Keyboarding Foreign Languages

Back to Computing in the Lab

If you are typing in a Western-font language in MS Word, you may be happy simply to use the "insert symbol" function. However, there are a number of other ways to type characters with diacritics (ñ, à, ó, ç, etc.). There is a system of numeric codes to produce letters common in Western European languages. Or you can change the keyboard so that some keys function as accent keys or so that they are mapped to a different alphabet (Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew) or produce characters in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Click on one of the following three choices to explore these:

Changing & Accessing Windows Keyboards

International Keyboard (for many European languages)

Using ASCII codes to produce accented letters

1. Changing and Accessing Windows Keyboards

If you are logged into a particular lab computer, you can add keyboards or character generation functions which become part of your profile on that computer. If you use the same computer again, you should be able to access these keyboards easily.

First, check the language and keyboard icons in the taskbar to see what keyboards are available. First select the language. Then a keyboard icon will appear if there is more than one keyboard available for that language.

If the language or keyboard you want to use is not available, follow this path to add it:

  1. Start menu
  2. Control Panel (just below "Computer" on the right)
  3. Region and Language
  4. Keyboards and Languages
  5. Change Keyboards
  6. Add
  7. Look for the language you want, and click on the + until you are able to select the appropriate keyboard. Click OK and check to be sure that keyboard has been added to your profile.

The Default Input Language is probably English. Leave that alone. You can add languages and the appropriate keyboards by selecting from a list. For Japanese, choose the language first and then add the Microsoft IME (Input Method). For Chinese, choose Chinese PRC and then the simplified Chinese Pinyin IME.

After adding the keyboards and accepting/applying/OK'ing all the settings, you can access the keyboard or IME using the keyboard icon on the taskbar, or you can left-click to see a special Language Bar which floats on top of the application. You may need to change the keyboard selection for each program you open, and select an appropriate font for typing in the language involved.

Japanese and Chinese IMEs

To type Japanese or Chinese, you will need to be sure you have the floating Language Bar which gives you all the options you need. Open the program in which you will type, then switch to the Japanese of Chinese IME. To type in Chinese Traditional characters, look for an arrow at the right end of the toolbar and add "Char Set" to the options. If a character typed in Pinyin is not what you wanted, use the arrow keys (to the right of they keyboard) to arrow back over the character. A selection of possible characters will appear.

Right-to-left languages

A map of the Israeli Hebrew keyboard.

Two computers in 1317 Turlington have Arabic key-caps. One has Hebrew key-caps. These are helpful for learning where the characters are.

When using Word, be sure to set a right alignment. When the HE or AR keyboard is selected, the direction of typing should be correct, but it still is aligned to the left. You can choose right alignment by pressing CTRL and the letter R key at the same time.

International Keyboard

For many Western-font languages, a good choice is the English (International) keyboard, which allows you to type accented text using a dead-key system. After you add it (under English--United States--International), it will appear as a keyboard choice when English is selected.

In this system, the following keys are "dead"--that is, when you press the key once, nothing appears, but when you press another key you either get the expected punctuation or else an accented letter:


4. ASCII codes for accented letters used often in Western European languages


With Num Lock on, hold down the Alt key and type a 3 or 4-number code using the keypad.


  á = Alt + 160

à = Alt + 133  À = Alt + 0192
ä = alt + 132  Ä = Alt + 0142
â = Alt + 131  Â = Alt + 0194
æ = Alt + 145  Æ = Alt + 146
 é = Alt + 130   É = Alt + 144
è = Alt + 138  È = Alt + 0200
ê = Alt + 136  Ê = Alt + 0202
ë = Alt + 137  Ë = Alt + 0203
   í = Alt + 161
î = Alt + 140  Î = Alt + 0206
ï = Alt + 139  Ï = Alt + 0207
  ó = Alt + 162
ô = Alt + 147  Ô = Alt + 1212
ö= Alt + 0246   Ö = Alt + 0214
  ú = Alt + 163
ù = Alt + 151   Ù = Alt + 0217
û = Alt + 150   Û = Alt + 0219
ü = Alt + 129   Ü = Alt +154
 ç = Alt + 135   Ç = Alt + 128
  ñ = Alt + 164  Ñ = Alt + 165
ß = Alt : 0223
  ª = Alt + 166    ° = Alt + 167
¿ = Alt +  168  ¡ = Alt + 173