I’m sure lots of you have a computer with an operating system (such as Windows) which has English set as the default language. You’ve probably also got an English tastiera (keyboard). This can sometimes make writing and spell checking in Italian a bit awkward. Well here’s the simplest method that I’ve found for easily switching between English and Italian on your PC:
Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between the display language and the keyboard input language. In fact, it’s not actually necessary to change the default display language on your computer to Italian. Our laptop, for example, has an Italian keyboard, which makes life simple when writing in Italian, but we still find it more convenient overall to have the default display Language (not the keyboard input language) set to English. The computer that I’m working on at the moment, on the other hand, has an English keyboard (when it finally wears out I’ll get an Italian one!) but with the right set up it’s no problem writing in Italian.
Here’s how to set up your Windows PC in order to easily switch languages:
Go to Start > Control Panel > Change keyboards and other input methods. Then in the ‘Region and language’ menu click on ‘Change keyboard’. In the ‘Text services and input languages’ menu that appears click on ‘Add’ and choose ‘English (United States)’ then in the drop down menu choose ‘United States-International’.
Now go to the Language Bar tab and make sure it’s set to: ‘docked in the taskbar’, and ‘show text labels in the language bar’.
Click on Apply.
Now when you want to write in Italian and use accents simply change the settings in your language bar (located on the bottom right hand corner of your screen in the taskbar) to ‘English United States’. Here’s how it looks on my Windows 7 PC.
As you can see I also have the Italian keyboard layout installed, which is useful when I attach an Italian keyboard to my PC. As I’m writing this blog in English however, I have my keyboard language set to EN English (United Kingdom). When I write in Italian I simply click on EN English (United States), which is actually ‘United States-International’ as explained above. Even if your default keyboard language is already set to United states you can still install ‘United States-International’ and easily switch from one to the other.
Adding accents when writing in Italian:
For the letters à, è, ì, ò, ù, (including capitals) simply press grave accent (`) to the left of the number 1 just above the Tab key and below Esc, then press the letter of your choice. E.g. ` plus e = è. One small complication is that the chiocciola (@) and the inverted commas (“) swap position. To make a chiocciola (@) press shift and inverted commas (“ – located on the number 2 on my keyboard), and for inverted commas press shift and chiocciola (@) followed by the space bar (it’s a bit tricky to remember at first).
To make acute accents, such as the é in perché, simply hold down Right Alt and press the letter of your choice.
Now on to spell checking. I find this essential, especially when switching between English and Italian, which I have to do all the time. My blogging software is Windows Live Writer, and I have both English and Italian dictionaries installed. However, most of you will want to check your spelling when writing in text boxes, such as when adding a comment on a blog or a forum, or when you write e-mails. I prefer to use Mozilla Firefox as my web browser, with Thunderbird as my e-mail client. If you haven’t made the transition I strongly recommend it! Here are clear instructions from Mozilla on how to use their web based spell checker, and install other dictionaries, such as Italian: How to use Firefox Spellchecker. You will find similar setups for your preferred web browser, although Internet Explorer is a bit more complicated because it doesn’t have its own built in spell checker (unless it’s been added in the latest version).
Obviously, I can’t cover all keyboard variations and PC setups, but I hope that some of you will have found this article useful.