Our sharepoint site has two languages, the default language is English, the other is Chinese.

What is the mechanism for how SharePoint chooses display language in SharePoint 2013?

I have found that it is not only depending on IE attribute.

2 Answers 2


The mechanism for this is the 'Variations feature' which is exclusively for multi-lingual sites in SharePoint 2013. It gives allows you to have multiple 'variations' of SharePoint languages. It detects the users browser language setting and displays the site with the matched language.

To enable two or more languages in SharePoint, language packs need to be installed by a SharePoint Administrator.


ANOTHER new Service Application in SharePoint 2013 is the Machine Translation Service. The MTS can translate content to another language in SharePoint.


Key difference between the 'Variations Feature' and the 'Machine Translation Service' is variations only display SharePoint buttons, labels, menus in SharePoint and not content. Machine Translation Service has the capability of translating content in pages, docx files etc.

  • +1 for introducing variations, I am not an expert in SP 2013, but I dont think that you have to create 2 web apps as Muhammad said in previous answer. Resources can translate controls, and variations are for translating content Apr 23, 2013 at 13:08

In SharePoint to have a site or web in two languages means you need to create two web applications supplying different languages you require. In your case there must be two web applications one created using "English" as language and another created using "Chinese".

However there is something new "Translation Services" in SharePoint 2013 that can be utilized for translation without need of having two web applications.

For more clarity on topic, check out my this answer

Automatic translation from Arabic to English in SharePoint 2013


In SharePoint 2013, the language selection (MUI) is a bit different than in 2010.

Your default language settings in your browser of choice will be used by default (same as 2010 btw). So if you have IE set to English as preferred languages, SharePoint will show you the UI in English once you enable it as alternate language.

Now, the big difference is that the dropdown menu for site language selection is gone. Instead, in you MySite, if you go under “About me”, you see a few option in the navbar, click on the “…” to reveal a “Language preferences” menu. From there you can define the language selection associated with your profile on that server.


  • I select alternate language:Chinese in the Site Administration--Language settings, but I'm not sure the display language while the users visit the site. I just find that it is not depending on IE language attribute. I want to know what's configuration will impact the display language.
    – user15395
    Mar 7, 2013 at 12:58
  • @user15395 I updated my answer Mar 7, 2013 at 13:07
  • currently, the prefer language is setted by using English in IE, also the site's defalut display language is English, but I sitll see a Chinese website, so I'm confusing that are there any other configuration will impact the display language?
    – user15395
    Mar 7, 2013 at 13:31
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    did you tried clearing browser's cookies and also check if you face same issue on any other browser. Mar 7, 2013 at 14:14
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    @LuisValenciaMunoz When you use $resource, it uses culture of web application, so you need to create two web applications with different languages, so that $resource will know which one to pick up... I would recommend you to do some reading... Apr 23, 2013 at 13:58

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