanese) and see if it works.

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