Foreign Language Input and Support

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Typing foreign characters in Microsoft Word

You can type some foreign characters in MS Word 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.)

Many of these shortcuts work exactly the same on a Mac as on a PC; simply use the OPTION key instead of CTRL. The Mac shortcuts are slightly different; see this table from Carnegie Mellon or this table from WA State for the full Mac keystrokes list.

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

Using and configuring foreign language support in Windows XP

Using The Language Bar in Windows XP

Windows language bar.JPG

Microsoft Windows XP offers support for virtually any language including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian. You can type in any of these languages using Microsoft Word and Input Method Editors (IME) available from Windows Text Services (see section below on how to configure language input on your computer). In many Middlebury College computer labs there is additional software installed that provides more text formatting options for some languages.

  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 (see Configuring Your PC For Multilingual Support):
  3. Click the icon in the lower right corner of your screen. A pop-up menu will appear.
  4. Select your language from the pop-up menu. (some language options 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.

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.

Configuring Your PC For Multilingual Language Support

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.

Windows XP 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 Language School for more detailed information. Here is a list of recommended keyboard layout/IME for Windows XP:

Input Language
Keyboard layout/IME
Chinese (PRC)
Chinese (Simplified) - Microsoft Pinyin IME 3.0
Arabic (Saudi Arabia)
Arabic (101)
Russian with install of transliterated keyboard see:
Microsoft IME Standard 2002
Microsoft Natural Input 2002

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.

Typing Diacritics (accents) on the Macintosh (not just in Word)

Typing in international characters is the same for all Mac applications, including the operating system.

A complete table can be found here.

Typing Diacritics (accents) on the PC

A complete table can be found here.

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