Overview of SharePoint 2013 Multilingual Features

Editor’s note: The following post was written by SharePoint MVP Benjamin Niaulin

Something that does not get enough attention in SharePoint is the multilingual feature available. Through my work, I noticed that in the United States it is often not an issue, as most companies will install SharePoint in English only. However, in Canada and in most European countries it is a little more crucial. It’s important for us to understand what is available and how it works.

Available multilingual features in SharePoint

As mentioned by Microsoft’s Introduction to Multilingual Features, there are two main types of features available.

MUI or Multiple Language Interface: This is really just making the general interface available in different languages. So we’re talking about the menus, titles, columns, navigation, etc… Not so much a feature as it is a new interface.

Variations: As the name suggests, this essentially allows you to have different variations of a site in other languages. This is only available for Publishing Sites and creates copies of the entire site into each of these variations and published when it is translated.

The Introduction article written by Microsoft already does a great job explaining these.

These features are available by first installing the Language Pack for the languages needed in your organization.

Do I really need to install the language pack? Even if I don’t plan to use any of these features?

That is an excellent question, and though the answer may vary by company, I follow a basic set of rules. What most don’t realize is that the Language Packs are required for optimal Search Results for documents or content written in other languages.

Customers call me, with an English version of SharePoint installed, and ask me why the Search Results works great except when searching French words.

You may find this silly but here is an example. A search for the word “Run” gave back results with “Run, Ran, Running” and a search for “Dog” also returned “Dogs”. Essentially what is happening is that because the language is English, the Search understands the verb tenses and the plural of nouns. However, doing the same searches with the French word equivalent only searched for the exact matches, as it did not understand the word. That’s why I strongly recommend you install the Language Packs even if you do not plan on using the MUI or Variations but do have different working languages.

Installing Language Packs on your servers

To install the Language Pack of your preferred language, you must install it on every SharePoint Server both Web Front End and Application Servers and run the Configuration Wizard. Over the years with SharePoint, the installation order for patches have been confusing so I asked a fellow MVP, Brian Lalancette to help clarify this.

Your Language Pack, just like your SharePoint Server, needs to be patched. So if you install your Language Pack after having applied an eventual SP1 or Cumulative Updates, then you will have to re-install these updates. However, if the Language Pack was installed before any of these updates were installed then you do not have to worry about a thing, these Cumulative Updates have all languages included which is one of the reasons the downloads are so large.

What’s different in SharePoint 2013?

There is definitely a big visual change your users and definitely your administrators will feel. It makes sense when you think about it but the change will affect adoption if not properly explained. In SharePoint 2013, it is no longer possible to switch between languages at will from the user’s Welcome Menu.


This is now managed by the Regional Settings used by the Browser. This makes a lot of sense in the End Users perspective, especially with a growing BYOD policy at work. Connecting from your English tablet at home will not be the same as the French PC you are using at work. Does this mean I have to change my browsers’ regional settings every time I want to switch language? No. Anyone can override his or her language settings from their personal profile settings.


There is an option to override your Preferred Display Language and sort them.


However, this is global to every SharePoint Site in the farm associated with the My Profile Setting. So if the user sets a specific language then all the sites he visits that have that language enabled will automatically switch to it.

One way to make sure everyone starts with the same language despite their Regional Browser Settings is to set it via the Central Administration in the User Profile Service Application. Of course going through each individual profile could be long, you look into PowerShell

To set the Language Settings for a site, go to Site Settings and click on Language Settings.


There, you find the available Alternate Language for the sites. Simply check the ones you want for your site.

Managed Metadata and Multilingual Features

One of the great additions to SharePoint since 2010 is the Managed Metadata Column pulling information from the Term Store. In SharePoint 2013, the Term Store still exists with some new features like the Managed Metadata Navigation.

When creating Terms in a Term Set, we can specify the Labels associated to the different languages installed. In other words we can write the word equivalent in other available and installed languages.

This works great in a Document Library. I have documents tagged with the word Window and Chair and when I switched to French, it shows the correct Term to the visitor.


And in French:


Unfortunately, after a few tests I realized that the Search Results would only include the Default Label and not their synonyms in other languages. Using the example above, searching for Chair worked fine but searching for Chaise (Chair in French) did not yield any results.

As for the Managed Metadata Navigation, it completely ignored my Labels. After assigning my Term Set as Global Navigation, it didn’t matter if I visited the site in English, French or any other language… the navigation always stayed in English.

Translation Services with SharePoint 2013

With the arrival of SharePoint 2013 also came some new multilingual features that were not there before. A new Service Application called Machine Translation Services adds new capabilities to the mix. Bill Baer has done a good article introducing this service.


The idea behind the machine translation is for you to press a button and have your content or page translated by a cloud service. If your server cannot connect to the Internet without a proxy then you can configure these settings in Search Service Application itself.


Using the Machine Translate will still require someone to look at the translated page before publishing, as it cannot always maintain context. Manual translation involves creating a Translation Package in XLIFF format and have an external agency do the work. Fortunately, with SharePoint 2013 you have the choice between automatic machine translation and manual external translation.

About the author

Benjamin Niaulin

Well known as the SharePoint Geek, Benjamin Niaulinhas from Montreal has been helping people all around the globe reach their goals by simplifying SharePoint solutions. You haven’t met Benjamin yet? Look for him at SharePoint conferences and events.  You can also follow him or Twitter, view his slideshare, or find additional articles on his SharePoint blog.

About MVP Mondays

The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager, formerly known as MVP Lead, for Messaging and Collaboration (Exchange, Lync, Office 365 and SharePoint) and Microsoft Dynamics in the US. She began her career at Microsoft as an Exchange Support Engineer and has been working with the technical community in some capacity for almost a decade. In her spare time she enjoys going to the gym, shopping for handbags, watching period and fantasy dramas, and spending time with her children and miniature Dachshund. Melissa lives in North Carolina and works out of the Microsoft Charlotte office.