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Is localectl set-locale LANG=... a new way of setting LANG? Environment variable doesn't change this way. Or should I use both, set environment variable LANG and run localectl set-locale LANG=...?

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Setting the environment variables directly is "standard". localctl isn't particularly new (about five years old), and is just a utility program that updates the related information for certain programs. Its documentation needs some work, but may suffice for your needs.

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