Foreign Language Input and Support

Typing Diacritics (accents) on the PC

The best way to type occasional accents on the PC is with the US-International keyboard. See Microsoft's tutorial for how to install it and how it works. If you only use accents infrequently and don't want to install an additional keyboard, you can use the built-in Microsoft Office shorctuts. For users with a separate number pad on the right side of the keyboard, alt codes are also an option.

If you frequently type in another language, it is recommended to install the keyboard for that language, so the keys you need will be close at hand. This page will show you how.

Using and configuring foreign language support in Windows

The first thing you need to do is install an additional keyboard. Once this is done (as should already be the case on all public lab computers), you just need to switch to that language using the Language Bar (or these keyboard shortcuts).

Configuring Your PC For Multilingual Language Support

Windows 8.1

Microsoft provides support to configure and manage different languages. Keep in mind that you might need to install a language pack in order to see all the different keyboard configurations available. The information below was acquired from the following link: Add or change an input language (text and video instructions)

Install a new keyboard configuration

To add a keyboard layout for a language:

  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, and then tap Change PC settings.

(If you're using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, and then click Change PC settings.)

  • Tap or click Time and language, and then tap or click Region and language.
  • Tap or click the language you want to add a keyboard to, and then tap or click Options.
  • Tap or click Add a keyboard, browse the input method list for the keyboard layout you want to use, and then tap or click it.

Windows 7 - Classroom and Public Computers

Keyboard input for foreign languages is pre-installed on all classroom and public computers at Middlebury College. It can be found under the Start button => Programs => MIDD Languages.

Windows 7

If your computer does not have the language inputs that you desire, you can add them by using these instructions:

Windows Vista

If your computer does not have the language inputs that you desire, you can add them by using these instructions:

Windows XP

If your version of Windows has been installed with language support, you should be able to simply select the languages you want to use to make keyboards and/or input method editors (IME) become available to you. This can be done as follows:

  1. Navigate to Start button.PNG -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options.
  2. From the Regional and Language Options window, click the Languages tab.
  3. Click Details button.PNG. The Text Services and Input Language dialog box opens.
  4. In the Installed services section, click Add button.PNG.
  5. On the Add Input Language dialog box, select the desired language from the Input language drop-down list. The Keyboard layout/IME drop-down list also changes. From the Keyboard layout/IME drop-down list, chose an appropriate keyboard/IME (Input Method Editors - see below).
  6. Click OK button.PNG. This returns you to the Text Services and Input Languages dialog, where the language you selected is added to the Installed Services list.
  7. In the Preferences section, click on Language Bar. The Language Bar Settings dialog box opens.
  8. Click the checkbox next to Show the Language Bar on the desktop, and set any other options you find useful.
  9. Click OK button.PNG. The Language Bar Settings window closes.
  10. Click OK button.PNG on the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box.
  11. Click Apply button.PNG. The Language Bar will appear on the right side of your taskbar, displaying the English language icon (EN).
  12. Click OK button.PNG. The Text Services and Input Languages window closes.

Using The Language Bar

Windows language bar.JPG

Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7 offer support for virtually any language including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian. You can type in any of these languages using any program you want with the Input Method Editors (IME) available in Windows.

  1. Start Microsoft Word (or any other application you want to use).
  2. Select the language you want to type in from the Language Bar on the taskbar:
    1. Click the icon in the lower right corner of your screen. A pop-up menu will appear.
    2. Select your language from the pop-up menu. (Some language options may require you to right-click on the language icon (e.g. CH) and chose Adjust the Language band position.)
  • If you accidentally close the Language Bar, you can reopen it by right-clicking on an unused area on the taskbar and choosing Toolbars -> Language Bar.

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • The faster way to switch between input languages is by pressing Alt+Shift to cycle through the available languages. Some languages, such as Japanese, will additionally require you to switch input methods - the keyboard shortcut for this is Alt+` (the accent grave/tilde key). For switching between keyboard setups in languages like Chinese or English (particularly useful if you are using the US-International keyboard), the shortcut is Ctrl+Shift.

Use the On-Screen Keyboard to find your way


An On-Screen Keyboard can be useful for some languages such as Russian and Arabic. To run the on-screen keyboard, go to Start button.PNG -> Programs -> Accessories -> Accessibility -> On-Screen Keyboard.

Input Method Editors (IME)

Typing in many non-Latin-based languages requires learning how these characters are transliterated into English characters. Consult the instructors in your department or Language School for more detailed information. Here are some examples:

Language Input Language Keyboard layout/IME
Chinese Chinese (PRC) Chinese (Simplified) - Microsoft Pinyin SimpleFast 2010
Arabic Arabic (Saudi Arabia) Arabic (101)
Japanese Japanese (Japan) Microsoft IME

Typing accented characters in Microsoft Office

You can type some foreign characters in MS Word, Outlook, and other Office programs without any special configuration. There are certain key combinations that signal your computer to use a character that isn't found on an English keyboard. These characters are actually pretty easy to enter in, once you learn the basic rule.

If you don't want to or don't know how to configure your keyboard to type in foreign characters directly, you can use this trick to enter in the characters in MS Word, and then copy and paste them into another program if needed.

The basic rule

On a PC running Windows, MS Word's foreign character shortcuts usually involve first pressing Key Ctrl.PNG and some other character, and then pressing the letter key that you want to add an accent to.

For example:

  • to create a é character, press Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Quote.PNG; then release, and press Key E.PNG.
    (The é is like an E with a ' on top of it.)
  • to create a ñ character, press Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + Key Tilde.PNG; then release, and press Key N.PNG.
    (The ñ is like an N with a ~ on top of it; notice that just as you have to hold SHIFT to type a ~ character normally, you have to hold Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG in order to create a "tildefied" special character.)

Macs running OSX have a slightly different system; see the Mac instructions below.

The full chart of key shortcuts:

To produce... First press... Then press...
á, é, í, ó, ú Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Quote.PNG Key A.PNG etc.
à, è, ì, ò, ù Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Tilde.PNG Key A.PNG etc.
ä, ë, ï, ö, ü Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + Key Colon.PNG Key A.PNG etc.
â, ê, î, ô, û Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + ^ key Key A.PNG etc.
ñ, ã, õ Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + Key Tilde.PNG Key N.PNG etc.
ç Key Ctrl.PNG + < key Key C.PNG
æ Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + & key Key A.PNG
œ Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + & key Key O.PNG
ø Key Ctrl.PNG + ? key Key O.PNG
ß Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + & key Key S.PNG
å Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + @ key Key A.PNG
¡                    Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Alt.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + ! key
¿ Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Alt.PNG + Key Shift.PNG + ? key
Key Ctrl.PNG + Key Alt.PNG + Key E.PNG

Microsoft Office Proofing Tools

Proofing Tools can be purchased for Microsoft Office that provide additional text input and formatting options for many languages such as Spelling and Grammar Checkers, Translation Dictionaries, Thesauri and Hyphenation Tools. Proofing Tools for Chinese also have options for converting Chinese text to Simplified or Traditional characters. Proofing Tools are installed in most computer labs at Middlebury and can be purchased from Microsoft for individual computers.

Mac OSX instructions

Typing in accented characters is the same for all Mac applications, including the operating system. A complete table can be found here.

If your chosen language has a different script, or if you type in another language frequently enough that you'd rather use the keyboard layout designed for that language, you'll need to change your keyboard input method. You may wish to use the on-screen keyboard to help you find unfamiliar keys.

IPA and other symbols

If you need to use the IPA or other special characters, the simplest way is to use an online keyboard like the one at http://ipa.typeit.org/full/. Otherwise, on a PC you can use Insert>Symbol in your favorite Office program (for best results, make sure you're using a font with good Unicode support, such as Doulos.) On a Mac, you can enable the Character Viewer the same way you enable the on-screen keyboard above, then use the settings to display additional character lists.

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