Which Languages does Word Support?

Applies to Office 2004 and Office 2008

contributed by Daiya Mitchell and Corentin Cras-Menéur

Microsoft lists supported languages in Word Help for Office 2008 (topic: "About proofing tools", online help must be active) and Office 2004 (topic: "About Microsoft proofing tools"). All versions of Office should come with the same assortment of languages, whether retail standard, retail home and student, or a volume license. Note: Office does not support right-to-left languages. In addition, you cannot change the user interface (UI) language of menus, etc, in Office.

If the language you need is listed as supported, see Check Spelling in a Different Language for instructions on installing and using the proofing tools.

Note that "Dictionary" is used in Office 2004 as a generic term for a proofing file. Spelling is the most basic form of proofing, so the languages listed here can all be spellchecked. Grammar checking is very limited—you will only see grammar files for a few languages. MacOffice will only offer actual definitions for English; if you want definitions for any other language, you will need a third-party tool. Word 2004 includes proofing tools for more languages than Word X did, most notably Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.

My Language Isn't Supported! What Now?

One possible, partial, fix: if you can download a dictionary from Aspell (or elsewhere), you may be able to load it as a custom dictionary into Word. See Word Help on creating a custom dictionary and follow it exactly. Copy the words from the Aspell dictionary into a Word custom dictionary. In this case, you probably want to set the language for the custom dictionary. Then when you tag your text as, say, Polish, Word should use the Polish custom dictionary. This approach also works well for scientific/medical dictionaries, or other specialized lexicons.

NOTE: Reports on this would be appreciated, preferably on the newsgroup. Using custom dictionaries to support additional languages is currently untested—the main issue is that the custom dictionary may be too large for Word to handle. You can create multiple custom dictionaries with different names to address this issue. If you begin to see problems, quitting Word and trashing the custom dictionary should fix them.

Otherwise, you will need to go to third-party tools. If it isn't on the installation CD, MS doesn't offer it for the Mac. SpellCatcher X is a well-known program that will integrate with Word (offering many features beyond just proofing), but not the only one. CocoAspell can be used to extend the OS language capabilities, but that route would require you to do your spell-checking in TextEdit or another word processor that leans on the OS features.

Search the archives of the microsoft.public.mac.office.word newsgroup to see what others have suggested for various languages. Also, look for webpages, newsgroups, listservs, or online forums specific to Mac users who speak the language you want—those people are likely to know the best workarounds and alternatives.

Be sure to let MS know that you want a language supported by using Help | Send Feedback in Word (or visit the feedback website). Offer all information that might let the MacBU understand what market is going to buy Word because it supports a particular language—such decisions are made on the basis of cost versus expected profit, so try to convince them supporting a language will earn them more money.

Unicode, Right-to-left, etc

Language support involves two dimensions—being able to type in a language, and being able to proof a language (that is, check spelling and grammar for it, like proofreading). This article concentrates on proofing. However, you should be aware that although Office is mostly Unicode-compliant so that you can type a great range of characters and diacritical marks, OFFICE DOES NOT SUPPORT RIGHT-TO-LEFT LANGUAGES such as Arabic, Hebrew, etc . Please search the archives of the microsoft.public.mac.office.word newsgroup for more information on entering characters and diacritical marks for various languages, and for alternatives that do support right-to-left languages. Mellel and Nisus Writer are the most frequently mentioned alternatives.

Be sure to let MS know that you want a language supported by using Help | Send Feedback in Word (or visit the feedback website). Offer all information that might let the MacBU understand what market is going to buy Word because it supports a particular language—such decisions are made on the basis of cost versus expected profit, so try to convince them supporting a language will earn them more money.

Proofing Tools Shipped with Office 2004

The information here is an unofficial list based on one person's experience doing a custom installation that included all available proofing tools. Minor variations on this list have been reported, but it seems to be substantially accurate.

These are the proofing files that were installed in Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Shared Applications/Proofing Tools/.

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Proofing Tools Shipped with Office 2008

These are the proofing files that were installed in Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Shared Applications/Proofing Tools (note the change of location from Office 2004).