Many thanks to Joan, who raised this issue in a comment on my last post. Rather than reply to her there and then, it occured to me that the problem learners have finding accented Italian characters on a computer keyboard is one that would make a great topic for an article.
So here it is.
OK, the situation is that you’re learning Italian, and therefore want or need to write with Italian accented characters. But you’re not using an Italian computer, which is not really surprising if you live in Australia or Germany.
Not having an Italian keyboard makes it tricky to write in Italian, whether that be to complete your homework tasks, write up your study notes, or contribute in the OnlineItalianClub.com forums!
The problem is simply stated: where the hell do you find the accented characters: ì, è, è, ò, à, and ù?
This may be a trivial issue, but it sure can be a bothersome one, even for professional translators and others who work with foreign languages.
So, here are 7 things you can try to resolve your accented characters problem!
By the way, if you’re using a PC, before you deal with the issue of identifying (and remembering) which keys have the characters you need to write accented characters in Italian, you’ll need to add Italian to your keyboard language options, and learn how to switch the language of your keyboard between Italian and English according to what you’re writing.
Once you’ve set Italian as an option, you’ll find a language icon on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen, so you can just click IT whenever you want to type in Italian.
- My original attempt at solving the problem, from way back in 1998: you’re using an “English” keyboard, but inputting characters in Italian (you’ve worked out how to change the input language, as mentioned above.) So how do you know which key represents which character? Easy! Type each letter of the Italian keyboard in turn into a text document, so you end up with a visual representation of the layout of your keyboard on your screen. Then print it out, and glue it to your monitor (which were bigger in those days and so had more space for post-it notes.)
- Here’s one for the ladies: use colored blobs of nail varnish on the keys you use for accented Italian characters – red for è & è, blue for ù, pink for ì, and so on. Then keep a key to the colors somewhere handy.
- Techies! Buy an Italian USB keyboard and plug it in… These days you can even get bendy ones that fold up small to fit in your laptop bag.
- Got time on your hands? Take an Italian touch-typing course. Does anyone do this any more? Touch-typing was the most useful skill I ever acquired, and saves me masses of time each and every day.
- On your next visit to Italy, trade in your old computer for a nice, shiny Italian one (it’s much easier to write English on an Italian keyboard than vice versa)
- Switch from using a desktop or laptop to a tablet computer, which will have a “virtual” keypad that you can easily change from one language to another
- And finally… the solution that ITALIANS USE! (You wouldn’t believe how many years it took me to work this out.) Simply don’t bother. Instead of typing è or à, type e’ or a’. It’s perfectly acceptable to use apostrophes to represent accents, especially when fonts don’t have the correct accented characters: a’, e’, i’, o’, u’. Problem solved.
Of course, knowing HOW to type an accented character is one thing, remembering which words do or don’t need accents, quite another!
P.S. If you, like Joan, have an “Italian-issue” you’d like help with, or any other suggestions for dealing with the tricky Italian-characters-on-the-keyboard problem, why not leave a comment below, or write something in the forum.
Last call for Italian Workout! B2 at the launch price of just €9.99 only until Friday. Next week the C1-2 (advanced), the final e-book in our series, hits the virtual shelves of our shop.