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Language in documents

Identifying the language of a document, as well as the language of its individual parts, helps to ensure that screen readers will correctly pronounce the content.

For an overview of this issue, see Language in our IT Accessibility Checklist.

Techniques for PDF

The following steps apply to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. The idea is the same in other recent versions of Acrobat Pro as well, but specific steps may vary slightly.

Follow these steps to define the document language of a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC:

  1. From File Menu, select Properties.
  2. In the “Document Properties” dialog, click the Advanced tab.
  3. Near the bottom of the dialog, select the document language using the Language combo box.

Screen shot of Document Properties dialog, Advanced tab, Language field set to English

Follow these steps to define the language of particular parts within a PDF file using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC:

  1. Open the Tags pane by going to View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Tags.
  2. Select the foreign language text in the document.
  3. In the tags pane, click on the Tags menu and select “Find Tag from Selection”.
  4. The tag for the selected text will be highlighted in the Tag pane. Right click it, and select Properties.
  5. In the Object Properties dialog, select the “Tags” tab, and select the language of the text from the Language combo box.

Screen shot of Object Properties dialog, used to change language to French for a selected paragraph that's in French

Techniques for Microsoft Word

In Microsoft Office, select Review > Language from the application menu to define the default language. To define a different language for part of the document, select each foreign language individually, then select Review > Language to define the language for each.

Screenshot showing the language dialogue box in Word

NOTE: Currently language settings only affect the accessibility of the Word document itself. They do not survive when exported to PDF. If PDF is the final format in which you intend to distribute your document, you will need to define language in the PDF directly using Adobe Acrobat Pro. For help see Checking PDFs for Accessibility.