Here’s how to change the language on your Mac

If your native language is different from the one your Mac shipped with, or if you speak multiple languages and want to use a different one, you can change it. There are two parts to changing the language. The first is to change the language used by the system – menus, dialog boxes, etc. And the other is to change the keyboard to output the characters you want to use in your chosen language. Bear in mind that changing the keyboard may mean that the characters that appear on the screen when you press a key may be different from those printed on the keycap. Here’s how to change the language on your Mac.

How to remove unneeded language files

When you install some applications on your Mac they will install files for every language they support. As you can imagine, once you’ve installed a few of these applications, the unnecessary language files can take up lots of room, several gigabytes in fact. The good news is that there is an easy way to remove them, using CleanMyMac X.

CleanMyMac X’s System Junk module tracks these language files and allows you to select which ones you want to remove.

CleanMyMac X - Language files in System Junk module

  1. Download CleanMyMac X, install and launch the app.
  2. Choose System Junk, then press Scan.
  3. When it’s scanned your Mac, click Review Details, then check the box next to Language Files.
  4. Uncheck any languages you don’t want to remove.
  5. Press Clean.

How to switch language on your Mac

How to switch the language on Mac

The first step is to change the system language.

  • Click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.
  • Select the Language & Region pane.
  • Click General.
  • If the language you want to add is in the Preferred languages list, select it.
  • If the language you want is not in the list, click the ‘+’ and choose it from the list. Press Add.
  • Quit System Preferences.

There are a couple of things to note. When you choose a language from the list in Step 5, you’ll notice a line separating two groups of languages. The group at the top is languages that are fully supported, and that will be displayed in menu items, dialog boxes, as well as on some websites and apps that support them. Languages below the line aren’t fully supported by macOS but may be supported by websites and apps you use. The second thing to note is that when you choose a language that isn’t fully supported, macOS will refer to the next language in the list of Preferred languages to display text in menus and dialog boxes. If that language is not supported, it will look at the next one, and so on.

How to change the keyboard language on your Mac

How to change the keyboard language on Mac

Now that we’ve changed the system language so that menus, dialog boxes, websites, and apps display in the language you’ve chosen, it’s a good idea to change the keyboard settings to match that language. If you’re going to spend a lot of time working in a language different from the one shipped with your Mac, it’s a good idea to use an external keyboard designed for that language. That will mean that currency labels and other characters specific to that language will be displayed on the keycaps and appear on the screen when you press the key.

Here’s how to change the keyboard language on your Mac.

  1. Click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.
  2. Select the Keyboard pane and then the Input Sources tab.
  3. If the language you want to use is not displayed in the sidebar, press the ‘+’.
  4. Select the language you want from the menu. You will see the on-screen keyboard in the window change to match your selection.
  5. Press Add.
  6. Select the language in the sidebar.
  7. Make sure the Show Input Sources in the Menu Bar box is checked.
  8. Quit System Preferences.

Now that the Input Sources selector is in the menu bar, you can switch keyboard languages by clicking on the menu bar item and choosing the language you want.

Did you know?

If you visit a website that’s in a language you don’t understand, you can now translate it in Safari, without having to visit Google Translate. Here’s how to use it. 

  • Navigate to the web page in Safari. 
  • If Safari can translate the page, you’ll see ‘Translation available’ in the toolbar. 
  • Click on the speech bubbles icon at the right of the address bar. 
  • If you don’t see the language you want to translate to in the list of languages that appears, click Preferred Language. 
  • You will be taken to the Language & Region System Preferences pane. Use the ‘+’ to choose a new language. 
  • Press Add. 
  • The language should now appear in the list. Select it to translate the web page. 

If there is no translation available in Safari, you can still go to translate.google.com and paste in the URL of the page. It will then translate it for you.

Changing the language on your Mac isn't difficult, but there are a number of things you need to think about. These are the language in which menus and dialogs are displayed, the languages used by applications you run, the keyboard's language when you press keys, and the characters shown on the keycaps. To completely change the language on your Mac, you may need to change all of those things. Follow the steps above to do that; you will easily switch back and forth between languages.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.