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How To tell LyX to speak in a different language
There are many reasons why you might want LyX to speak to you in a language different from the system default:
The first place that LyX looks is the setting under Tools > Preferences > Language Settings > User interface language. If this is set to a language, that is the language that LyX will use. If you would like to be able to easily switch between different languages from one LyX instance to another, consider leaving it on "Default" and proceeding as follows.
You can set the language by setting the environment variable LANG. For example, to start LyX in German, instead of running 'lyx' you can run 'LANG=de_DE.utf8 lyx'. To make things easier, you can put an alias in your ~/.bashrc file:
alias lyx='LANG=de_DE.utf8 lyx'
You can also have
alias lyx-en='LANG=en_GB lyx'
to easily start up an English-spoken LyX.
Define \default_language in LyX preferences
Sometimes, setting the correct LANG environment variable is not enough to completely "translate" LyX, at least on Windows. You have to also set 'Default language' as discussed above. Not doing so makes LyX 1.3.7 use incorrect charset in "grey boxes" such as foot, Ref, etc.
For example, setting LANG=ru_RU.utf8 does make LyX speak Russian, but cyrillic text inside "grey boxes" is shown in latin-1 encoding (instead of KOI-8r or Win1251), which is unreadable. Setting the default language to 'Russian' fixes the problem.
If you are having trouble finding the 'Default language' setting it can be helpful to move or delete the 'locale' folder in the LyX installation folder. This makes the LyX interface English. Change the default language to one you understand and then restore the 'locale' folder.