I frequently use Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) to browse the Internet from computers that use an OS language other than English. A lot of websites that have content in various languages choose to serve their pages in the OS's language. Although this is a good default for the typical user, I personally find it annoying. Take, for example, Microsoft's website. I almost always want to read Knowledge Base articles (and all other content) in English. But www.microsoft.com serves them in the OS's language, so I'm forced to use the web page's translation option to request the content in English or change the URL by adding the characters en-us to it. And when the content isn't available in the OS's language, I get the mildly annoying message: We were unable to locate this content in xx-xx. Here is the same content in en-US.

Learn more from "Forcing OWA to Use a Specific Language" and "Controlling Plug-Ins in Your Internet Browser."

Besides Microsoft, lots of other websites assume that you want to read content in the OS's language, so I came up with a solution to this problem. When you install IE, it checks the OS's language and sets it as the browser's default language. Websites then check the browser's settings to detect which language to render their pages in. So, on the computer I'm going to use for browsing the Internet, I change IE's default language. To do this, I select Internet Options on the Tools menu, then click the Languages button. This brings up the Language Preference dialog box that Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1: Changing the browser's default language

If the English (United States) \\[en-US\\] entry isn't listed, I add it then move it to the top of the Language list box. If the English (United States) \\[en-US\\] entry is already listed but it's not at the top of the list box, I move it to the first position. In order for the change to take place, I then refresh IE. It is as simple as that.

Note that if you make this change to a computer other than your own, you might want to demote the English (United States) \\[en-US\\] entry when you're done browsing. To do so, just move the language that was previously at the top in that position again. That way, the next user won't have any surprises.

Besides putting the English (United States) \\[en-US\\] entry at the top of the Language list box, you can alternatively choose to put English (United States) \\[en-US\\] as the only entry by removing all others or remove all the entries from the dialog box, leaving it empty. However, I have noticed that some sites don't serve English content when these alternative methods are used.

In the end, you should choose whichever method works best with the sites you visit most frequently. Just keep in mind that, depending on the website, these three methods might not always produce equivalent results.