How to Turn your Windows Keyboard into a Multilingual Immersion Machine

multilingual keyboard

If you want to see serious success with your language learning project you’re going to have to do everything in your power to alter your day to day environment to be as conducive to second language learning as humanly possible.

If you’re learning a language such as Mandarin, Korean or Russian, you may have begun to realize that your keyboard just isn’t making the cut. A number of websites exist that allow you to convert your text from one script to another, but they’re cumbersome, slow and impractical.

If you want to get serious about your second language you need to be able to set your computer’s keyboard up to support your new writing system. Luckily for you ‎Jenna Naruševičienė from Little Kiwi Linguist is here to explain to even the least tech savvy among you how to set up your PC for multilingual excellence. Check it out!

~Brian

For the purposes of this demonstration I am using an English > Russian conversion. You may follow these steps to achieve the same ends with any major language your computer allows.

 

Step One:

Open up your control panel. Underneath where it says ‘clock, language and region’, click on ‘change keyboards and input methods’ .

 

 Jenna 1

 

 

Step Two:

Click the tab at the top of the “Region and Language” window where it says ‘Keyboards and Languages’ and then click the ‘Change keyboards’ button.

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Step 3:

Now ensure you’re on the ‘General tab’ – this shows the languages your keyboard is using currently.

As you can See mine says EN English New Zealand – US (the US bit, refers to the letter layout on your physical keyboard, it’s not referring to the grammar or anything else). If you have EN English – United States – US, this would mean you have American English as your keyboard language and are using the U.S.  keyboard layout.

Click ‘add’. Once you have done so another box will appear with a whole lot of languages to choose from as pictured in step 4.

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 Step 4:

As you can see there are a whole lot of keyboard languages you can choose from.

What you’ll need to do now is expand the one you want by clicking the ‘–‘ sign next to the language you wish to add to your keyboard. You will then need to click the preferred choice. In this case, I have chosen Russian.

By selecting Russian as my check box this also means that the layout of my Russian keys will match the Russian keyboard layout. Your US keyboard layout for English will remain unaffected by the Russian layout for Russian (don’t worry there) because they’re two different languages and you’ll learn later on how to switch between the two and back again with no problem.

Once you’ve selected one in the check box click ‘OK’.

 

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Step 5

Click ‘Apply’ – without this step, all your hard work so far will be undone and no changes will be made.

As you can see in the Text Services and Input languages window, it now shows English (New Zealand) (I am a New Zealander after all) and it shows Russian (Russia) with a Russian keyboard.

After clicking ‘apply’ click on the ‘language bar’ tab and go to the next step.

 

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Step 6

Okay, now for the important stuff!

Now that you’re on the language bar – select  ‘docked in the taskbar’ AND check “show text labels on the language bar”.

This is crucial because it will show you on your task bar which language your keyboard will type in when you go to write something. If you don’t have this, it WILL frustrate you and you might be be set to the wrong keyboard language when entering important passwords for sites that only give you 3 attempts before locking you out; only to realize it’s the correct password with the wrong language input! (speaking from experience!)

Now click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK’ and close all 3 windows shown here.

 

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Step 7

So what now? Look to the bottom right hand side of your task bar and you’ll notice it says ‘EN’ – you can change the language to your added one 2 ways:

  • Right click the ‘EN’ icon on your taskbar and then a grey box will show up like it does here on mine (showing all languages you have added to your keyboard input list). Select the one you want (This is the slower way of the two).
  • You can hold the ‘ALT’ button down on your keyboard and then press ‘SHIFT’, this will change your keyboard language to the next language in line, to go back, you’ll need to do the same again until ‘EN’ appears again or ‘RU’ appears again if you wanted Russian as your keyboard output language.

Now, open Microsoft Word or any other program that allows you to type text.

 

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 Step 8

If you have succeeded –  you should now be able to type in this language, after switching using the ALT + SHIFT method or the manual method. As you can see from my example, I can type in Russian and the language task bar says ‘RU’.

Ta da!

 

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Once you have added your target language input you may want to invest in a set of keyboard stickers. You can check out this article for more on where to procure them and how to apply them properly.

About the Author:

Jenna NaruševičienėJenna Naruševičienė is a professional language tutor, English/Russian translator and the creator of Little Kiwi Linguist where she offers her tutoring services and enthusiasm for languages to learners around the world.

You can reach out to Jenna at www.littlekiwilinguist.com or on Facebook.

 

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  • Great explanation, Jenna! Many people ask me how to set up their computer’s keyboard to be able to write the Spanish ñ and the accentuation marks, and I can’t explain it too well because I use a Mac (and Macs make it’s really simple). Now I can send them to this post. Thank you!

    • I have it on good authority, Jorge, that a Mac version is also in the works! Thanks for commenting!

  • Mohammad Patrick Ročka

    Labas Jenne,

    It is much easier now in Windows 10 to add languages and keyboards for different language alphabets/script and to switch between them.
    to add a language keyboard,
    just go to
    select
    select
    then click the to the right to add the language and keyboard you want.

    Switching between the installed language keyboard options is easier as well
    just press the + to bring up the list of installed language keyboards & repeated clicking the space bar after first holding down the will switch between the installed languages

    • Jenna Naruševičienė

      When I wrote this Article Windows 10 didn’t exist. Not only that, many people around the world cannot afford to upgrade to Windows 10 or choose not to. Thanks for commenting. Jenna.

    • Jenna Naruševičienė

      When I wrote this article Windows 10 didn’t exist. Not only that, many
      people around the world cannot afford to upgrade to Windows 10 or choose
      not to. Thanks for commenting. Cheers, Jenna.

  • Angelos TSIRIMOKOS

    For those who have or want to type Latin characters with diacritics, let me warmly recommend Microsoft’s Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard, shipped with all recent versions of Windows. It even provides ways of typing the characters specific to Maltese (ċģħż) or Esperanto (ĉĝĥĵŝŭ)
    Also, it should be mentioned that Microsoft provides interactive pictures of its various keyboards, e.g. https://www.microsoft.com/resources/msdn/goglobal/keyboards/kbdcan.html