Multi-Language Touch Typing

Your success in the contemporary world often requires the knowledge of more than one language. As well as learning to write, read and speak mastering a language includes learning to type on the authentic keyboard. Keeping in mind the cost of the language learning the typing skill almost always remains within the area of self-education.

How to reach the goal and not to make mistakes?

STEP 1. Start with Perfection

It is only logical to start with acquiring or reinforcing the touch typing skills in your own language. This will naturally save your time on working out the correct typing habits such as the correct body posture, hand position and fingering. The idea is that these do not change from language to language, after all we use the same keyboard for all the languages and the same principle of touch typing . Thus, we take it for granted that if you have made a decision to learn to type in a foreign language, you have the necessary touch typing skills in your own language.

Find a good typing course, probably the one you were using when you were learning, or any other tutor often downloadable from the Internet. Refresh your typing skills paying special attention to achieving instinctive typing and the feeling of relaxation during the process. Online tests, typing competitions which allow you to practice will perfectly do for this purpose.

STEP 2. Discover the Layout

So, you are well equipped now with solid touch typing skills in your native language. What’s next?

It will be a good idea now to get acquainted with the foreign keyboard, especially if the language uses an alphabet different from the one in your language. First, find the keyboard layout for the target language, for example here.

Make sure that you know all the letters and how to read them.

Then try to compare the letter layout with the keyboard layout of your native language paying attention to punctuation, special signs like @, etc.

Try to visualize the keyboard in your mind and “write” some simple words in a foreign language with the help of the keyboard (in your mind only).

STEP 3. To Switch or not to Switch?

Install the foreign keyboard layout in your operation system.

In Windows XP: Start — Control Panel — Regional and Language Settings — Text services and input options — Add

Now you can experiment with simple words somewhere in the word processor. Learn to switch between the languages without too much confusion or haste. For your convenience you can also use your On-screen keyboard and play with it for some time.

For some languages, especially those which use Latin alphabet, the differences in layouts are practically insignificant. For this reason many are tempted to use several languages on one layout. The benefit is obvious: you don’t have to switch between the languages and save time. For example, Italians use the Italian keyboard layout for all the English they have to type.

However, we recommend using the authentic keyboard layout in order to achieve the best possible result. Why?

First, local keyboard layouts are usually specifically tailored to the language. It means that the keyboard layout takes into account the frequency of letters or symbols and arranges them accordingly. The typing speed may often depend on this difference .

Second, if you happen to use the authentic keyboard when you start working/studying abroad, you won’t ever be confused. And imagine the situation when the only keyboard familiar to you is that of your native language, say, Italian. It is OK if you are the only owner of the computer you are going to use there and what if you have to share it with some native speaker? Do you think it will be easy for you to convince him or her that switching between En-It “is no harm”?

So, it’s better to learn fast switching between the languages while you are acquiring the typing skill in a foreign language. It will make your skill universal. And this often matters much in the contemporary world.

STEP 4. Try and Buy

Now the time has come to choose the appropriate touch typing tutorial which will guide you through the intricacies of typing in a foreign language.

If you have tried to type “touch typing tutor” in, say, Google, you know that it returns about 900,000 results. We are afraid it is easy to get lost in such abundance of programs. So, consider a few tips before downloading or making the purchase.

Try to find the course which is specifically designed for foreigners who learn the language. In this case you won’t have problems with understanding complicated grammar structures and will possibly benefit from the offered tasks. A good example for the Russian language is Solo on the Keyboard International [] which is available both with instructions in English and in Russian.

However, such courses are usually quite few, so an alternative to this is to focus on authentic courses, that is, those the natives use when learn touch typing. Ask your friends or pen-pals which program they used when they learned touch typing.

It is a considerable advantage if the authors give you a chance to try the software first. You can make sure that it really suits your needs well and only then pay money for it.

Don’t hesitate to test the company’s support service, send them a mail with as many questions as you want to ask (whether the fonts will be displayed correctly in your operation system, whether you can use the course with your language level, how the registration procedure works, how the software is licensed, etc.) before making the purchase. It is best if the company supports your native language and doesn’t employ electronic robots to answer your questions. You can count on really valuable tips while learning which may become more important than just a nice interface of the software.

STEP 5. Have fun!

So, the preparation is over now. Be prepared to work hard to achieve a good and prompt result. Do the tasks carefully and motivate yourself if the typing tutor you have chosen doesn’t do that for you. Treat it as a useful game. It is a good idea to pronounce everything your are typing in a foreign language. Just try to be sure you do that correctly. Check the dictionary if it is necessary.

You must be aware that at the beginning stage you are likely to use the keys of the native keyboard layout instead of the required ones. It is only natural, don’t be confused about that. It is just because the new skill is too raw and the two overlap. When you progress to a more advanced stage, everything will take its proper place.

While studying you will sure have to solve the problem of correlation “speed-accuracy.” Don’t rush for high speed, although it can be quite impressive. At the very first stages try to concentrate on accuracy, because you will never find time to come back to it. Coming back to improve speed is easy, it just comes with practice.

A very important role at an intermediate stage is played by sufficient practice. As a rule, typing tutors offer some deal of practice, however, you can feel that you personally need more.

That’s where you can start searching for online tests and additional practice sessions. Just remember that you can’t possibly use the symbols which you haven’t covered in your tutor. Otherwise you will be tempted to peep at the keyboard and that’s where the touch typing method ends.

When you have come to the finish with the course don’t think that this is the end. If you don’t have to type a lot in a foreign language, the skill may degrade fast. There are several methods to keep up your skills fresh.

First, you can keep up correspondence with some pen-pals. All online forms are welcome: chats, ICQ, serious forums, interest groups or blogs. If you feel all of them are stupid, find forums and chats devoted to touch typing, ask for advice and tips.

Second, you can find some useful forums where you can spend certain time typing your ideas on the subject you are interested in. Language forums are perfect for this goal.

Be sure you know the rules accepted in each forum.

Finally, the best variant is to keep a diary in a foreign language which will help both improve your language and typing skills. Livejournal is a very good solution. You will be able to do lots of typing and to be involved in authentic communication.

Usually both skills — language and typing — go together. So, perfect them simultaneously.

What we don’t recommend doing simultaneously — that’s practicing typing skills in several languages.

Good luck!

Copyright Sophie Kostiuk, 2006

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About the Author: Abhishek