Office 365 is all about letting users set up their own environment and preferences. One of those preferences can be the language in the Office 365 interface. I work for a company in The Netherlands, where everyone speaks Dutch, but I still prefer my computer and software to be in English. In Office 365, I can set this up… Unless I’m a ‘synced user’, a user who originates in an on-prem AD and that is being synced to the cloud.

Even when I ask my administrator, he can’t set the preferred language via the appropriate PowerShell cmdlet

This will result in an error:

So, what causes this error? It’s pretty simple. When you use DirSync (or the newer AADSync), the on-prem directory is leading. You could say the sync is one-way: changes sync from on-prem to the cloud, but not the other way around. Therefore, you can’t make changes to properties of the identity in Office 365. So, if you want to change the preferred language for such users, you should do this in the on-prem AD.

All available language codes are listed here. And keep in mind, if your preferred language is not set, it will default to English.


One small thing to keep in mind:
In case you’ve set your country, but not your preferred language upon creation, you will have your language set for your Office Apps [Word/Excel/PowerPoint Online] as well as your OneDrive.

Setting this setting will NOT change this for you unfortunately.
For example when you have no preferred language, but country set to Netherlands, you will actually see Dutch Excel formulas in the wizard.
Even if you DO set your preferred language to en-US afterwards, this will not change.

In order for you to change this, you will need to go to your OneDrive App, click on the Gear -> Site Settings -> Language Settings [under Site Administration] and change your settings there.

A bit of a pain, but your Office Apps get the setting defined by your personal “My Site” upon first logon. This sort of overrules the tenant specific settings.
You can see/confirm this by checking the URL, this will change to for all these apps.

Hope this helps!

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