French accents and keyboards

Posted by Nancy on 28th May 2020 in the blog in the learning french category

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One of the most popular questions we receive at Learn French with Alexa (LFWA) is "how to type French accents". É, è, ê, ë and ç are still the bain of existence, despite French being my first language. Accents are essential when writing in French. It is crucial to master their use as you continue to hone your language skills. The French language uses five different accents to indicate variations in pronunciation and distinguish between similar words. Those accents are accent aigu (é), accent grave (è), accent circonflexe (ê), cédille (ç) and tréma (ë).

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French Accent Blog Post Images LFWA learn french with alexa 1
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Typing with French accents

The difficulty for many like myself come from our use of non-French keyboards. As a Canadian Macbook user, I have an English keyboard. Many of our LFWA cohorts also have English keyboards. For Apple users, it is usually quite easy to conjure up a quick accent aigu by merely pressing on your letter of choice and selecting your chosen accent. For others, it may not be as easy. Below are a few tips to help you type accents like a native French speaker on a French keyboard.

Mobile Devices

When using a mobile device, French accents quickly become second-nature. The best and most natural thing to do on your mobile phone is to install a French keyboard that you can use whenever your inner francophile is making an appearance. Most smartphones make it very easy to install multiple keyboards. I for one, have the default English, as well as French and Spanish keyboards on my iPhone. It's a straightforward task with any mobile device, including tablets.

PCs/Windows Softwares

For PCs users, there are many ways to type French accents. It ultimately will depend on your preferences. One of the most popular ways is to use ALT codes and type a number every time you want to write an accent... it can quickly become frustrating. Here are some of the French characters when using ALT codes on a PC. You can find all the ALT codes on this website here.

If you don't want to go through the trouble of remembering all these ALT codes, you can change your keyboard to an International (US International) or UK Extended keyboard via your computer's Control Panel. Once you've done that with the US International keyboard, below is how you will type the French accents:

  • à, è : ` then letter
  • é : ‘ then e
  • ç : ‘ then c
  • ê : ^ (shift + 6) then e
  • tréma (example: ö ): ” (shift + ‘) then letter
  • French quotations marks : ctrl + alt + [ ]

With the UK extended keyboard layout it's as follows:

  • ` : ` then letter
  • é : ALT GR + e
  • ç : ALT GR + c
  • ^ (example: ê) : ALT GR ^ then letter
  • tréma (example: ö ) : ALT GR + ” then letter

French is not the easiest language to master, but once you get there, I guarantee you'll feel amazing. I hope the above tips will prove to be helpful. If you need any additional help, do not hesitate to email us at [email protected].

Bisou bisou!

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