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How to change the language on Windows Phone 8.1

Have you ever held a Windows Phone device 8.1 with a language you didn't understand? Perhaps you purchased a device overseas, or someone accidentally changed your settings. I tried setting up a new Lumia 535 over the weekend, but it came out of the box with the Chinese language. Going through the menu was difficult, but I eventually found a way to change the language to something I understand. Want to know how I did it? Watch our quick how-to video.

  1. Go to settings. You can reach this by swiping down from the top of the display and tapping the gear icon on the right.
  2. Scroll down and look for language. If you do not recognize any of the menu items, there's a nice trick. Look for the time zone. It looks something like UTC -6:00. Language is the second item below that.
  3. Tap the plus sign
  4. Select your language and tap the check button at the bottom.
  5. Tap the button above the list of languages to restart the phone.
  6. Navigating through the menus should now be more manageable since it is now in a language you recognize. Next step is to go to settings, and then region. Select your country/region, and the regional format, and then tap the restart button.
  7. You may also want to take a look at the keyboard settings. Does it have your preferred language? Do you want to add another language? Check in settings - keyboard.

That's it! There are other ways to solve this problem like using another Windows Phone device with the built-in Bing Vision to translate the menus, or using apps like Bing Translator. Following the steps above is much faster and does not require another device.

Have you found yourself in this situation? How did you solve it? Let us know in the comments.

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

62 Comments
  • Seriously, if someone can't change the language, he shouldn't even have a smartphone.
  • Not everyone can read Chinese. I can't.
  • I agreed, also we have to notice the fact that Windows Phone doesn't have icons on settings, so it's more difficult to find out which is the languaje menu, so this tutorial is very helpful for those who aren't polyglots XD
    Thanks Mark Guim :)
  • When accidentally hit the wrong language I was like "#(%(H;"#($!! Lol. Thanks for putting this up Mark!
  • Bro, do you even read?
  • people moving over from iOS and Android may not be familiar with how to change Language settings on the Windows Phone platform. The guys at Windows Central do an amazing job covering news stories for existing WP users like myself, and the occasional help article for new users (as I was 2yrs ago) helps welcome them into the Windows community.
  • This article is obviously for those who are new to smartphones or first time using a phone. Language is always under Settings regardless of different platforms. Even if you're using a Nokia 3310, it's still under settings.
  • In my Lumia 620 it's impossible to change language, when I change it and close the window, it always reverts back. That's the reason I could never test cortana. However I can change keyboard language and region without problem.
  • Add language, restart
    Add region, restart
    Add keyboard, add speech and finally restart, Cortana should then be visible if available.
  • After 3rd restart, recharge the battery.
  • Don't forget to restart phone after changing language. You may have to download language if it is not already installed
  • Then I dare you to change yours to Japanese, Chinese, Russian, or whatever language that doesn't use Latin, and see if you can get your head around.
  • Hey, you should ask someone like me, it's traditional Chinese.
  • It's simplified Chinese, <rude comment removed by mod>. Can't even recognize your own language? 250 笨蛋
  • Perhaps before the name-calling, you should learn to read first.  What?  Can't even recognize your own language character set?
  • Seriously?....
  • Sorry, that says Hong Kong (and thus Traditional Chinese)
  • Actually....it's Traditional Chinese 繁體中文,
  • No... It is clearly traditional 繁體字
  • 哎,睇来啲鬼佬都系冇几个睇得明中文啊。咁嘅野都好摞出来当篇新闻讲……
  • I wish Windows Phone could handle different languages at once, especially on the fly. This could be very beneficial for people who speak more than one language. Say, you could speak to Cortana in different languages (primary languages you could set in settings). iOS does it pretty well with Siri and it does not need to restart the phone. Just an idea.
  • I agree, this would be a useful feature, and it would be nice to see Cortana handling different languages at once, like if you were in a foreign country talking to a local person...
  • I had to restart TWICE just to change the language and region!
  • I agree. I don't want my phone in English because I'm learning Chinese. But when I set it to Chinese, region-specific things like Cortana and Here Drive don't work.
  • Yeah, even I don't understand Chinese
  • The language setting is always the second item below the time zone? I didn't know that, I thought they were placed randomly.
  • Your comment reminded me of this LOL http://mynokiablog.com/2014/09/02/how-the-windows-phone-settings-menu-was-designed/
  • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA
  • LOL I followed the link and thought I would read a serious article.
  • I thought they were based on order of last update.
    In any case, the settings menu desperately needs a better organizational system. It's chaos right now. If one of those MS employees read this, makes sure this is fixed for Windows 10!
  • I did feedback about the settings page. Yes its a mess! MS should at least strange in alphabetical order. Easy to search like the second page/ "all apps page". Maybe they will organize before they launch the Windows Phone 10..maybe? I hope!
  • very useful tips....
  • ki hau....
  • We did it sometimes for fun if someone was a tiny bit careless with his phone :)
  • Bahut zabardast!
  • Always good to know
  • very useful.....
  • Wouldn't it be less aggravating to just flash it with a localized rom
  • Blue HD wont let me remove USA English
  • I think that Language Settings should be the first thing we see when configuring a smartphone. Just a list of possible languages, then after selecting the desired one, the rest of the process will use that language. Even my Palm Pilot had that capability. Sometimes I feel that technology never learns from the past. All the time we see how modern devices are excluding cool things that previous generations had. That sucks!!!  
  • How to revolutionize windows phone
  • Good question...
  • Easier way is to search "language" It works in any language.
  • Was thinking the same...
  • I am glad that I know 2 of the most used languages in the world!
  • LOL
  • ".. Someone accidentally changed your settings."
    Heh I kinda doubt it is possible to change WP language settings. Most people cannot even find it, and request to restart the device is kind of a giveaway too.
  • Whenever I restart my phone the Hebrew keyboard is added !! How can I stop this?
  • Has na HD
  • Helpful article :)
  • Flash it and select language at the beginning tutorial..voila
  • American English.
  • 国内的投稿吗难道是…
  • Hey, I'm Hong Konger. I know how to read traditional Chinese but not the simplify Chinese.
  • I'm American and I'm learning the traditional characters because they are actually easier to learn for me. The simplified characters have a lot taken out and the meaning is confusing sometimes
  • You only have to hard reset your phone and the language issue comes back. So remember whatever you do the first time.
  • Good tip! I remember the language setting being erroneously removed from my AT&T L920. You could only choose between English and Spanish which goes to show how much retardation is involved in the carrier exclusivity process. This among other reasons was why I swore off US carrier Lumias and made it a point to get my L830 and L1520 internationally.
  • Hello, noticed the "USB" ?
  • Really? Google change language Lumia Blah?
  • Microsoft should think of a welcome settings tour like on Android or iOS, where you are invited to set up your language, account etc.
  • Microsoft doean't think like that. they presume, in many cases, that the language of the location is the only one to use. Take Xbox 360, fo example. When in the Japanese username, the language on the console items are just for Japanese. There is lots of English, but there is never the assumption that someone of another language, might use the console in the whatever country. It is part of what keeps MS down and out internationally and in the States. Take an Apple MacBook out of the box and you set the language - completely independent of location. Want your iPhone in English even in Japan. You got it. I do have my phone set for a different region and use English, but do keep the Japanese Keyboards installed. It is interesting as my old 920 was flashed to a French ROM when waiting for Amber. On a reset, everything of course went to french - keyboards, language, and installed apps. To illustrate the problem, I accidentally on a reset put the phone into Japanese. As noted above, even though I installed English, each time I restarted the phone defaulted to Japanese. I had to have a Japanese colleague look at the menu items to let me know I actually had to move up, and then delete the Japanese. A restart then took me into the correct language.
  • I cant change the language like this is there any app for that ?