Adding Alternate Language Keyboards to your iPhone or iPad

If you’re multilingual in some fashion, or you’re just learning a language, it may be necessary to type in another language. iOS has that function built-in, and this article will show you how to enable these languages and keyboards on your device.

To get started,

1: Go to the Settings app on your iOS device. Scroll down and hit “General”, then scroll down again and hit “Keyboard”.

A picture of the General section of the Settings app with a red arrow pointing to the "Keyboard section".  It is 10 spaces from the top, underneart "Date & Time" and above "Fonts".

2: At the top you’ll see a section called “Keyboards” and a number next to it. Typically this number will be “2”, but will change based off the number of keyboards, first or third party, that you have enabled and installed. Click on this and you’ll see the list of keyboards currently enabled. At the top is your current default language followed by the emoji keyboard. Below that will be a list of other keyboards you’ve enabled if you have any.

The "Keyboards" option highlighted in the "Keyboards" section.  It's at the top of the list and has a number indicating the number of keyboards you have actively enabled.

3: To add a new language, hit the “Add New Keyboard” button at the bottom, and you’ll be taken to a list of all the keyboards that you can enable. At the top will be recommended ones, followed by a section for third party keyboards you can enable, and then other languages, dialects, and regional keyboards. They language keyboards will be listed in alphabetical order for your language.

A list of keyboard and languages enabled.  The "Add New Keyboard" is

4: Scroll down the list until you see the language, regional form, or dialect you want to use and tap to add it. You can only add one keyboard at a time, so if you’re adding multiple forms or language you’ll have to go back and add them this way one by one.

5: You’ll be taken back to the previous screen with the languages and keyboards you have enabled. You can edit the order of languages as you want them to appear in the selector, which I’ll show you in a minute. To do this, hit the “Edit” button in the top right corner of the screen. You can also use this to disable languages.

7: How do you switch between these different language keyboards?

  • If you’re on a modern iPhone that’s all screen (i.e. iPhone X or newer), once your keyboard is pulled up, you’ll see the globe icon in the bottom left corner.
  • If you’re on an iPhone with a physical home button like the iPhone SE or older, you’ll hit Emoji button.
On iPhone 12, the languages menu accessible from the keyboard.

Tapping the globe icon will cycle through the languages you have enabled, though if you leave it sitting there for a few seconds and tap it again, it’ll automatically go back to your default keyboard. Pressing and holding the globe icon will let you see a list of all the keyboards you have enabled. Then you can tap the language you want, or go to the keyboard settings from here. These keyboards are arranged in the same order as they were in the keyboard settings.

There are a few other things to note when doing this. First, with languages that read from right to left, like Hebrew and Arabic, you’ll notice the typing direction changes to match with those languages. However, typically for keyboards that don’t use the Latin alphabets, you won’t be able to use the swipe-to-text feature of iOS 14.

Some languages will have multiple keyboard options and layouts, such as in Japanese, where you have the romaji keyboard (the Latin alphabet) and older-style phone number layout. Or in Mandarin Chinese where you can type the characters in pinyin (again, the Latin alphabet) or by drawing the characters.

Some of the more popular languages will have the autocorrect and autosuggest box above the keyboard as you type, whereas less popular languages won’t have that. And in all cases, you can also use speech to text for the language currently selected.

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