Change the System or Tor Browser Language

From Whonix



The system language used in Whonix ™ is easily changed. The technical steps are identical to the Debian method because Whonix ™ is based on Debian GNU/Linux and XFCE (or KDE). Users can also refer to Debian or XFCE/KDE upstream documentation. It is also easy to change the language in Tor Browser (see further below). Native English speakers do not need to make any changes.


These instructions are sourced from the Debian wiki ChangeLanguage [archive] and InputMethodBuster [archive] entries. In XFCE, it is unnecessary to install additional language packs.

All Languages[edit]

1. Open a terminal in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: in TemplateVM).

Start menuApplicationsSystemTerminal

2. Check the language environment variable.

Run. [1]

env | grep LANG

The output should show.


3. Determine the code for your language and country.

Before re-configuring the locale to your local language it is necessary to identify the two letter code for your language and country:

  • Language: the two-letter ISO 639-1 language code is found in the fourth column (639-1) here [archive]. For example, Japanese is ja, Korean is ko, German is de and so on.
  • Country: this website [archive] ("Country Codes") identifies country codes. For example, Japan is JP, Korea is KR, Germany is DE and so on.

It is now possible to combine these codes to determine the language to export. For example, Japanese is ja_JP.UTF-8, Korean is ko_KR.UTF-8, German is de_DE.UTF-8 and so on.

4. Reconfigure locales.

Reconfigure locales with the following command.

sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales

A window will prompt for the preferred the locale(s) to be made available. Select the preferred option(s) with the space bar -- multiple locales can be chosen.

5. Reboot Whonix-Workstation ™.

This is required for the changes to take effect.

Figure: Japanese Locale in Whonix ™ Anonwhonixjapanese.png


Depending on the locale, it may be necessary to install additional fonts [archive] in Whonix-Workstation ™ so characters present correctly system-wide (Qubes-Whonix ™: in TemplateVM):

  • Debian stable fonts packages [archive].
  • TrueType (TTF) and OpenType (OTF) fonts are generally recommended. These packages start with fonts-.
  • For Korean fonts, an anonymous Whonix ™ forums [archive] contributor previously recommended the following additional packages: fonts-unfonts-core (Korean TrueType fonts) and nabi (Korean X input method). After restarting Whonix-Workstation ™ and starting nabi, the Korean script should be available system-wide for writing and reading. [2]

For example to install Japanese TrueType fonts:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install fonts-ipaexfont

Figure: Japanese Font Installation in Whonix ™ Anonwhonixjapanesefont.png

Input Method[edit]

The ibus package is recommended for languages other than English. As of 2020, this should work by default for the following languages:

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Bulgarian
  • Catalan; Valencian
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch; Flemish
  • Estonian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek, Modern
  • Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Malay
  • Mongolian
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian; Moldavian; Moldovan
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Spanish; Castilian
  • Swedish
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian

1. Open a terminal in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: in TemplateVM).

2. Install ibus.

sudo apt-get install ibus

3. Launch ibus-setup (Qubes-Whonix ™: in TemplateVM so changes are permanent).


4. Add the preferred input method(s).

Multiple language input methods can be selected at this step.

Figure: Input Method Option


5. Select the preferred keyboard shortcut to change the input method.

Figure: Preferred Input Method Shortcut


6. Reboot Whonix-Workstation ™.

In Qubes-Whonix ™: shut down the TemplateVM and create a new AppVM based on the modified template.

7. Test the preferred input method(s) functionality.

  • Open a terminal in Whonix-Workstation ™.
  • Use either the language icon on the system tray or the keyboard shortcut to change the input method.
  • If the procedure was successful, languages other than English will present correctly.

Figure: Non-English Input Method in Whonix ™


8. Optional: Asian input method(s).

Preliminary tests reveal additional Input Method Engine (IME) packages must be installed for Chinese and Korean functionality; refer to the Debian InputMethodBuster [archive] entry for further information. After installation of IME packages, follow steps 3-7.

Figure: Korean and Chinese Input Method in Whonix ™


Unfortunately, this method does not appear to work for Japanese and Thai. Additional libraries, IME packages or fonts are likely necessary. Readers who successfully configure functional Japanese and Thai input methods are encouraged to edit this wiki entry.

Tor Browser[edit]

Using one of the methods below is sufficient to change the language in Tor Browser.

about:preferences Method[edit]

  1. Type about:preferences in the URL bar.
  2. Scroll down to the languages section and search for the preferred language: LanguageSearch for more languages
  3. Add the preferred language.
  4. Restart Tor Browser.

Figure: Tor Browser Language Selection Torbrowserlanguageselection.png

Figure: Japanese Tor Browser in Whonix ™ Japanesetorbrowser.png

Config File Method[edit]

Complete these steps in Whonix-Workstation ™.

Thirty-two language packs are available for Tor Browser as of 2020:

  • English (en-US)
  • Arabic (ar)
  • Catalan (ca)
  • Czech (cs)
  • Danish (da)
  • German (de)
  • Greek (el)
  • Spanish (es-ES)
  • Spanish - Argentina (es-AR)
  • Persian/Farsi (fa)
  • French (fr)
  • Irish (ga-IE)
  • Hebrew (he)
  • Hungarian (hu)
  • Indonesian (id)
  • Icelandic (is)
  • Italian (it)
  • Japanese (ja)
  • Georgian (ka)
  • Korean (ko)
  • Norwegian (nb-NO)
  • Dutch (nl)
  • Polish (pl)
  • Brazilian Portuguese (pt-BR)
  • Russian (ru)
  • Swedish (sv-SE)
  • Turkish (tr)
  • Vietnamese (vi)
  • Chinese (zh-CN)
  • Traditional Chinese (zh-TW)
  • Macedonian (mk)
  • Romanian (ro)

To check if further languages are supported in the future, visit: [archive]

Binaries and supported language packs are listed by Tor Browser version. The nomenclature for language packs is classified according to ISO 639-1 codes [archive].

1. Open the Tor Browser configuration file.

Open file /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf in an editor with root rights.

(Qubes-Whonix ™: In TemplateVM)

This box uses sudoedit for better security [archive]. This is an example and other tools could also achieve the same goal. If this example does not work for you or if you are not using Whonix, please refer to this link.

sudoedit /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf

2. Add the relevant language.

For example, to add Vietnamese.


Replace vi with zh-CN for Chinese and so on.

3. Save and download a new version.

After changing this setting, use Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix ™ to install a new version. Afterwards, Tor Browser will support the user's native language.

Mozilla Firefox Language Pack Method[edit]

Complete these steps in Whonix-Workstation ™.

1. Start Tor Browser.

2. Check Tor Browser's Firefox ESR version.

Tor Browser URL barabout:support

The version output should be similar to: 68.9.0esr

3. Install a language pack.

Visit [archive] and install the required language pack.

Note: 68.9.0 in the above URL needs to be changed to match the Firefox ESR version Tor Browser is based on.

4. Restart Tor Browser.

Tor Browser will now default to the user's native language.

Debian Firefox Language Pack Method[edit]

Info Untested. Please test and leave feedback.

Complete these steps in Whonix-Workstation ™.

1. Update the package lists.

sudo apt-get update

2. Search for available language packs.

apt-cache search firefox-esr-l10n-

3. Install a language pack.

In the example below, replace -de with the preferred language.

sudo apt-get install firefox-esr-l10n-de

4. Change the necessary Tor Browser setting. [3]

sudo find /usr/lib/firefox-esr/browser/extensions -maxdepth 1 -name 'langpack*.xpi' -exec ln -s '{}' /home/user/.tb/tor-browser/Data/profile/extensions/ ';'


  1. The Debian wiki notes:

    First, you have to set EnvironmentVariables such as LANG, LANGUAGE, LC_CTYPE, LC_MESSAGES to your local language. Usually LANG (or LC_ALL) is sufficient.

  2. sudo apt-get install fonts-unfonts-core

    sudo apt-get install nabi

  3. [archive]

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