Switch between different languages by using the Language bar

Use the Language bar to switch between languages that use different keyboard layouts. When you switch a language by using the Language bar, the keyboard layout changes to the native keyboard for that language.

Use the Language bar when you:

  • Want to switch between a Latin-based language (English, Spanish, or French) and a non-Latin-based language (Arabic or Chinese).
  • Want to switch between non-Latin-based languages (Greek or Russian).
  • Prefer to use native keyboard layouts when typing in different Latin-based languages.

If you only want to type in Latin-based languages, such as English and Spanish, by using the same keyboard layout for all languages, you can use the same keyboard layout to type your text. You can type special characters that are used in different languages, such as é or ñ, by typing in the ASCII characters codes. For more information, see Insert ¢, £, ¥, ®, and other characters not on the keyboard. After you type your text, you can set the proofing language to identify sections of text that are in a different language. For more information on the Language bar, see Language bar (overview).

What do you want to do?


Switch between languages using the Language bar

You must enable the keyboard layout for two or more languages in the Windows operating system before you can see and use the Language bar. If you have not enabled the keyboard layouts for the languages that you want to use, enable them now following the steps in Enable keyboard layouts for different languages. In most cases, when you enable a keyboard layout, the Language bar automatically appears in the taskbar or appears on the desktop. If the Language bar does not automatically appear after you enable a keyboard, see the Where is the Language bar? section.

  1. After you have enabled both the keyboard language that you want and the Language bar, open your document and place the cursor in the document where you want to start to type text in a different language.
  2. Click the language icon English keyboard indicator on the Language bar, and then click the language that you want to use.

Keyboard shortcut  To switch between keyboard layouts, press ALT+SHIFT.

 Note    The English keyboard indicator icon is an example; it shows that English is the language of the active keyboard layout. The actual icon shown on your computer depends on the language of the active keyboard layout.

If you have set up more than one keyboard layout for a single language, you can switch between layouts by clicking the keyboard layout icon Sample Language bar keyboard indicators on the Language bar, and then clicking the keyboard layout that you want to use. The name on the indicator changes to reflect the active keyboard layout.

  1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to switch between different languages.

 Tip    You can see the language of the proofing tools the program is using by looking in the program's status bar. The status bar is only available in the following Microsoft Office programs: PowerPoint, Visio, and Word. To turn on this option, right-click the status bar Status bar, and then click Language. When this option is turned on, you can click this segment of the status bar to show the Language dialog box and set the language of the selected text.

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Where is the Language bar?

In most cases, the Language bar automatically appears on your desktop or in the taskbar after you enable two or more keyboard layouts in the Windows operating system. You cannot see the Language bar if it is hidden or only one keyboard layout is enabled in the Windows operating system. For detailed information about how to enable keyboard layouts, see Enable keyboard layouts for different languages.

If you don't see the Language bar, do the following:

Check to see if the Language bar is hidden

ShowIn Windows 7

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Under Clock, Language, and Region, click Change keyboard or other input methods.
  3. In the Region and Language dialog box, click Change keyboards.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, click the Language Bar tab.

Text Services and Input Languages dialog box

  1. Under Language Bar, check if the Hidden option is clicked. If it is, click either Floating on Desktop or Docked in the taskbar. If Floating on Desktop or Docked in the taskbar is already clicked, see Enable a keyboard layout.

ShowIn Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Under Clock, Language, and Regional Options, click Change keyboard or other input methods.
  3. In the Regional and Language Options dialog box, click Change keyboards.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, click the Language Bar tab.

Text Services and Input Languages dialog box

  1. Under Language Bar, check if the Hidden option is clicked. If it is, click either Floating on Desktop or Docked in the taskbar. If Floating on Desktop or Docked in the taskbar is already clicked, see Enable a keyboard layout.

ShowIn Windows XP

  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and click Control Panel.
  2. Click Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options, click Regional and Language Options, and then click Add other languages.
  3. In the Regional and Language Options dialog box, click the Languages tab, and then click Details.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, click the Language Bar button.
  5. On the Language Bar Settings dialog box, check if the Show the Language bar on the desktop is selected. If the option is not selected, select it and click OK. The Language bar should show on the desktop. If the option is already selected, click Cancel and see Enable a keyboard layout.

    Text Services and Input Languages dialog box


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Enable a keyboard layout

The Language bar will only appear when two or more keyboard layouts are enabled in your Windows operating system.

After you select a language from the language list, you might have to enable a keyboard layout if it says Not enabled.

ShowIn Windows 7

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Under Clock, Language, and Region, under Region and Language, click Change keyboards or other input methods.
  3. In the Region and Language dialog box, on the Keyboards and Languages tab, click Change keyboards.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language, and then go to Change the keyboard language with the Language bar.

Text Services and Input Languages dialog box

If the language that you want to use as the default input language is not listed, complete Steps 5 through 8.

  1. Under Installed services, click Add.
  2. Expand the language that you want to use as the default input language, and then expand Keyboard.
  3. Select the check box for the keyboard or Input Method Editor (IME) (IME: A program that enters East Asian text (Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) into programs by converting keystrokes into complex East Asian characters. The IME is treated as an alternate type of keyboard layout.) that you want to use, and then click OK. The language is added to the Default input language list.

To preview the keyboard layout, click Preview.

Add Input Language dialog box with Russian keyboard

  1. Under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language.

ShowIn Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Under Clock, Language, and Region, click Change keyboards or other input methods.
  3. In the Regional and Language dialog box, on the Keyboards and Languages tab, click Change keyboards.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language, and then go to Change the keyboard language with the Language bar.

Text Services and Input Languages dialog box

If the language that you want to use as the default input language is not listed, complete Steps 5 through 8.

  1. Under Installed services, click Add.
  2. Expand the language that you want to use as the default input language, and then expand Keyboard.
  3. Select the check box for the keyboard or Input Method Editor (IME) (IME: A program that enters East Asian text (Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) into programs by converting keystrokes into complex East Asian characters. The IME is treated as an alternate type of keyboard layout.) that you want to use, and then click OK. The language is added to the Default input language list.

To preview the keyboard layout, click Preview.

Add Input Language dialog box with Russian keyboard

  1. Under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language, and then go to Change the keyboard language with the Language bar.

ShowIn Windows XP

To enable keyboards for languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, you must first install the East Asian language files. For languages that are read from right to left or that require contextual shaping to appear, you must install the complex scripts to support these languages. For information about how to install the East Asian Language files and complex scripts, see Enable system support for East Asian, Southeast Asian, Indic, and right-to-left languages.

  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options, and then click Regional and Language Options.
  3. In the Regional and Language Options dialog box, click the Languages tab, and then under Text services and input languages, click Details.
  4. In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language, and then go to Change the keyboard language with the Language bar.

Text Services and Input Languages dialog box

If the language that you want to use as the default input language is not listed, complete Steps 5 through 7.

The default language that you select is applied to all programs on your computer that use this setting, including programs from other companies.

  1. Under Installed services, click Add.
  2. In the Add Input Language dialog box, click the language that you want from the Input language list, and then click OK.
  3. Under Default input language, click the language that you want to use as the default language.

For more information on the keyboard layout "Not enabled" message, see What does Not enabled or Not installed mean? To get more information about how to enable a keyboard layout, see Enable keyboard layouts for different languages.

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Learn More

 Note    To change the proofing language of text, even if you are just changing the location, for example, from English (U.S.) to English (New Zealand), see Switch between different languages by setting the proofing language.

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