A Quicker Way to Filter Google Search Results by Language

Many people must have the experience of searching a word on Google and receiving results in languages different from the one originally intended. This is especially so for students of certain fields of East Asian Studies such as premodern Japan and Korea, where one might look up a proper name in Chinese characters, only to find a long list of Chinese-language pages in the results page.

One would expect that there is a simple operator that specifies the desired language of the results, but this does not seem to be the case. Of course, you could go into Advanced Search and choose the language from a drop-down menu, but this requires at least three clicks and a lot of scrolling. When working with multiple search terms and constantly shifting from one language to another, you would want a more efficient method.

As it turns out, there is a small trick that allows you to filter the results by language without using the Advanced Search page. A more detailed explanation is available on this page, but essentially this involves adding a text string at the end of the address generated by Google:

Filtering Google by Language Screenshot


The codes for languages that I use most frequently are as follows:

  • Japanese: &lr=lang_ja (Sample)
  • Korean: &lr=lang_ko (Sample)
  • English: &lr=lang_en (Sample)
  • Chinese: &lr=lang_zh (Sample)
  • Simplified Chinese: &lr=lang_zh-CN (Sample)
  • Traditional Chinese: &lr=lang_zh-TW (Sample)
  • Other languages: For a list of codes for all available languages, see this chart.

It would be very frustrating to type these strings every time I need to specify a language, so I use TextExpander to help ease this process. TextExapander is a Mac application that automatically produces a longer string of texts when you type a short trigger. (You can also find less expensive alternatives for both Mac and PC.) For example, I have configured TextExpander in a way so that I can type “;gjp” to have it automatically convert into “&lr=lang_ja,” and the trigger “;gkr” converts into “&lr=lang_ko” and so on. In this way, all I need to do is to type the short trigger at the end of the address bar, and I can easily narrow down the search results by language.

This is the quickest method that I have been able to figure out so far. If anyone knows of a better way, I would appreciate the information very much.

Happy searching!

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. SK

     /  2012/12/14

    You can also click the Options icon on a Google search, go to Search settings > Languages and then specify which language(s) you want to see results in.

    Reply
  2. SK:
    Thanks for pointing out the Search Settings option. I have not tried this option myself (mostly because I need to change my language settings constantly depending on what I’m searching for), but it does look helpful for people with more fixed language preferences!

    Reply

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