Checking Bilingual Documents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 14, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


Keryn works at a bilingual university and often have English and Spanish mixed together in the same document. She has to manually select the text and set to review in Spanish. This can be very time consuming. Keryn wonders if there is a way to tell Word to review in two languages, by default. She knows this can increase the likelihood of spelling errors but it would be easier, for her, than selecting and setting languages over and over again.

Word cannot, by default, review in two different languages. As Keryn has discovered, you need to do something in order to tell Word what should be checked in which language. Once that specification is done, then Word can do the review in a single pass.

You can make the "specifying" process easier if you use styles in your document. Language (such as English or Spanish) is an attribute you can specify in a style. So, for instance, you could create a character style named something like "Spanish Text" and make sure that the style definition has the language for that style set to Spanish. Here are the steps to do that:

  1. Position the insertion point somewhere within a Spanish word. (Don't select the word; just make sure the insertion point is within the word.)
  2. Press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S. Word displays the Styles task pane. (If your fingers get twisted when you try this shortcut, you can display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group.)
  3. At the bottom of the task pane there are 3 buttons. Click the left one, New Style. Word displays the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box. The initial settings in the dialog box are based on the style of the paragraph in which the insertion point is located.
  4. Using the Style Type drop-down list, choose Character. In the middle of the dialog box there is a block of text that approximates what the new style will look like. Immediately below is a list of the formatting attributes assigned to the style. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.

  6. Replace whatever is in the Name box with the name you want to use for this style. (For instance, you could specify a name of "Spanish Text.")
  7. Click the Format button and then choose Language. Word displays the Language dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Language dialog box.

  9. In the list of available languages, locate and select the variation of Spanish you want to use. (There are several variations of Spanish. The one you select should be one for which you have proofing tools available in your copy of Word.)
  10. Click OK to close the Language dialog box.
  11. Click the Format button and then choose Shortcut Key. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 3.) (If you don't want to define a shortcut key for your new style, you can simply ignore this step and skip to step 13.)
  12. Figure 3. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  13. With the insertion point in the Press New Shortcut Key box, press whatever shortcut key you want used for your new style. (A good one to use might be Alt+S.) As you press the shortcut key, just below Current Keys box you'll see a notification if the shortcut key is already assigned to a different function in Word. If so, you can erase the contents of the Press New Shortcut Key box and try a different shortcut key.
  14. Click the Assign button. Your shortcut key moves from the Press New Shortcut Key box over to the Current Keys box.
  15. Click Close to dismiss the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  16. Click OK to close the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.
  17. Close the Styles task pane.

You've now created the style you want to use for your Spanish text. You would then apply that style to any words you type in Spanish, and Word would take care of doing the spelling and grammar checks appropriately. If you defined a shortcut key for the style (steps 9 through 12) then you can use the shortcut key to apply the style to whatever text you selected.

The bottom line is that it is much easier to apply a style to selected text than it is to continually change the Language setting for selected text.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13441) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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. ...


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What is six less than 9?

2020-11-27 02:56:41


Our company works routinely with two languages altough not necessarily in the same document. It seems to require maintaining two sets of templates, with different standard text, different language setting in all styles, and different logo. Any ideas how I would synchronise those two sets?

2016-04-23 13:18:43


For anyone working with more than one language, it's useful to have the current language displayed in the status bar. To achieve that, right-click on the status bar and check the box next to "Language".
I use macros to switch languages, with keyboard shortcuts to make it quick and easy. 1) Click on the record macro button on the status bar. 2) Name the macro (e.g. MySetLanguageSpanish). 3) Click the option to assign to keyboard. 4) Type the shortcut key combination. As I use lots of shortcuts for other things, I group all my language shortcuts together by using a prefix combination (Alt-L for language) followed by a single key for the particular language I want (so: Alt-L followed by s for Spanish). 5) Click Assign and then Close. 6) Click on the current language in the status bar and scroll down the list to find the language you want (e.g. Spanish (International Sort)); click on it. 7) Click on the Stop recording macro button on the status bar. Done.

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