In A Different Key

 Have you ever tried to type on a keyboard from another country? It’s not easy. the French keyboard, while using the same letters of the alphabet, has put a few keys in different places. The m, w and a are not where I always find them and I always end up typing Lindq to use just one example.


 The other day I was in an office with a French keyboard gallantly and very slowly typing an e-mail. I gave a sigh in the middle of it. I couldn’t find the apostrophe anywhere. A French person had to get up and come over to my computer and point it out to me. And their period, while in the same place, has to have the shift key. All of the numbers need the shift key as well. A French person pointed out to me how difficult it was for them to use the American keyboard (I assume it’s American,it’s querty at any rate) because it has none of the accents that they use. My husband has a way of making the keyboard French using a special editor so he can add these. You can also use various little “secret codes” to add accents but they really slow you down.


 When we were in Morroco we went into an Internet cafe and not only was the keyboard French, it also had symbols used in the Morrocan language. The period was clear over on a little numerical pad. I didn’t answer many emails there. I got to thinking what a Chinese keyboard would look like and found this: IME Tutorial Apparently, they don’t have a keyboard but have to use a special program to change what is written to the Chinese language.

 It always amazes me at the many things in the world that never occurred to me until I traveled. Or studied.

13 thoughts to “In A Different Key”

  1. Years ago I lived in Paris and I had a French typewriter. A manual. In the three years I had and used it, I got used to the French keyboard.

    When I went back to the U.S., I had to re-learn the American keyboard. Now I stick to American, but I use the US-International keyboard that makes it easy to insert accents — é,à,û,ç, etc. — without having to memorize any number codes.

    Every country has its own keyboard. Even the French Canadian one is different from the one they use in France.

  2. How funny, that wouldn’t even had occurred to me. I think the internet cafes I’ve used (on Zanzibar and in Australia) all had keyboards that were indistinguishable from American ones. But my new laptop has a € key! Took me a lttle while to figure out what it was. It’s right next to the control key so I hit it a lot.

  3. I never use a French keyboard if I can help it. When I do my typing slows down to a crawl. I’ve gotten a little faster when stuck with a French keyboard but then I come to something I can’t find, like the apostrophe, and have to sit there searching. Linda

  4. The French layout was designed by Dvorak and often called AZERTY after the first line of letters (vs our QWERTY).

    It’s designed to let you type faster but the QWERTY layout won out (it was designed to avoid typewriter jams from too fast typists on early typewriters).

    I find the best for European languages is the Spanish layout which is basically QWERTY but with the likes of – + and ? swapped round a bit to allow for the extra accents.

  5. When I reported on our travels in Turkey, my friends and family received some unique e-mails. By laboriously typing my outbound messages after seeking what appeared to be the appropriate symbols on the keyboard,they looked OK to me; but somewhere along the line they were received looking like a creative cross between English and some mystery language. Interestingly, this happened only in the hotel in Istanbul. In hotels in Cappadoccia and along the coast there was no difference. I knew in advance that this was a possibility and had warned everyone. We all had a good laugh over the messages.

  6. I had to learn how to type all over again, now I am about 100 words a minute on a French keyboard but cant remember the american one! funny how we adapt.

    I like how if you want to put a period, you have to be really sure, and do the shift key, like “is that your final answer?” point.

    I think there is somekind of thing you can do to your computer to make it have american keyboard; I did it for my friends that came to visit that wanted qwerty and had it memorized.

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