With Windows 8, developers changed how Microsoft think about languages from a “local-market feature” to a “feature for everyone everywhere,” and have made it a priority for you to be able to work in any language you want, from any Windows 8 PC. If you can’t read the text that Windows presents to you, you can’t use Windows to its fullest potential. That’s why Microsoft is so excited to bring powerful, easy-to-use language features to more users than ever in Windows 8.

In some countries, people can purchase PCs with a variety of languages preinstalled. With Windows 8, users will be able install additional display languages beyond those preinstalled languages. This means that the language of the PC no longer needs to be a major consideration when deciding on which model to buy. If the language you want is not preinstalled on the PC you like, you can now install the one you want.

But for some families, allowing the installation of an additional display language might not be enough, as they also need the ability to switch between languages. To illustrate the point, let’s look at the United States (where historically we have been less sensitive to these issues than in most other places around the world). We know from 2009 census data that 80% of Americans speak English at home. The other 20% speak something other than English. Not surprisingly, 35,468,501 (12.41% of the total) speak Spanish at home. Some PCs sold in the US have had English and Spanish preinstalled on them. On those PCs, the user picks one language or the other, and the one not chosen is wiped off the hard drive after first run. Feedback showed that customers loved having a Spanish language PC, but what they really needed was Spanish and English, and the ability to switch between them. A subsequent study by an outside firm confirmed these results. In many cases, parents in the home spoke Spanish, and their children were speaking English. The ability to have a Spanish user account for the parents, and an English one for the kids—or at least the ability to switch a single account’s display language back and forth between English and Spanish—was the way to delight these customers.

New, easier way to get languages

The new Language preferences section in Control Panel is the new one-stop place to find all Windows display languages in Windows 8. In the past, some languages were available through Windows Update, and others were distributed through the Microsoft Download Center.

The reasons for separating the languages into two groups and their separated distribution channels made no sense to our customers. It wasn’t their fault. This classification of languages only made sense to our internal teams. This confusion was a great motivator for re-imagining Language preferences in Control Panel. We will no longer ask customers to understand these nuances. Looking at the end-to-end experience, it made sense to build an entirely new experience around the acquisition of new languages. Here’s what that looks like in Windows 8:

Language preferences in Control Panel - (blogs.msdn.com)

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