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Keyboard Clash! Typing in French – AZERTY Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Culture

After all my hardware problems in the summer heat, I finally had to go out and buy a new computer.

Qfter thqt; there zqs q proble, – After that, there was a problem.

Le clavier (the keyboard) was in French, and Le clavier français is a bit different from le clavier anglais.

"KB France" by Yitscar at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KB_France.svg#/media/File:KB_France.svg

“KB France” by Yitscar. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Le clavier has to have a way to type les accents, but on top of that le clavier is rearranged! If you’re familiar with QWERTY, you’ll quickly notice that A is where Q normally is, and several other letters and puntuation marks that aren’t in their “normal” locations.

Pour les accents (for the accents), there are keys for é è à ù ç, but for l’accent circonflexe, you have to first hit the ^ key and then the vowel you want it to go on top of:

^ + e = ê
^ + a = â
^ + o = ô
^ + u = û

It works for les lettres majuscules (upper case letters) as well, making it easy to type Ê Â Ô Û if you need to. The same pattern is used for le tréma:

“ + e = ë
“ + a = ä
“ + o = ö
“ + u = ü

Oddly, there is no way to type É È À Ù Ç or the less common French letters œ (oe) and æ (ae). As a result les accents are generally left off of upper case letters and the œ and æ ligatures are often written as two separate letters. Although it varies greatly between les logiciels différents (different software), and often spellcheck or autocorrect will put les accents on for you.

The less obvious things about le clavier français are how the numbers aren’t on by default. You have to hold shift or turn on caps lock in order to type them! That is also why it’s impossible to type é è à ù ç en majuscule. Holding shift and pressing the keys makes a number appear!

It doesn’t take long to get used to le clavier, even with it’s limitations. Switching between the two, zell; thqt cqn be hqrd – well, that can be hard.

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Neil:

    If you are going to learn a new keyboard layout for French anyway, I recommend taking a look at Bépo instead. It is specifically designed to make typing French less stressful on your fingers and it can easily type É À Ç « » œ, non-breaking spaces etc as well as all of the languages of the EU. Why invest time learning AZERTY when it’s not really even capable of typing correct French?