How to Change Language in GIMP

GIMP is one of the most widely-used free image editors in the world, and part of that worldwide success comes from the fact that GIMP is available in a huge range of different languages. 

This is possible thanks to the generous contributions of over 100 dedicated translators who provided translation services for the GIMP project free of charge, in the true spirit of the open-source software movement.

In most situations, GIMP detects the language used by your operating system and automatically matches it during the installation process – but there are times when you may want to change the language manually. 

How to Change Language in GIMP

If you want to set your GIMP interface to use a different language than the rest of your computer, or if GIMP just made a mistake during installation, the process is quite simple once you know where to look. 

To change the interface language in GIMP, open the Edit menu and click Preferences. In the left pane of the Preferences dialog window, click Interface

Once the Interface section is loaded in the right pane of the Preferences window, open the Language dropdown menu and select your desired language. 

Click the OK button, and GIMP will display a small notification popup informing you that you will have to restart GIMP for the changes to take effect (as shown below). 

The next time you load GIMP, it should use your newly-selected language choice.

Note: This language change option is only available in GIMP version 2.8 and newer. 

Advanced Tip: Quick Language Changes 

If you find yourself changing languages regularly in GIMP, you might want to launch GIMP using the command line or even using a specialized script. 

While scripting and the command line are generally tools for advanced users, this method isn’t too complex, and it allows you to launch GIMP directly with the language of your choice instead of having to rely on the Preferences panel and constantly restarting GIMP.

You can even run multiple copies of GIMP at the same time in different languages!

To get started, open the Notepad app. Don’t try this with Microsoft Word or another complex word processor since they often place hidden characters into their saved files which can cause the script to fail. 

In this case, Notepad’s barebones text editing is exactly what you need. 

Copy the following three lines of text and paste them into your empty Notepad window:

set lang=XX

cd “c:\program files\gimp 2\bin\”

gimp-2.10.exe -n

Replace the XX in the first line with the two-letter ISO language code that corresponds with your desired language. You can learn more about the ISO language code system and find the correct code for each language on Wikipedia

Make sure that you use so-called “dumb quotes” around the folder path in the second line instead of smart typographer’s quotes, or the script will fail. (Learn more about the difference here.)

If necessary, you can also change the second line to match your GIMP installation directory if you chose a custom location during the installation process. 

To finalize the script, save the file onto your desktop using a descriptive name with the file extension .bat, which tells Windows that it is a batch file, also known as a script. For example, GIMP-French.bat or GIMP-English.bat will help you to keep track of the different scripts you’ve created. 

You can edit the script to use a different language, then use the Save As command to save a new copy of the file with a different name. With this method, you can create as many scripts as you need to change between different languages quickly and easily. 

To launch a new copy of GIMP with the language of your choice, simply double-click the appropriate .bat file that you saved onto your desktop (or wherever you saved it). 

Is GIMP Available in My Language? 

As I mentioned earlier, GIMP is available in an impressively large number of languages thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteer translators. Here is a complete list of the different languages that are available in GIMP as of the latest release (version 2.10.x), according to Wikipedia:

Amharic, Arabic, Asturian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bosnian, Brazilian Portuguese, Breton, British English, Bulgarian, Burmese, Canadian English, Catalan, Central Kurdish, Chinese (China), Chinese (Hong Kong), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Dzongkha, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kabyle, Kannada, Kashubian, Kazakh, Khmer, Kinyarwanda, Kirghiz, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Low German, Macedonian, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Norwegian (Bokmål), Norwegian (Nynorsk), Occitan, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian (Cyrillic script), Serbian (Latin script), Sinhala, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Tatar, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Valencian, Vietnamese, Xhosa, and Yiddish.

Any of these languages can be selected using the Interface section of the Preferences dialog, as described earlier. New languages are also being added by dedicated volunteers, and you can contribute to a translation by joining the team for that language at the GNOME translation project

Troubleshooting: Other Languages Missing in GIMP

If you open your Preferences panel only to discover that there are no other languages listed in the Language dropdown menu, don’t worry! The most likely explanation is that the Translations package was not installed during the original GIMP installation process. 

This is often done to save space and improve installation speed, although there isn’t really much need for this on most modern computers.

To install the different language translations available to GIMP, simply re-run the GIMP installer file. Once the installation wizard loads, click the Customize button in the bottom left corner of the window, then click the Next button to accept the GNU General Public License agreement.

On the Select Components screen, make sure that the Translations component is checked, and then follow the rest of the installation prompts. GIMP will now have access to all of the available languages! 

A Final Word

That’s everything you need to know to change languages in GIMP! Seeing the number of available languages really highlights the value of the free software movement, especially when you consider that every translation was provided by a group of dedicated volunteers who donated their time and knowledge for free.

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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