Set Preferred Language for and Office Desktop Client

If you work as an M365 admin for a multi-national company you may get requests from users to change the default language that displays in and the Office desktop client based on the region they are in.

For cloud-only users, the change can be made through the user’s Language & Region setting via the Settings & Privacy option, or through PowerShell.

For users that are synced from Active Directory, the change must be made in the on premises environment by setting the ‘preferredLanguage’ attribute on the AD Accounts. Use this document for a reference of language codes … Table of Language Culture Names, Codes, and ISO Values Method [C++]

To set the preferred language on an AD account, this is what the command would look like for setting the language to Spanish. Replace ‘Username’ with the SamAccountName or UPN of the on-prem user.

Get-ADUser 'Username' -Properties PreferredLanguage | Set-ADUser -Replace @{PreferredLanguage = "es-ES"}


The default value for the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute is not set (blank). And if the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute is blank, by default, the display language in will be based on the user’s location (i.e. country or preferred data location). Therefore, if the value for the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute is blank and the user is US-based, the display language will be English. If the value for the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute is then explicitly set to ‘es-ES’ (Spanish), the display language in will be Spanish.

Now for the rub.

If for that same user, the value for the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute is then cleared (blank or not set), the display language will remain at the language last set — in this case Spanish. Therefore, at this point, the value for the ‘preferredLanguage’ AD attribute must be set to explicitly to ‘en-US’ (English) before the user will see English as the display language in again.

Office Desktop Client

In the event a user wants to change the language that is displayed on the Office client, download the language pack needed and proceed to install. After the language pack installation completes, open any of the Office desktop application (Outlook, Word, etc.), select File > Options > Language. In the section labeled Office display language, highlight the language to be displayed, click Set as Preferred and click OK.

Click OK to acknowledge the change and close the Office application.

NOTE: This change will affect all Office desktop applications.

Open any Office desktop application to confirm the change to the display language.



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