How do I type in foreign languages?
April 18, 2005 8:09 AM   Subscribe

So recently, I've started chatting with some old friends in Germany, and while I can speak fluent german, it's a real pain typing the umlauts and other special characters using the character map (the application is Yahoo Messenger). Is there any easy way to type foreign letters on a standard american keyboard?
posted by patrickje to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
There are alt-NUMPAD combinations: hold down alt and type 1-3-2 for ä, 1-4-8 for ö, and 1-2-9 for ü. I'm not sure what the capital versions are.
posted by muckster at 8:15 AM on April 18, 2005

do germans do that? in spanish, if you don't have a spanish keyboard you typically drop accents completely and either ignore ñ or use "gn" (so year is agno, rather than ano...).
so, while i'm not being directly helpful, i'm guessing they know you don't have the right keyboard and so aren't expecting special letters.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:17 AM on April 18, 2005

well....for a lot of words the meaning is different, like schon and schön, there is a convention to add e, like schoen, but sometimes it doesn't make sense.
posted by patrickje at 8:21 AM on April 18, 2005

If you mess around with "Regional and Language Options" in the control panel, you can change your keyboard settings to German. However, you'll still have to figure out where everything is - weird stuff like z and y are switched, if I recall correctly.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:23 AM on April 18, 2005

Press Option-U, then type the vowel you'd like ümlautted. Likewise, Option-E and the letter for accent égu, and Option-` and the letter for accent gràve. Option-I + letter for the hât. Option-N + letter for the squiggly liñe.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:24 AM on April 18, 2005

It'd help to know what OS you're using....on Macs, you get an umlaut by typing option-u before the letter the umlaut should be above.
posted by jbrjake at 8:25 AM on April 18, 2005

Building on muckster's reply: In the character map, it'll say in the bar on the very bottom what alt-numpad combination you can use to type whatever character you've selected.
posted by zsazsa at 8:29 AM on April 18, 2005

In Windows 2000 (and XP I think) you can read Foreign Language Characters. If you make your keyboard setting United States-International, it'll allow you to type a " then the letter you want to umlaut. So typing "a gives you ä. It also works for other accented letters (right alt+s gives you ß if you still need to type it ever). If you need to switch back and forth, you can have it show the Language Bar (remember that of the these settings are perapplication unless you to extra stuff to make it system wide). I've found you can just add the United States-International keyboard in the existing "US" language.

Other than doing the replacement of "a to ä (and such), all the keys are in the same spot. On the same site, you can see the keyboard layout. If you need a " or a ' you type " then space to get it. And it works fine to type things like it's and don't.
posted by skynxnex at 8:49 AM on April 18, 2005

in high school I was taught that oe is the same as an umlaut o. ue and ae do the same.

or, get Mac OS, where you can type the umlauts without even thinking about it (option u, as discussed).
posted by sdrawkcab at 9:00 AM on April 18, 2005

I tried the international keyboard layout, but it changes the way the keyboard reacts too much--I don't want to have to type a space after every quote just to make sure I don't get an umlaut. I used to have hotkeys to switch between German and US keyboard layouts, but it's too much trouble because it's always set the wrong way.

sdrawcab, you're right about the +e convention, but it's sort of ugly. I use it only when I'm lazy, otherwise the numpad (especially when typing my name. ) For chat, ue etc would definitely do.

posted by muckster at 11:01 AM on April 18, 2005

Just map something to Multi_key.

In all seriousness, since I imagine you're stuck using Windows, try AllChars. It turns the Control key into a Compose key if you tap it, while retaining its normal functionality if chorded. In addition there's a little taskbar icon which pops up a reference chart.

I've used it before and it worked nicely.
posted by vsync at 3:29 PM on April 18, 2005

I also use the alt-NUMPAD combinations when I have to type in Spanish. After 10 years of writing Spanish papers, I have those combinations down cold!
posted by mabelcolby at 5:09 PM on April 18, 2005

I always reference this page:
posted by whoda at 7:11 PM on April 18, 2005

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