DETECTLANGUAGE Function in☝️ Google Sheets Explained (Definition, Syntax, How to Use It, Examples)

This guide covers everything you need to know about the Google Sheets DETECTLANGUAGE function, including its definition, syntax, use cases, and how to use it.

What is the DETECTLANGUAGE Function? How Does It Work?

The DETECTLANGUAGE function in Google Sheets returns the language used in a specific text or cell range. It identifies language patterns in the text provided and returns an ISO 639-1 language code representing the language it detects.

The primary purpose of the DETECTLANGUAGE function is to determine the language used in a block of text without the need to manually do so. This can be especially useful when dealing with large datasets in multiple languages or when you’re unsure of the language used in a particular snippet of text.

When using DETECTLANGUAGE, it’s important to note that if your specified range involves multiple languages, the function will only evaluate the first cell value found. This means if you have a cell range where some cells are in English and some are in Spanish, only the language of the first cell in the range will be returned.

DETECTLANGUAGE works with both in-cell strings and cell references.

For instance, if you want to detect the language of a string directly, you can enter it as DETECTLANGUAGE(“Bonjour”), and the function will return ‘fr’ for French. On the other hand, if you’re referencing a cell, you would use DETECTLANGUAGE(A2), where ‘A2’ is the cell in question.

In terms of edge cases, DETECTLANGUAGE may struggle with very short texts or texts in less common languages. This is due to the function’s reliance on language patterns, which may not be as detectable in such scenarios. If the function can’t identify the language, it will return an error.

The DETECTLANGUAGE function pairs well with the GOOGLETRANSLATE function. After identifying the language of a text using DETECTLANGUAGE, you can use GOOGLETRANSLATE to translate the text into another language.


The syntax and arguments for the function are as follows:


The DETECTLANGUAGE function in Google Sheets requires one argument:

  • text_or_range: This is the text or reference to cells containing text to evaluate.

Here are some important usage notes related to the syntax and arguments of the DETECTLANGUAGE function:

  • The text_or_range argument can be directly input into the function or a reference to a cell or range of cells that contain the text you want to evaluate.
  • If you specify text_or_range as a range, it must be a one-dimensional column range. This means you can only use this function to evaluate a single column of cells at a time.
  • The function returns a language code as its output. This code corresponds to the language in which the evaluated text is written.
  • If the function is unable to identify the language of the text, it will return an error.
  • The DETECTLANGUAGE function is not case-sensitive. It will return the same result regardless of whether the text is written in upper case, lower case, or a mix of both.
  • This function doesn’t require an internet connection to work. It uses a built-in algorithm to identify languages, so it can be used even when you’re offline.
  • The text_or_range argument can’t be an array. If an array is provided, the function will return an error.

Examples of How to Use the DETECTLANGUAGE Function

Here’s a practical example of how to use the DETECTLANGUAGE function in Google Sheets:

Suppose you have a text in cell A1: “Bonjour”. You want to know which language this is. You can use the DETECTLANGUAGE function to find out. Here’s how:

In any cell, type the following formula:


After pressing Enter, Google Sheets will return “fr”, which stands for French. This means that “Bonjour” is a French word.

Why Is DETECTLANGUAGE Not Working? Troubleshooting Common Errors

If you’re having trouble with the DETECTLANGUAGE function in Google Sheets, a few common errors may be causing the problem. Here are some potential issues and solutions to help you troubleshoot:

#VALUE! Error

Cause: This error usually occurs when the function’s input parameter is not a string or is empty.

Solution: Ensure that you provide a text string as the input parameter for the DETECTLANGUAGE function. The function will not work as expected if the cell you’re referencing is empty or contains non-string data. Always ensure that you have valid text in the cell you’re referencing.

#N/A Error

Cause: The #N/A error typically appears when Google Sheets is unable to identify the language used in the input text.

Solution: Double-check the text you’re trying to analyze with the DETECTLANGUAGE function. If it’s too short, contains too many different languages, or includes uncommon languages, Google Sheets might not be able to accurately detect the language. Use clear, straightforward text in a single, common language for best results.

Loading Error

Cause: If your DETECTLANGUAGE function is returning a ‘Loading…’ message that doesn’t resolve, it may be due to a lack of internet connection or a problem with Google’s servers.

Solution: Check your internet connection to make sure it’s stable and strong. If the problem persists, it may be on Google’s end, and you might need to wait for them to resolve the issue.

Error: Argument Too Large

Cause: This error occurs when the text string provided in the DETECTLANGUAGE function exceeds the cell limit in Google Sheets, which is 50,000 characters.

Solution: Trim your text string to fit within the 50,000bcharacter limit. If the text is too long, consider splitting it up and running the DETECTLANGUAGE function on smaller pieces of the text.

Using DETECTLANGUAGE With Other Google Sheets Functions

Combining the DETECTLANGUAGE function with other Google Sheets functions can make your spreadsheet more dynamic and informative. This function can be used in conjunction with various other functions to derive more complex and useful results. The DETECTLANGUAGE function returns the language code of the given text, which can then be used as input for other functions.

With IF

Usage: You can use the DETECTLANGUAGE function with the IF function to create a condition based on the detected language. For instance, you can create a condition that checks if the detected language is English and returns a specific result.

Example: Suppose you have a list of phrases in different languages and want to identify the ones in English. You can use the following formula:

=IF(DETECTLANGUAGE(A2) = “en”, “English”, “Not English”)

This formula will return “English” if the detected language in cell A2 is English. Otherwise, it will return “Not English”.


Usage: The DETECTLANGUAGE function can be used with the VLOOKUP function to look up information based on the detected language.

Example: Suppose you have a table with language codes and their corresponding countries. You can use the DETECTLANGUAGE function to detect the language of a text and then use the VLOOKUP function to find the corresponding country. Here’s how you can do it:


This formula will detect the language of the text in cell A2, look it up in the table from B2 to C5, and return the corresponding country from the second column of the table.


Usage: The DETECTLANGUAGE function can be used with the CONCATENATE function to create a string that includes the detected language.

Example: If you want to create a string that says, “The detected language is X”, where X is the detected language, you can use the following formula:

=CONCATENATE(“The detected language is “, DETECTLANGUAGE(A2))

This formula will create a string that includes the detected language of the text in cell A2. For instance, if the detected language is English, the formula will return “The detected language is English”.

For more details on the DETECTLANGUAGE function, check out the official documentation at the Google Docs Editors Help Center.

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Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith is automation consultant with a passion for technology, data, AI, and machine learning.