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Mastodon Tip - Filter Languages To See Only The Ones You Understand

Screenshot of Mastodon preferences panel allowing you to filter posts based on languages

A tip for all the newcomers to Mastodon - if you are seeing a lot of posts in your timelines in languages that you don’t know, there is a very simple way you can filter those posts out. You just:

  • In the web client, click on the gear icon to go into Preferences
  • Select the “Other” panel under Preferences (see screenshot above)
  • Scroll down to “Filter languages"
  • Check the boxes next to the languages that you want to see
  • Scroll up to the top and press the “Save changes” button

Now your Mastodon timelines will only show you posts that indicate they are in the languages you have specified.

I made this change a few years back because I’m on a larger instance, and on the rare occasions when I actually looked at the Local timeline, it was full of posts in so many wonderful languages… but only a few of them I could actually understand. So I went into these preferences and changed it so that I only see posts in the three languages I know (at least somewhat): English, German, and French.

One important caveat - these filters are based on *the language the post indicates it is written in*. If you look at the screenshot above, in the middle right side you see a “Posting language” that is set as “Same as interface language”. And back on the main Preferences screen I have set my “Interface language” to English.

So all my posts are set by default to be in English. However, if I decide to go in and write a post in German or French, by default it will go out to everyone on Mastodon as “English”.

And so even with the filters on, you might still see posts in other languages if the author has their Mastodon client set to default to one of the languages you want to see. But setting these language filters should remove many of the posts in languages you don’t understand.

Setting a Post’s Language

BUT… what if you are a multilingual person and you want to post in multiple languages and allow people to filter based on languages?

In the web view of Mastodon, it’s very simple. When you are writing a post, you simply go to the bottom of the compose window where you will see the two letter abbreviation for whatever your default language is. Mine shows “EN” as English is my default.

screenshot of the window for posting a message to Mastodon showing the menu to change the language

When you press that language, you get a popup menu where you can change it to whatever language you are writing in. 

This changes the language setting ONLY for the post you are writing.

As soon as you hit “Publish!” and the compose window returns to being blank, the language will be reset back to your default language.

So if I wanted to send out a series of German posts or replies, I would have to REMEMBER TO CHANGE THE LANGUAGE SETTING for every single post. Which, to be honest, I will probably forget to do.

Additionally, I cannot find a way to change the language setting for a post in the Mastodon mobile app. When I go into the compose window, I see many options, but not to set the language. Some of the many other mobile apps may have this language support, but the one maintained by the Mastodon development team does not.

For both those reasons - people having to remember, and support on mobile clients - people writing in different languages may have the posts going out as whatever their default language is.

The point being that the language filters are great to have and can help adjust your timelines so that you are seeing content in only languages that you understand - you just need to know that they are not 100% perfect. 

Regardless, I’m very glad that they are there!