How to Survive the Foreign Language Keyboards

Found in Internet Cafes Worldwide

Some of you are touch typists at speeds of 75 words per minute and above and don't ever look at the keys. This will make you very frustrated when you sit at a computer that is set up for a foreign language, providing letters in what will be unexpected places.

If you do look for the keys, you might have to hunt around for the keys and you might eventually find them. However, you will have to use shift, control, or ALT keys to get the letter or punctuation you want.

My advice: before you go, become a touch-typist and don't look at the keys! Then you can make any keyboard work as you expected. There are two ways you can make the keyboards work:

1. If the computers are set up for alternate languages

In the task bar, at the bottom right, you might see a two-letter abbreviation that stands for the current language setting. For example, you might see the letters as follows for a French keyboard setup: "Fr" instead of "En" for English. If you see a two-letter code that indeed does not read "En" then you can use some shortcuts as follows:



ALT (left one) + SHIFT

One of them should work... it all depends on how the internet cafe set it up. Once you see the two letter code change, keep hitting the same two keys until you see "En".. that should do it.

2. If the computers are NOT set up for alternate languages

If the keyboard is providing unexpected symbols or letters and you do NOT see a two-letter abbreviation, then you have two options:

a. move to another computer.
b. install the English keyboard!

In Windows in English, it is easy to switch language options. However, how you do it depends on the version of Windows. I have XP, and here you have to click START, CONTROL PANEL, and "DATE, TIME, REGIONAL, AND LANGUAGE OPTIONS." Then you click "REGIONAL AND LANGUAGE OPTIONS" and the set of languages will pop up.

The trouble will be when you sit down in front of a computer without any English at all. In that case you have to be familiar with the icons. In XP, look for a pencil pointing to a checkmark on a white board for the control panel. Then look for a globe next to a calendar then a globe sitting on a stand. I no longer have Windows 98 so I can't give you the icons or items to find there. However, I trust you will see derivatives of the word "region" "language" or "global."

You'll see a drop-down list of languages. Ignore it--it's only for dates, times, numbers, and currencies. Click the second tab called (of course) "Languages." Click ADD and you'll have two options: One is keyboard layout and one is the input language. I've not experimented with these, but try to find US or "English" or "Anglais" or "Etats-Unis" or something.

If you practice this on Win 98 and XP in English while you're home, you will probably be able to make any computer worldwide allow you to type your 75+ words per minute once again without any errors! Just don't look at the keys while you type. Also, it would be nice if you return the keyboard to its previous state when you leave so you don't confuse the locals.

Dennis Galletta
Faculty, Fall 1999

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