Using Non-English Keyboards

If your language has a script other than the Roman script used for English, you may want to learn to type in it. Or your language may use a Roman script, but contains accents or other marks that are not used in English. 

Early in the learning process, writing by hand will be enough as you get used to the letter forms, but once you feel comfortable with identifying characters and the way the script works, learning to type will allow you to write much more quickly and to use the script online or in other computer-based applications.

Finding and Activating a New Keyboard

The following points show you how to find and activate scripts on your computer:

Discover Your Keyboard Layout

Now it’s time to discover the layout of your keyboard:

  • To find the layout of your keyboard, do a Google Images search for “(your language’s name/name of the script) keyboard layout”. Test out typing a few letters to find a picture of the layout that matches with the one you have. (Some scripts have more than one keyboard layout so this is an important step.)
  • Now print this out and put it somewhere where you can see it easily while you practice typing. You will use this until you can remember the letters without looking.

Practice Using the Keyboard

Now you need to start practicing:

  • Start a new text document on your computer (you should probably use your computer’s native program, since it will work better with the built-in keyboards). Go through the vocabulary of any chapter from your textbook, and type out every word. Type each word at least two or three times, since the first time you will probably be focused on figuring out exactly how to type it. The second and third times will be easier and reinforce your motor memory.
  • Repeat this exercise with different vocabularies from different chapters every few days or so, until you start being able to type without looking at the keyboard layout sheet that you printed out.
  • Now find entire sentences in a chapter of your book. Pick a manageable number like ten or twelve. Now type the entire sentences, several times each. Like in the exercise with typing single words, repetition will help your motor memory. Keep doing this exercise every few days or when convenient, until you are able to type more fluidly. You can also alternate this with practicing typing single words.

After doing enough of this kind of practice, you will have learned the basics of typing in your language. All that remains is to keep typing to increase your speed and muscle memory by typing more and more. Typing short essays or homework assignments or finding online forums to type in the language will help with this.

NOTE: Scripts like the Chinese script, which is not alphabetic, usually have different input methods than just having a single letter for each key, since there are thousands of possible characters. If the script you are learning is of this type (i.e. any script with more than a few dozen characters), you will need to do some research. Use online searches like “Chinese keyboard Windows” to find articles which detail exactly how to use the keyboard. Then, once you are familiar with the input method, you can go ahead and do the typing exercises above.