Microsoft on Tuesday revealed that it will expand the number of supported display languages in Windows 8 by 14, bringing the total to 109. This, the company says, will provide a native language version of Windows for over 4.5 billion people.
The most notable addition, curiously, is UK English: Previously these users had to "make do" with US English, Microsoft notes.
"For Windows 8, we have reimagined the display language experience, focusing on making additional display languages available to all Windows users, making them super easy to find and install, and allowing users to switch between them," Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky writes in the introduction to a new post on the Building Windows 8 Blog.
The Windows display language is the one that is installed by default when you purchase the OS, and can be considered the "primary" language of that version of the OS. It's the language used by the Windows user interface. In the past, Microsoft allowed users to add additional languages on top of that primary language through its Multilingual User Interface technology, or MUI. But now in Windows 8, for the first time, you're no longer stuck with the display language you got when you first installed Windows.
"With Windows 8, users will be able install additional display languages beyond those preinstalled languages," Microsoft program manager Ian Hamilton writes. "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."
Language selection is made through the new Language control panel, which is available in the "classic" Control Panel interface, not the new Metro-style version. To add a new language, simply click "Add a language."
Once you have multiple languages installed, you can choose a new primary language if you'd like. (You'll have to logout and back in for the change to take effect.)
Also improved: No more multiple language entries in the optional section of Windows Update, as in Windows Vista and 7: Now this is all hidden in the Language control panel instead.
Hamilton notes that other aspects of Windows 8 language support related to text entry and locale support are also coming. Those, alas, will need to wait for a future blog post.