How to type special characters/accents on foreign words




Ça va?

¿Cómo estás?

Ich wohne in der Flußstraße.


The posh name for accents, or any kind of extra accoutrements above or indeed below a letter is “diacritics”. Information technology is developing by the hour, it would seem, and it is becoming ever-easier and more intuitive to produce increasingly accurate text. Even if you would not feel confident hand-writing postcards in your chosen language, there are tools to help you text or type with native-speaker accuracy.


On your phone

Special characters are über-fácil to write on a smartphone: instead of the usual quick tap on the letter, you press the desired key and hold it down until a range of options comes up, and then select the desired one from the list.



On your computer (PC, not Mac)

A bit trickier, but there are several options:


Option 1: Use the character codes

Press and hold the ‘alt’ key and then (making sure the Number lock is switched on) type the number from the table below. Release the alt key and, hey presto!



Other foreign characters:

Acc



Option 2: Using keyboard code characters


For the acute accent: á é í ó ú

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ and tap the apostrophe.

Then let go and type the vowel and the accent goes above the letter


For the grave accent: à è ì ò ù

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ + ‘inverse apostrophe’. This is the key top-left on your keyboard, just below the ‘escape’ key.

Then let go and type the vowel and the accent goes above the letter


For the circumflex accent: â ê î ô û

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ + ‘shift’ key together then tap ˄ (by the number 6).

Then let go and type the vowel and the accent goes above the letter


For the umlauts: ä ë ï ö ü

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ + ‘shift’ key together then tap the colon (:) key.

Then let go and type the vowel and the accent goes above the letter


For the cedilla: ç

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ key then tap the comma key.

Then let go and type the c and the cedilla will be there


For the German double S, scharfes S, Es-zet: ß

Press and hold ‘Ctrl’ + ‘shift’ key together then tap the ampersand (&) key.

Then let go and type the s and the ß will be there


Note: To capitalise any of these, you press the shift (arrow up) key after letting go of the ctrl key, but before pressing the letter key.



Option 3: Use ‘insert symbol’

You can insert any kind of character or symbol you can possibly think of by doing this:

· Click on ‘insert’ on the menu bar at the top of the document.

· Click on ‘symbol’ on the far right of all the options.

· You will probably be offered a shortlist of what your computer guesses are the most useful options for you.

· If you don’t see the one you require, click on ‘more options’ and then be prepared to do a lot of scrolling to find the one you want!

This is the most cumbersome, and therefore my least favourite of all the options, but it is failsafe, and will allow you to find literally any character that exists anywhere in the Google-known universe. So, remember this one when you want to type that document in Czech, or 8th century Norse.


Option 4: Be lazy!

I hesitate to recommend this one, but it is an option: simply type the words without making any effort to add the special characters and, making sure the spellchecker tool is set to the correct language, wait for your computer to put red squiggly lines underneath the misspelt words. Then just right-click for the corrected version.



Andrew Wenger has been typing accents in a variety of ways in his long career teaching foreign languages. Contact him here if you would like to find out more about this, and other aspects of learning any of the languages offered by SameSky

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