Q: Is it possible to set a secondary preferred language on the iPhone?


On the Mac Desktop it is possible to select a "Language Preference" order, so that if your favorite application isn't localized for your primary language, then it will prefer the second best (Good example here would be a German user who speaks fluent french, but not English trying to use an application that has been localized for English and French should be able to specify they prefer the French to English):

Macintosh Language & Text control panel

However in iOS it seems that it isn't possible to specify a secondary (or 3rd preference), only to choose what your primary language is, at which point, iOS then makes English your second preferred language. (So in our first example iOS will incorrectly show you the English version even if you'd have preferred the french, unless you restart your springboard and change languages every time you want to use the app):

iPhone Language Screen

I'm not concerned here with the keyboard internationalization, but just with viewing the applications in the correct format.

3 Answers 3


As of at least iOS 8 you can change the order of languages in Settings > General > Language and Region under the heading Preferred Language Order.

iOS Language and Region Settings


AFAIK, in iOS7, English is not forced as 2nd language. So, you can sort 2 or more locales freely.

Just select a language and add it. Repeat for each desired language in reversed order (from low to high preference)

  • This didn't work with iOS 6 <, but it seems that iOS 7 has changed the behavior, while laborious, setting the languages in the reverse order that you know them does end up leaving a ordered preference! (previously it would always put english as #2)
    – BadPirate
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 17:59

Apple's Developer International Support page states that:

Because iOS-based devices support only one user, only one language at a time is selected.

Apple has set up English as secondary language and can't be chosen otherwise. You can, though, select the laters. Choosing different languages will place them on top of the list, rearranging them as the subsequent choice.

Just mind that most of the Apps will have an English version, therefore, the third language's version, the one you are able to choose as such, is not likely to be seen.

So, no, you can't choose a second preferred language, but you can the third and laters.

  • This seems to be the case. For english you can select 2nd and later by changing your languages in the order that you want (Selecting a language jumps it to the top of the list, so selecting Japanese and then English will leave you with English, Japanese), however, when a non-english language is selected, the second language becomes English (regardless of former order)... bummer.
    – BadPirate
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 18:22

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