Language in PDFs

As you would with other document formats, designate the default language of a PDF document and mark any passage written in a different language.

Why Language Matters

Most screen readers can speak in multiple languages. When you tell a screen reader which language to use for your document, or for a block of text within your document, you help make sure the screen reader pronounces words in a way that’s appropriate for that language.

Set the Default Language for the Document

  1. With the PDF document in Adobe Acrobat, click the “File” menu and choose “Properties.”
  2. Click the “Advanced” tab on the properties panel and choose the document’s language in the “Reading Options” section.

Define the Language of a Passage Within the Document

You can define the language of a patch of text within a document in the properties of its tag. You may have to create a tag for the text if it doesn’t have a separate tag of its own.

Set the Language of a Tag

Once you have your document properly tagged, you can set the language of a block of text in the properties of the tag containing that text.

  1. Open the “Tags” navigation pane.
  2. Highlight the passage in your document that is in a language different from the document’s default.
  3. Click the “Options” icon at the top of the Tags panel and choose “Find Tag from Selection.” The tag containing your passage will be highlighted in the tags panel.
  4. In the Tags panel, right click the tag containing your selection and choose “Properties” from the popup menu. Choose the appropriate language. Then click “close.”
  5. Save your document to make the change permanent.

Create a Tag for a Short Passage

If you have a foreign-language passage within a block of text, you will want to give that passage its own tag so you can set its language.

  1. With the document open in Acrobat, open the “Tags” navigation pane.
  2. Highlight the passage in your document that is in a language different from the document’s default.
  3. Click the “Options” icon at the top of the Tags panel and choose “Find Tag from Selection.” The tag containing your passage will be highlighted in the tags panel.
  4. In the document, again highlight just the passage you want to mark and, for the next step, keep an eye on the tag selected in step 3 above.
  5. Click the “Options” icon at the top of the Tags panel and choose “Create Tag from Selection.”

Here things get a little strange. There are two kinds of tags. There are structure tags, such as “P” tag or “H2.” And within those are document content tags, where you see an icon that looks like a cardboard box, followed by some of the actual text contained in the tag. You will see that this content gets split into three of these content tags. One contains the text preceding the passage you selected. One contains the text after the passage. The third contains the text you selected. Usually in that order. In other words, the text you selected comes after the text that should follow it. So you will need to fix that.

  1. In the tags panel, click on the text you had selected and drag it up above the text that should follow it.
  2. Now, right click the text you want to tag and choose “New Tag” from the popup menu.
  3. Choose “Span” for the type of tag and click “OK.” This will create an empty Span tag directly below the passage you are working with.
  4. Drag you passage down on top of the Span tag. Release it when you see a black line with an arrow appear just below the Span tag. The content tag with your selection should now be indented beneath the Span tag.
  5. Finally, right click the Span tag, choose “Properties,” and set the language you want.