I got a new server but unfortunately the hoster only installs me Ubuntu 8.04 in german.

So the upgrade worked smoothly, but now I am trying to change the system to english.

I adapted /etc/environment


And after searching forums I installed update-locale which generated the file /etc/default/locale


(this is the file i commonly remember from debian systems to hold the locale)

then i did dpkg-reconfigure locales which configured all the locales and after log out and relogin almost everything was in english.


the welcome messages is. the programs come in english. but for example apt is not:

prag341:~# apt-get upgrade
Paketlisten werden gelesen... Fertig
Abhängigkeitsbaum wird aufgebaut       
Status-Informationen einlesen... Fertig
Die folgenden Pakete werden aktualisiert:
1 aktualisiert, 0 neu installiert, 0 zu entfernen und 0 nicht aktualisiert.
Es müssen 4,346B an Archiven heruntergeladen werden.
Nach dieser Operation werden 0B Plattenplatz zusätzlich benutzt.
Möchten Sie fortfahren [J/n]? 

which is a very bad thing because then the default arguments Y/N become exchanged by J/N etc.

How can i correctly change the locale to default us english in uft8 as if i had installed it from the beginnig?


2 Answers 2


You're very close! You just need to change your preferred language list

From this


To this


Once this is done reboot your server and all the system languages should be in English

  • thanks! it worked. but can you explain why? i just re arranged them and put en_us in the front. why did that not work?? Jan 29, 2011 at 13:56
  • No need to reboot, you can do export LANGUAGE="en_US" in the command line or just source /etc/profile right? May not be applied for all programs but apt-get was in English after I did that Jun 15, 2012 at 6:49

But first you need to have needed language pack installed. On my German based VPS there was no english language pack pre-installed. So first you check that you have it installed:

aptitude install language-pack-en

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