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I know this question looks like a duplicate but it's not, all the other solutions are not working for me.

I'm using debian 10 buster and I installed texlive with: sudo aptitude install texlive texlive-base, then I tried to compile a document and got this error:

Package babel Error: Unkown option `french'. Either you misspelled it or the language definition file french.ldf was not found

Next I tried this:

tlmgr init-usertree

then this:

tlmgr install babel-french

but I got this error:

tlmgr: Remote repository is newer than local (2018 < 2019)
Cross release updates are only supported with update-tlmgr-latest(.sh/.exe) --update
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    I don't use Debian, but it seems like Debian has installed TL 2018, which is not unsurprising, since the Linux packaged versions generally lag behind the current version. But that means you can't use tlmgr to update using the default repository, since it is now 2019. This is the error you got. But there's something else wrong, because babel is part of texlive-base so it should be installed. – Alan Munn Jun 10 '19 at 3:16
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    I think many users prefer to avoid the Debian package manager altogether for installing TeX Live. See How to install "vanilla" TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu? for details. – Alan Munn Jun 10 '19 at 3:23
  • Isn't there a way to install packages for the TL 2018 version? – nexide Jun 10 '19 at 8:24
  • No, for each edition there are only updates for about 10 months, before the freeze for the next version. They cannot always guarantee that any changes to the package format (used my tlmgr) is backwards compatible, thus the cut off. As others have mentioned, there is a reason a lot of us are using the upstream version instead. If you want stability then use the Linux distributed version, and accept that it is not always 100% up to date. – daleif Jun 10 '19 at 9:19
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Debian packages a complete TeXLive, so you can install matching packages from the Debian repositories. In your case you should install texlive-lang-french via apt-get (or texlive-full if you want to avoid this in the future).

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To add to Ralf's correct answer, here an explanation why tlmgr gives this error: Debian/buster comes with TL2018, and thus refuses to work with the 2019 repositories, even in self mode. I agree that this is an inconvenience, and I will see whether I remove this check in self mode, either in upstream tlmgr, or only in the Debian packages.

For now there is no good solution but either stick with Debian's packages, which are at the status of about January 2019, or install upstream TUG's TL and ignore the Debian one.

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