How to Change Languages in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 language support has improved enormously in the past few versions. One very common request is to change the keyboard: You may have a German, British, or Thai keyboard, which is completely different from anything you’ve ever seen.

Although you can fake an umlaut, for example, using the Character Map program, if you use a lot of umlauts, it makes sense to get a keyboard that has umlauts built in.

When you change the keyboard language — Windows calls the program behind it the Input Method Editor — Windows doesn’t really change the keyboard at all. It just re-assigns things, so what you see on the keycaps corresponds to what appears onscreen. It’s a mapping function, even with enormously complex languages.

Here’s how to change the mapping that Windows uses to accommodate different languages and their keyboards:

  1. Bring up Control Panel by swiping the right side of the desktop, then choosing the Settings charm and picking Control Panel at the top; or right-clicking the Start screen in the lower-left corner and then choosing Control Panel.

  2. On the right side, in the Clock, Language and Region section, tap or click the Add a Language link.

    The Change Your Language Preferences dialog box appears.

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  3. If you don’t see the language that you want to use, tap or click the Add a Language link.

    If you do see the language you want — say, you want to add a Dvorak keyboard layout as an option for U.S. English — tap or click the Options link on the right and then tap or click Add an Input Method. Windows shows you dozens of different U.S. keyboards, and you can take your pick.

    After you tap or click Add a Language, you’re presented with a list of more than a hundred languages.

  4. Pick the language(s) you want and then tap or click Add.

    Tamazight Tifinagh, anyone? You return to the Change Your Language Preferences dialog box.

  5. If you have more than one language or keyboard layout installed, make sure your preferred language is on top by tapping or clicking the Move Up/Move Down links and then close the dialog box.

    Windows puts a small icon on the taskbar, immediately to the left of the clock. If you started in the English language, the ENG icon appears.

  6. To change languages — that is, to change the mapping Windows uses from your keyboard to the characters displayed onscreen — tap or click the icon and choose your language or keyboard.

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