Foreign Language Input and Support


Typing Accented Characters (diacritics) on the PC

The best way to type occasional accents on the PC is with the US-International keyboard. Refer to Microsoft's information about language settings for keyboards for learn how to add 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 shortcuts. 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, we recommend installing the keyboard for that language so the keys you need will be close at hand. This article 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 10 - Classrooms & Public Windows Computers

Method 1: Keyboard input for foreign languages is pre-installed on all classroom and public computers at Middlebury College. It can be found under the Windows Start Image => 'M' Software Group => MIDD Languages.

Expanded Windows Start Menu - Midd Languages

Method 2: There is also a desktop folder called "Language Keyboards" that when opened will allow a user to select from a number of language keyboard options. Double-click on the .bat file of the desired language. This will install the keyboard option for the selected language.

Language Keyboards Desktop FolderLanguage Keyboards - Open Folder

Windows 11

  1. Go to System Settings, and search "Language".
  2. Click on Language Configuration.
  3. Under Preferred Languages, add the language you want.
    • You may have to approve Windows to make changes to your device.

Using the Language Bar

Windows offers support for many languages including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew 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, as follows:
    • Click the icon in the lower right corner of your screen. A pop-up menu will appear.
      Language Bar
    • 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 choose Adjust the Language band position.)

Note: If you accidentally close the Language Bar, you can reopen it by right-clicking an unused area of the Taskbar then choosing Toolbars -> Language Bar.

Keyboard Shortcuts

The faster way to switch between input languages is by pressing Alt+Shift or Windows+Spacebar to cycle through the available languages. 
  • Some languages, such as Japanese or Arabic, 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

An On-Screen Keyboard can be useful for some languages such as Russian and Arabic. This can also be useful if you change the keyboard configuration, but are not yet familiar with what key maps to which. 
To run the on-screen keyboard, search "on-screen keyboard" on the system's search bar, and click to open the On-Screen Keyboard application.

On-Screen Keyboard system search

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 insert 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 the CTRL key and some other character, and then pressing the letter key to which you want to add an accent. 
For example, pressing CTRL +` (the accent grave/tilde key), then pressing the letter a will insert an à.

Complete List of Keyboard Shortcuts

For your convenience, here is Microsoft's complete list of Keyboard shortcuts to add language accent marks in Word and Outlook.

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

Microsoft Office 365 Language Packs

Language Packs, including proofing tools, are available for download from Microsoft.

Using and Configuring Foreign Language Support in Mac OS

Typing in accented characters is the same for all Mac applications, including the operating system.
  • The easiest way is to hold down the letter that you'd like to put a diacritic over or under. A menu should appear allowing you to select the appropriate output.
  • For more complex output, you can use "symbol codes". A complete table can be found here. Unusual requirements, such as transliterating non-Latin-based languages like Arabic, may require the use of the Extended keyboard mentioned on that site.
  • 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.  See Write in another language on Mac to learn how.

Mac Settings Languages

For any of the above, you may also wish to use the Keyboard Viewer to help you find unfamiliar keys.

Mac Keyboard Viewer

If you wish to change not only the keyboard layout, but also the language used in computer menus, dialogs, dates, times and currencies, you can change your system language

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
  • 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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Article ID: 193
Mon 9/6/21 4:59 PM
Tue 7/2/24 9:25 AM

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