Spellcheck for Two Languages

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 26, 2019)


Dessy needs to know how she can run a spellcheck on a document containing words from two different languages. She wonders if there is a way to make the dictionary ignore the text written in one of the languages while checking the other.

Actually, Word is very good at handling proofing in two (or more) languages. There is a key to making it work correctly, however: You need to make sure that the text in each language is formatted as being in that language.

To those not familiar with Word, that may sound rather confusing. Giving an example may help to shed light on how Word handles proofing your text. Follow these steps:

  1. Select some text that is in a particular language. For instance, if you have text in your document that is in French, select that text.
  2. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Language tool (in the Language group) and then click Set Proofing Language. Word displays the Language dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Language dialog box.

  5. In the list of available langauges, select the option that reflects the language of the text.
  6. Click OK.

That's it; when you do a spellcheck (or any other proofing task), Word uses the dictionaries and rules related to the language you specified in step 4.

If you have lots of text to configure in this manner, it makes more sense to design styles that utilize the appropriate languages. For instance, if you have a style named Body that is used for English text, you might develop another style called Body French which is based on Body but has the language configured for French. That way you can apply the appropriate styles to you text and Word will automatically adjust how it proofs that text.

One quick note: You might be tempted to rely on the "Detect Language Automatically" setting (see the Language dialog box). Don't. It doesn't work that great, and you will get better results if you explicitly specify the language that should be associated with the differing passages of text in your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13200) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Picking Up in the Last Document Edited

Sometimes it seems that we focus on getting a particular document hammered out to the exclusion of other documents we ...

Discover More

Getting Identical Margins

Need to get the margins on your document exactly right? It can be a challenge to get the Word settings where you need ...

Discover More

Password Protecting Specific Columns in a Worksheet

When you are developing a worksheet for others to use, you might want to protect some of the information in that ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Turning Off Proofing for Superscripts

When you add superscripts to words in your document, you may not want those superscripts to be spell-checked. Here's how ...

Discover More

Catching Single-Letter Spelling Errors

There have been times when I've reviewed my writing and found lots of "lone letters," detached by a single space from the ...

Discover More

Turning Off Spell Checking

For some documents, you may not want spell checking turned on. There are two ways that you can turn it off, depending on ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven more than 1?

2019-09-19 06:13:57

Ken Endacott

To spell check an individual foreign word that is marked as a spelling error, select the word then click Spelling & Grammar in the Review ribbon (or press F7) to display the Spelling and Grammar dialog box then change the Dictionary language to the foreign language. If the word is valid in the foreign language then the red wiggly underline will disappear.

What you have done is apply the foreign language dictionary to just the individual word. At this stage you probably want to ‘ignore all’ so that if it appears again in the document it will not raise a spelling error. To do this you need to change the language of the word back to the original language which will raise the spelling error again, then you can apply ‘Ignore All’ from the pop down list. Or you can select ‘Add to Dictionary’ to build up a custom dictionary of foreign words, but you must have an active custom dictionary for the prime language.

In summary: it ain’t easy.

2019-09-19 02:09:04

Sander Kamps

Thank you for your tip but there is nothig good about MS Word proofing. Imagine writing a Dutch text littered with English words. Manually selecting each English word and setting the correct language is very time consuming, annoying and absolutelly unnecessary. As, you've demonstrated, it takes five! steps, to set the correct language. Isn't there an option to select multiple languages spell checking for the entire document?

2019-01-09 09:25:20

Robert M. Stercken

What is presented doesn't work when you need to write technical manuals or even contracts in a language different from English. This is because a lot of technical words originally in English are not supposed to be translated. This way, you need to end with paragraphs in a certain language, spotted with English words here and there.

Microsoft word works reasonably well if every paragraph contains ONLY words in ONE language. I guess that his is a design limitation.

Even if Word allows to mark a different language for a word in the middle of a paragraph, it seems to "forget this" later on. This happens even if you tell the editor not to detect language automatically.

I write lengthy and complex documents on a daily basis, most in Spanish or German, all containing lots of words in English. At the moment I couldn't find a satisfactory solution.

2018-10-02 01:51:15


If you want work with two languages in ms word , then here is a video , which will make your work easier and better. have a must look to this link-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrCZ3aLV5PQ&t=1s

2018-01-15 04:48:31

Ken Endacott

It works for individual words or groups of words. The language property can be applied to a paragraph or a selection within the paragraph in a similar way that character formatting can be applied to individual characters to override the paragraph formatting.

In fact, a language property can be applied to individual characters with interesting results.

2018-01-14 12:19:54


But this only works for full paragraphs
I just need it for some words -in another language- that are inside the paragraphs

2016-07-08 04:29:48


I use Google Docs in my Chrome browser, and it automatically checks both English and Frenh simultaneously. Perhaps you could occasionally select all (control A) copy (control C) and paste it into an open Google Docs document, and look for red underlines. Not an ideal work-around, but it may be useful

2016-04-29 10:24:57


dd, If you set your language as U.S. English, you could then add the Spanish words either to your custom dictionary or even to a special custom dictionary that you select for this special purpose.
In that way, Word is effectively using two dictionaries together albeit that you would have to gradually add the Spanish words as you first want to spell check them.

2016-04-23 22:10:35


I've seen this very approach recommended on multiple help pages but unless I'm making some mistake, this approach does not help in the case of a very common multiple-language scenario:

This approach seems to assume that multiple-language documents will have one long segment in one language, another in a different language, and so on. But in my line of work (long legal documents), that's a virtually unheard-of scenario! What's much more common, and what makes spellchecking multiple-language documents, is a scenario like I'm struggling with right now:
I'm trying to spellcheck a very long U.S. English language document that *interspersed throughout*--in pretty much every paragraph, almost every sentence--with Latin American Spanish words. Some of the Spanish terms are proper names, but most, including most of the names, are things that are normally recognized by Microsoft's default Spanish proofing dictionary. If I select the entire document, I can only apply one language. And as I said above, applying chunk-by-chunk wouldn't make sense. I could apply the proper language format to every single string of text that happens to be all one language, but that of course would be insane! So now I just have to know that a spellcheck will take forever, as I "ignore all" every single phrase that happens to not be formatted with its correct language. I don't know why Word can't simply keep two dictionaries simultaneously in its memory while it runs spellcheck!

So, am I missing something? Is there some way I CAN spellcheck such a document without taking hours?


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.