Foreign language keyboards

When I was writing a few articles about Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and International Domain Names (IDNs), I started thinking about what the keyboards must look like for people who live in countries that don’t speak languages that use Roman characters. Since those people need to have their own alphabet on their keyboard – along with the Roman alphabet in order to type domain names at the least – the keyboards must be a mishmash of characters. But I had never seen one.

So I decided to do a little research, and it turns out that this issue is much more complicated than I thought.

Not only are the keyboards for countries that speak languages that have non-Roman characters different, but countries all across Europe use different keyboards, as well, to accommodate the various characters that are popularly used in their languages. You can find more information on all of this here.

QWERTY – This is the most common layout in use, and is used by standard keyboards in the United States.

QWERTZ – Used extensively in Germany and Central Europe. The main difference is that the Y and Z are swapped, and most special characters are replaced by diacritical characters.

AZERTY – Used in France and Belgium, it differs from the QWERTY keyboard in the following: A & Q are swapped; Z & W are swapped; M is moved to the right of L; and to type a number, the shift key must be used (non-shifted numbers are used for accented letters).

There are other Roman-alphabet keyboards that have things moved around for ergonomic benefits, or to increase typing speeds, but the three just mentioned are the primary Roman alphabet keyboards.

Here is some more info on keyboards in non-Roman languages:

Chinese – Conventional keyboards are used to write Chinese characters through software called an “input method editor,” according to Slate. There is no standard system, however, so if things weren’t confusing enough, no two keyboards necessarily look exactly alike in China. This article is very informative about all the other ins and outs of Chinese language keyboards.

Chinese keyboards

Japanese – There are two main ways to input Japanese on a computer – through the use of a romanized version of Japanese called romaji or via keyboard keys that correspond to the Japanese kana (syllabic Japanese scripts.)

Japanese keyboard 

Arabic – Made up of an Arabic AZERTY layout that is common in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia & Arabic countries in North Africa. 

Arabic keyboard
Photo by dweekly

Tibetan- I am including this one here because it was the most unusual one that I saw during my research, with no Roman characters and no numbers. It’s worth mentioning that this is an illustration from Wikipedia, because perhaps in “real-life” the keys would have Roman characters on them.

Tibetan keyboard

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