How to Type in Multiple Languages on Your Mac

Continuing on with multi-language typing theme, I’m going to show you how to enable multiple language keyboards on your Mac. While you won’t be able to change out the physical keys on your Mac, unless you want to use an external keyboard, you can still type the equivalent letters or syllables to get what you want.

To get started,

1: Open the System Preferences app on your Mac, and then open the Keyboard Preference Pane.

2: Chen click on the Input Sources tab. This will show your current keyboard language and configurations, with your regional default at the top.

The Keyboard Preference pane.  A red arrow points to the Input Sources tab at the top of the screen.  The top tabs read from left to right:  Keyboard, Text, Shortcuts, Input Sources, and Dictation

3: Hit the plus button at the bottom left corner of the screen to add a new language or keyboard. The languages available to you will be in the left sidebar of the new window, with languages arranged in alphabetical order. There’s also a search bar at the bottom if you’re having trouble finding the language you want.

The Input Sources pane.  In the left sidebar are the languages enabled, currently only American English.  On the right hand side is the keyboard arrangement for the letters, numbers, and some symbols.
A red arrow points to the + button to add additional languages.  A minus button sits next to it for removing languages.

4: Select the language you want from the left hand, then select the keyboard arrangement you want from the right hand side. This is important if the language you’re adding has a different alphabet or arrangement than your physical keyboard. If you want to select multiple configurations in one language, press and hold the Shift key while selecting on the input sources. When you’re ready, hit the “Add” button” in the bottom right corner.

The language and input source selection screen.  A list of languages in alphabetical order is listed in the left sidebar.  Their possible keyboard arrangements are on the fight.  An image of their keyboard layout is in the bottom right.

5: You’ll be taken back to the Keyboard window. Your new language will be in the left sidebar. Unlike iOS, you can’t arrange the languages in whatever order you want. Your default regional keyboard will always be at the top, with the other languages arranged in alphabetical order.

  • If you click on a language in the left sidebar, you’ll see the keyboard layout on the right hand side as well as some options related to them. Some languages, like the Arabic keyboard keyboard, will only have a couple of options, whereas ones like the Japanese keyboard will have many options. Be willing to explore these for whatever language you choose.

6: At the bottom of the window, you will see some options as well about how to change and access your keyboard sources.

  • The first option will show you the language as a menu bar item. You can click the item in the menu bar to select the language from a drop-down list.
  • The second option in the Keyboard pane is to tap Caps Lock to switch between languages. So instead of Caps Lock acting as Caps Lock, it’ll now switch between your first 2 languages. If you have more than that, it’ll only switch between your default language and the first language in your list. This only works for swapping between 2 languages, so if you have multiple you won’t want to use this.
  • The last option will let the keyboard automatically switch to the language automatically based off the document you’re in.
Keyboard settings for showing input in the menu bar, using Caps Lock to switch between languages, and automatically switching languages based off the document open.

If you want to switch between languages manually, you have 2 options out of the gate. First is the one I mentioned before, where you use the item in the menu bar to select the language you want to use from the drop-down.

The second option is to use the keyboard shortcut, which by default is “Command”, “Option”, and “Space” at the same time. This will cycle to the next keyboard item in the list. You can change this shortcut by going back to the Keyboard Preference pane and hitting the “Shortcuts” tab at the top of the window, then selecting “Input Sources” in the left sidebar. You can then click on the shortcut to set it. You can set whatever shortcut you want, just make sure it doesn’t conflict with any other shortcuts you’ve set. You can also select the shortcut option to go backwards through the list, but since this is the same shortcut by default as activating Spotlight, you would probably want to change this.

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