Typing in a Foreign Language

In order to accurately type in French and Spanish on a computer, you should do three things:

  1. Change your language in Word to French or Spanish.
    1. On a Mac (Word 2008)
    2. On a PC (Word 2007)
  2. Learn how to type Spanish accent marks. This site also has a helpful link for learning how to use Spanish accent marks correctly.
    or French accent marks.
  3. Make proper use of the correct dictionaries. Be cautious using dictionaries. Make sure that you are not erroneously using a bad translation. One way to prevent this is to have a good dictionary. Some excellent online dictionaries are:
    1. www.wordreference.com This site not only draws on several dictionaries in various languages, it also features a number of forums in which native speakers help give good translations of difficult phrases.
    2. www.rae.es This is the official site of the Real Academia Española, an institution charged with maintaining the Spanish language. The site offers a Spanish/Spanish dictionary that is great for finding definitions to uncommon words. If it’s not here, the word is not Spanish.

Change Your Keyboard Settings

For those who frequently type in French or Spanish, it can be very helpful to learn to change the keyboard settings to Spanish.

On a Mac

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Click on Language and Text on the top row.
  • Select the Tab for Input Sources.
  • Find Spanish - ISO or French and check that box.
  • You will then see a small flag appear at the top right corner of your computer.
  • You can change that to Spanish for typing.
  • As an added benefit of doing this, both Word and Safari will recognize which language you have selected and correct your spelling accordingly.

In Windows (see here)

Guide for Typing on an English Keyboard set to Spanish (International Sort)

The following keystrokes will help you as you are typing on an international Spanish keyboard.

  1. To create an accent mark, type the ’ key followed by any vowel. If you want to place an accent mark on a capitalized letter, follow the same procedure, holding down SHIFT as you type the vowel.
  2. To type the ñ, use the ; key. For Ñ, use the same key with SHIFT.
  3. For a colon, type SHIFT and .
  4. For semicolon, type SHIFT and ,
  5. For ¿, type SHIFT and =
  6. For ?, type SHIFT and –
  7. For – type /
  8. For “, type SHIFT and 2
  9. For @, type OPTION and 2
  10. For ¡ and !, type SHIFT and 1 (In Word, the symbol will be automatically chosen based on whether there is a space before or not).
  11. For [  or ], use OPTION plus [ or ] respectively.
  12. For ( use SHIFT and 8
  13. For ) use SHIFT and 9
  14. In the rare need for ç use
  15. For /, use SHIFT and 7
  16. For umlauts, use SHIFT and ’ followed by a vowel (ü, ä).