The amount of features and tools in Google Docs is continuously growing, to the point where many schools and organizations have found it to be a suitable replacement for Microsoft Word. While many of the more useful options in Docs are easy to find or learn how to use, there are some other options that you may not even realize exist in the application, such as the ability to translate documents to other languages or change the language that Google Docs is using.
Although we usually use a single language for reading or writing a document, there are times when we might need to translate documents or write them in another language. For example, you might be wondering how to change a Google Doc to Spanish.
Making this happen can be painstaking and complicated with many word processing software and programs. With Google Docs, however, changing document language is fairly straightforward.
In this blog, we will cover how to change Google Docs language, as well as a number of other related topics.
How to Change the Google Docs Language in Your Web Browser
Many Google Docs users will edit or create their documents on their computer, using their favorite Web browser. Whether that means Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or something else, the process of changing the language for Google Docs is the same no matter the browser.
The next two sections will discuss two of the ways that you might need to adjust the language setting for a document in Google Docs.
There are a lot of other changes you can make to your documents as well, such as if you need to know how to make Google Docs vertical text.
How to Change the Google Docs Language Used for Translation
When you want to translate a document in Google Docs, the application is going to make a copy of your document in that new language. This will result in two versions of the document; one in the original language, and one in the second language that you select.
- Open up the Google Doc to translate.
- Choose Tools at the top of the window.
- Select Translate document.
- Enter a name for the translated document,
- Choose the desirted language, then click Translate.
- Wait a moment for your translated document to open.
This file is saved automatically to your Google Drive, so you will be able to find it in there to open it again in the future.
How to Change the Google Docs Language Used for Writing
The Google Docs correction tools, such as the Spelling and grammar check, are only able to look for mistakes in whichever language is currently applied to the document. So if your document is set to the French language, for instance, but you wrote it in English, then you are going to get some strange results when you check the grammar and spelling.
- Open the document in Google Docs.
- Click File at the top of the window.
- Select Language near the bottom of the menu.
- Choose the language to use when writing.
If you are switching to and from Latin languages then you probably won’t encounter many issues. However, if you are switching to a language that uses non-latin characters, then you can find a new button in the toolbar called Input tools. If you click the arrow to the right of that button you can choose from one of the available options for entering characters in that language.
If you want to see which language is currently set to default for your Google Account, you can open your Google Account at myaccount.google.com. You can then select Data & personalization > Language and view or make any changes there.
In rare circumstances, you might run into one or more of the following problems:
- The language settings were not implemented. This can happen if there is a cookie problem with your browser, or if you have an intermittent Internet connection. Try clearing cookies in your browser or checking your network connection, respectively, to resolve either of these issues.
- You cannot find your chosen language in the list. If you want to use a language that isn’t compatible wirth Google Docs, then it’s probably not going to be among the list of language options. Unfortunately if Google has not added a language to Google Docs then you won’t be able to use it for things like the spelling and grammar checker.
How to Change Language in Google Docs on the Android Docs App
The Android version of Google Docs is pretty great, and you can do a lot of editing and writing directly from your phone. So if you need to make the language switch on the mobile app version, you can do so with the following steps.
- Swipe up on the Home screen.
- Choose Settings.
- Select Google.
- Tap Manage Your Google Account.
- Touch the Data & personalization tab.
- Scroll down and tap Language in the General preferences for the web section.
- Touch the pencil icon next to the current preferred language..
- Choose a language, then tap Select.
You should now be able to work with a Google document in the Docs app on your Android device using the language that you selected.
How to Change Google Docs Language in iOS on an iPhone
If you are an iPhone or iPad user, perhaps the easiest way to change the language on Google Docs is to change the language of your device itself. Unfortunately, because the language setting on the iPhone applies to every app on the device, this means that you will be changing the language for the other apps you use, too. However, this is by far the easiest way to change the Google Docs language for the iPhone app, and here is how you can do that:
- Open the Settings app.
- Choose General.
- Select Language and Region.
- Choose iPhone Language.
- Tap the desired language.
- Touch the Change to xxx option.
Your iPhone is going to restart after you make this change, so you will need to wait a moment until the device has turned back on before the new language is active in the Docs app.
How to Change Google Docs Language to English
If you want to type or edit a Google Doc in the English language, then you are able to do so with the steps below.
- Open your Google Docs file.
- Click File.
- Choose Languages.
- Select English.
There are a couple of different English language options, so be sure to pick the one that reflects your geographic location, or the location of your intended audience.
Now all of your document suggestions will be offered with the assumption that your content has been entered as Engish text.
How to Change the Menu Language on Google Docs
While changing the language that Google uses to translate or correct your documents can be accomplished from within a Google Doc, you will need to make a larger change if you want the menu options (File, Edit, View, Insert, etc.) to appear in a different language.
I am completing these steps in the Chrome browser on a laptop computer.
- Go to https://docs.google.com.
- Click the Menu button at the top-left.
- Choose Settings.
- Click the current language. It should be a blue link.
- Choose the preferred language then click Select.
This will update the language used for Google Docs, as well as any other Google services that you might use, like Sheets or Slides.
How to Change Default Language on Google
Every Google service is available in a wide range of languages. This means that you have the option of altering your display language and changing it to a language of your choice whenever you want.
In this section, we will be discussing how you can change the default language for Google through your desktop or laptop Web browser. After you have completed the steps in this section to select a language, then the language you want is the one that will be used when doing things like a spell check or grammar check.
- Sign into your Google Account at https://myaccount.google.com.
- Select the Data & personalization tab at the left of the window.
- Scroll down to the General preferences for the web section and click Language.
- Click Edit next to your langauge.
- Browse through the list and select the language.
- Click Select at the bottom right.
- Select Add another language if you want to add another language to your account.
Note that there is an option to automatically add languages on this menu. If you select that then Google will add languages to your account if it detects them using those languages in Google products.
How to Use Languages That are Automatically Added by Google
Google makes a note of the languages that you use most frequently with its services, and then adds those languages. Whenever a language is added on Google, the browser will label it as ‘Added for you’. You can find and confirm these added languages with the steps below.
- Navigate to myaccount.google.com.
- Click Data & personalization.
- Choose Language.
- Click Save next to an added language to confirm it, or click Delete to remove it.
If Google is incorrectly adding multiple languages then you might have better luck telling them to stop adding those languages. You can turn off the Automatically add languages option to disable this behavior.
How to Change the Language in Google Sheets
Google Sheet contains a formula called ‘Google Translate’. This formula is an easy way to make a note of everything that you already know, as well as all that that you wish to know.
To start, enter one word in any language on any given cell. Next, use =GOOGLETRANSLATE (use the text “source language”, “target language” in the cell) in a different cell. This will translate the word that you just entered. The fill handles (present at the base of formula cells) can also be dragged down to apply the same formula to multiple cells.
Let us suppose that you want to translate an English word into Spanish.
You will start by entering an English word into a cell.
Next, you will enter =GOOGLETRANSLATE (XX, “YY”, “ZZ”)
- XX is the cell location for the cell data ot translate.
- YY is the language that the data is written in.
- ZZ is the language that you want the data translated to.
You can use this formula for every language compatible with Google Translate. Google uses a two-letter code for this. You can find these codes on Wikipedia here, listed under the “639-1” column.
Aside from the formula discussed above, like Google Docs, Sheets has a language setting. In Google Sheets it is called the “default locale” setting which you can find and change with the following steps.
- Click File.
- Choose Spreadsheet settings.
- Select the Locale dropdown.
- Choose your country, then click Save Settings.
Note that there is also a link on this menu for Display language, which will take you to the setting for your Google Account where you can change the language for every Google product you use.
Benefits of Google Translate
While there are some paid translation options that you might find more convenient, useful, or which provide better translation, Google Translate is a worthy translation tool, and is used by a large percentage of the population when they need to translate information to a different language. Just some of the reasons to use Google Translate are:
- Free of cost.
- Makes use of a unique statistical method for its translation database; the statistical method is created through pair frequency of languages.
How to Add Accents to a Document in Google Docs
One of the most important parts of making a good document translation is to appropriately used accents in languages where they are important. For individuals that often type in languages that need these accents, then you are probably familiar with how difficult it can be to type them.
Method 1 – Using Input Tools to Add Accents
Google’s Input Tools allow you to add accents to the alphabets that you use on Google Docs. A couple of the reasons why Input Tools is a good choice for this are:
- You will not have to go through the hassle of memorizing keyboard combinations for each accent.
- If you forget what a particular symbol is called, you can simply draw it.
Here is how you can use Input Tools to type accents in Google Docs.
- Go to ‘Google Input Tools’.
- Choose ‘Special Characters’ (you will be able to view this option on the right-hand side).
- At this point, you will be presented with the following three options:
- Searching for a particular letter.
- Refining the menu.
- Draw your accented letter.
- Choose the box corresponding to your letter of choice, and shut down the box containing the special characters.
- Choose the letter.
- Right-click and select ‘Copy’.
- Go back to your Google Docs document.
- Paste it through ‘Edit’ and ‘Paste’.
Method 2 – Accent Add-ons for Google Docs
There are some Google Doc-compatible add-ons as well. These add-ons were designed specifically to make the import of accented letters simpler. Here is how you can use an add-on to enter accented letters in Google Docs:
- Install any add-on supporting accented letters. There are many options that you can choose from. The add on that we are using for this example is called “Easy Accents”
- Once you have selected ‘Install’, open your Google Docs document where you want to add the letters.
- Select the ‘Add-ons’ tab at the top of the window.
- Choose ‘Easy Accents – Docs’.
- Select ‘Easy Accents – Start’.
- Head to the side panel, find the drop-down menu, and pick a language.
- Place the cursor at the point where you want to insert the accented letter.
- Select the desired button for the accented letter.
- If you want uppercase letters, you can hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while selected the letter.
How to Change the Google Docs Voice Typing Language
If you regularly use the voice typing feature in Google Docs, you would naturally want to know how you can change the language for that. After selecting the Tools > Voice Typing option from the menu in Google Docs you will see a little arrow at the top of the Voice Typing window where you can switch between different languages.
If you would like to add more languages to your Google Account, which can also be used in Voice typing, then here is how to do it:
Setting Multiple Languages in Your Google Account
- Start by logging in to the Google Account.
- Visit ‘Data and Personalization’.
- Choose ‘General Preferences for the Web’.
- Choose ‘Language’.
- Select ‘Add another language’.
- You can now add all the languages that you require.
- You can select the upward–pointing arrow (Google’s language panel will contain this option) and your preferred language will become your default language.
Alternating Google Dictionary Between Languages
If you have multiple languages set up in your Google Account, then you may have some interesting options available to your concerning the various input tools for those languages. One of these options involves the dictionary that Google uses. The steps below will show you how to synchronize the dictionary between multiple languages if it’s an option that is available for your situation.
- Sign into your Google Account.
- Visit ‘Data and Personalization’.
- Navigate to the ‘General Preferences for the Web’ section.
- Select ‘Input Tools’.
- Find your preferred language.
- Choose if you need the keyboard switched for your preferred language.
- Check the ‘Suggest’ box so that Google can add languages to your list if it detects that you are using them.
- Keep scrolling until you find ‘Options’.
- Now, tick the ‘Synchronize Dictionary’ box.
- Choose the ‘Done’ button (the blue-colored button).
If you are working on a document in Google Docs, you need to go to ‘File’ and then choose ‘Language’. You will now be able to choose your required language. After you have successfully made the required settings on Input Tools, you will be able to easily alternate between your chosen languages – that includes the dictionary.
Unfortunately, users who want to make constant changes to their voice typing language will need to make constant changes to their default language in their Google account. This is because voice typing will automatically use the default language. However, as we have already discussed, changing your default language is pretty easy – all you need to do is use the upward-pointing arrow and categorize your preferred language at the time as default.
A Second Method that Relies on Voice Typing
If you aren’t already taking advantage of voice typing on your computer or mobile device, then you should really check it out. It’s surprisingly accurate and easy to use, and it can help improve your efficiency. It’s also a quick way to switch between multiple languages.
- Open ‘Voice Typing’ by going to Tools > Voice Typing, or by uisng the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + Shift + S (Windows) or Command + Shift + S (Mac).
- Click the arrow to the right of the current language to display the complete list of languages.
- Choose your preferred language.
This is a far easier way to make Google Docs write in your preferred language. Voice typing can be an easier and more convenient alternative to traditional keyboard typing once you are comfortable with it, and it does allow you to use multiple languages more easily.
Final Word on Google Docs Language Settings
Whether you intend to use Google Docs on your desktop or laptop, or on your iOS or Android mobile device, you have the ability to choose the language that the application uses for various purposes. This can be an effective way for you to proofread and edit documents in other languages, or to translate your work into a language that is intended for a foreign audience. Whatever your reasoning, it’s useful to be able to find and configure these settings to get the most out of your Google Docs experience.
Matt Jacobs has been working as an IT consultant for small businesses since receiving his Master’s degree in 2003. While he still does some consulting work, his primary focus now is on creating technology support content for SupportYourTech.com.
His work can be found on many websites and focuses on topics such as Microsoft Office, Apple devices, Android devices, Photoshop, and more.