How to Switch Keyboard Languages, Plus Multilingual MacBook Hacks

When working with multiple languages, add an output language and use keyboard stickers or keyboard covers.

According to statistics, more than half of the world's population is bilingual. Whether you are learning a new language or are fluent in several, it's useful to know how to change your keyboard. In addition to switching your keyboard digitally, using physical guides such as keyboard stickers and keyboard covers can help.

Related: How to Pair & Use a Bluetooth Mouse, Trackpad & Magic Keyboard with Your iPad

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How to Add a Keyboard Language on a Mac

Apple offers a wide variety of keyboards that can be added to your device. Many language-specific keyboards will even offer different options. For example, under English, you can use the modern QWERTY keyboard, the Colemak keyboard, Dvorak keyboard, or a country-specific alternative.

  1. Click the Apple Button.

    Click the Apple icon on your Mac
     
  2. Select System Preferences.

    Select System Preferences to edit your settings
     
  3. Click on Keyboard.

    Select keyboard to change language settings.
     
  4. Go to Input Sources.

    Select input sources to add languages on your Mac
     
  5. Click the plus icon.

    Click the plus icon to add languages on your Mac
     
  6. Select the language you wish to add.

    Select the language you wish to add to your Mac keyboard
     
  7. Select Add.

    Click add to add the new language to your keyboard.

You can add several different keyboards to your Mac. For example, you can have an English keyboard, Arabic keyboard, and Russian keyboard. To learn more about Mac keyboards, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

How to Switch Between Languages

We all know how frustrating it can be to deal with Apple keyboard settings. (Anyone ever try to turn off predictive text?)It can be frustrating to go into your keyboard settings every time you want to change languages. If you are frequently working with documents in various languages, you can opt to automatically switch to a document's input source Just tick the box in the Input Sources tab in your keyboard settings.

If you're switching between languages more frequently and within the same document, you can use a keyboard shortcut instead. Press the Control and Space buttons simultaneously to select the language you wish to use.

Use a Keyboard Cover

Changing your keyboard language allows you to type in another alphabet. However, you will still see your regular QWERTY lettering on your physical keyboard. It is possible and extra impressive to memorize everything and type without looking. Or, you can get a keyboard cover to make life easier. 

Silicone keyboard covers are great because they are super thin. They can be applied and removed in seconds. In addition to being practical, they keep your keyboard clean. If you shop around, you can find beautiful designs or simple see-through ones with just the alphabet. 

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to apply and remove
  • Protects your keyboard
  • Can be decorative

Cons:

  • Can take away from Mac's sleekness
  • Not universal, they are model-specific
  • Can only use two languages at a time

Laptop Keyboard Stickers

Transparent stickers with letters or symbols on them are another great solution. You can even layer your stickers as long as the letters or characters aren't overlapping to see multiple alphabets at once.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive 
  • Can layer multiple alphabets
  • It keeps a classic keyboard aesthetic
  • Universal

Cons:

  • Hard to apply and remove
  • It might peel off after some time

A Separate Plug-In or Bluetooth Keyboard

Finally, it is also possible to get a separate keyboard in a different alphabet to connect to your Mac. You can use a Bluetooth keyboard or a regular plug-in keyboard for your second (or third) language.

Pros:

  • You can pick your favorite style of keyboard, e.g., ergonomic 
  • It doesn't permanently alter your Mac keyboard
  • Easy to connect and disconnect
  • Universal

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not space-efficient
  • Annoying to switch
  • Clunky aesthetic
  • Not so portable

Knowing how to change your keyboard language is useful if you are multilingual. Digitally adding an input language will allow you to type in other alphabets. However, it helps to have physical guides such as keyboard stickers and keyboard covers. These can help you work with different languages efficiently and with confidence.

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Hawaii. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.