Change Your Keyboard or Display Language in iOS

Need to use more than just English on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad? While many people may never need to use multiple languages, there are plenty of us that want to type in several languages. Plus, even if you only ever use English, you may sometimes want to insert special characters that aren’t on the normal keyboard layout.

Apple has included a wide range of languages directly in iOS, so you can change the main language on your device or simply add an extra keyboard so you can type in another language. Plus, the default English keyboard has a number of built-in special characters you might have never noticed. Here’s how you can use your favorite language on your iPhone or iPad.

Your iOS Regional Settings

Your iOS device actually comes with 40 different languages preinstalled, and all you have to do is activate them. iPhone and iPad can display international fonts on websites and documents no matter which languages you have enabled, but if you want to change your main system language or type in a different keyboard, you’ll need to activate the language of your choice.

Open the Settings app, then select General and then International. This screen lets you change your Language, Keyboards, Regional Format, and Calendar year format.

iOS Settings work almost the exact same on iPhone and iPad, so we’re showing the steps on both devices in some screens and only iPad in others. The only difference is, everything will be smaller on your iPhone.

Tweak your system or keyboard languages, or change your regional settings

Let’s see how you can add new keyboard languages, insert special characters with the keyboards, and change your whole device’s main language.

Add a New Keyboard Language

To change your keyboard, tap the Keyboard option in the International settings pane. You’ll see the keyboards you already have enabled; tap Edit to remove a language or reorder them. The language on the top of the list will be the first to open whenever you start typing in an app.

Edit the keyboards you have activated, or add others

Want to add a new language? Tap Add New Keyboard and select from the 40 layouts  to add a new keyboard layout. Some languages, including Chinese and Japanese, have multiple keyboards avilable, so choose the one that will work best for you. Once you’ve selected it, you can reorder them in the previous screen as before.

Select a new keyboard layout to add

As soon as you’ve added a new keyboard layout, you can start typing with it in your favorite apps. Just tap the new button on the left of the spacebar that indicates your current language to switch to another language you have installed. Alternately, press and hold the button to select the language from a popup list.

Tap the language button to switch languages, or press and hold to select the one you want

All international keyboards aren’t the exact same. The Thai keyboard has 4 rows of characters, while the Chinese handwriting keyboard lets you write a character with your finger as it attempts to auto-detect what character you’re writing.

You can use the Chinese Handwriting keyboard to enter English characters in handwriting, too!

Since iOS uses software keyboards, it's easy to type in any language

Use Special Characters

Sometimes it’s not a full new language you need; you just need a special character. For instance, on a PC, it can be extremely difficult to enter accented vowels and special symbols such as the degree symbol. Once again, this is something that the software keyboard on iOS does better than a traditional keyboard. Just tap and hold on the most similar letter to the special one you’re trying to insert, and then you can select the character you want from the popup. And if you’re wondering, you’ll find the degree symbol as an extra character under the 0!

Press and hold characters to reveal hidden, special characters

The virtual keyboard changes in some apps as you’ve likely noticed. In Safari or most alternate browsers, you can add .com to the end of a domain name by just tapping the .com button to the right of the spacebar. You can also use this button to enter .net, .org, or other localized domains based on your regional and keyboard language settings. As you can see here, I have U.S. domains listed as well as Thai domains like .co.th since I have the Thai keyboard activated.

Why, yes, you can get .net and .org in Safari, too!

Change The Main System Language

If you’d rather use a language other than English, or if your device came in another language and you want to switch back, you can change the entire system language from the settings. Just select Language in the International pane in Settings, and then select the language you want to switch to. Press Done to activate it.

Select your new system language from the list

As soon as you tap Done, your screen will turn black with a message in the language you just selected letting you know that the language is being set. After a few moments, iOS will boot back up so you can use your device again.

Wait a few seconds for your device to switch languages...

This time, though, everything’s going to be different. Almost everything in the default Settings and apps will be translated to the language you selected, and you may even notice some icons being slightly different such as the on/off switch for airplane mode. Most apps don’t include translations, though, so they may still be primarily in English. Even still, it should be easier to use your device in your favorite language. If you don’t like it, you can always switch back!

Welcome to iOS in your new language!

Conclusion

Apple’s made it amazingly easy for bilingual users to type in their favorite languages or even switch their whole device to a new language quickly. My aging Windows Mobile device doesn’t even display most non-English characters in websites, much less let you enter other languages from the built-in keypad. That’s the beauty of a software keyboard: it’s not fixed to one language.

Do you use multiple languages on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad? Or is your favorite language not included? I personally use U.S. English and Thai keyboards and keep my devices with the default US English language settings. We’ve got an international audience here, so it’d be fun to see what languages everyone uses the most! Let us know what you use in the comments below.


  • Jan

    Is there some quick way to change to language used for auto-completion? It drives me crazy that when I write e-mails in english (my device is set to german), auto-completion tries to correct all of my words in to some german equivalent. I don’t want to have to change my device language to english whenever i write to one of my american friends, and change it back afterwards…

    • http://cargocollective.com/vitorhugo Vitor Hugo

      read this section again -> Add a New Keyboard Language

      Just ADD the english Language to your keyboard,

      Then hit the “globe” icon and choose English layout when you want english auto-completion.

      Sorry my english :)

      • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

        That’s it … if you’ve added the keyboard language, then just switch keyboards and you’ll get the correct autocorrect language with a single tap. Simple :)

        Thanks for chiming in with the tip!

  • Pingback: How To Improve Your Typing Skills with TapTyping | iPad.AppStorm

  • Isaac Nyaneyon Kannah Teah

    I want to write my language characters on on a pc keyboard. My language has scripts but are not known internationally, but i want to have them on pc so that we may type our language also on pc.

    thanks for ur help

  • Suman

    How to show punjabi keyboard in the iPad application?

    • pravi

      buuuuraaaa 22 chakde

  • Hyp.M

    Hello!

    is it some how possible to edit keyboard layout for Russian language?
    Russian language has 10 buttons between left and right shift buttons,
    I want to have 12 buttons between left and right shift.

    As I see above, Thai language has 11 buttons between those buttons,
    so I think it is possible, but I don’t know how to do it?

    is there any tutorials for that?

    I’d very appreciated for your help, people!

  • Khadine

    Hi there,

    How can I get my calendar into English went in to general settings, international but I can only get three options for the calendar none of which I can read!

  • http://www.insidethailand.net Mac

    Your screenshot of ความริเริ่ม and นกอีก๋อย caught my eye. I’d be curious to know the source of and/or backstory on that “Wednesday Night Lesson.”

  • jade

    my settings are all set in english but still keeps coming up in german

  • Dori

    Thank you so very much. This is so helpful.

  • Trace

    Thanks! This was really helpful!

  • Sahaja

    There is no proper keyboard layout for Dzongkha.

    You can use the Tibetan keyboard layout – but that is a terrible design for typing on mobile devices.

  • luciana

    When i switched on my ipod touch it was in japanese?! how do i switch it back to english, all what i think is settings etc is in japanese, please help

  • maitaakbses

    ju pa

  • Amir

    Hi,
    I’m wondering how can i create a new keyboard to iphone/ipod etc… that does not exist in the system.
    I succeeded adding the fonts for this language, and finally i can read it on safari and other apps. but now iwant to type in apps safari etc. in this language but ihave not the keyboard.

    Please help!!!!!

    Thanks

  • Mónica F

    I’m patiently waiting for Apple to come up with a Galician keyboard. The language is from Galicia, Spain and commonly confused for a dialect which it is not. I’m upset that they’ve added Catalan and not “Galego”. I wish there was some place I could suggest it to our Apple friends.

  • Jagmeet

    ਬਾਈ ਜੀ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਕੀਬੋਰਡ ਕਿੱਦਾਂ ਆਏਗਾ ਆਈਪੈਡ ਤੇ?

  • http://AmharicLanguage Abubaker

    I like to add amharicsoftewear in My iPad & iPhone
    Thankyou

  • Dhansukh

    very good font

  • JasonEnzoD

    Still a problem because input language and keyboard layout are two different things. Nowhere have I read how you can change the input language independently of the keyboard layout. Normally, you don’t need to change the keyboard layout because it’s the one you’re used to, but if you write in more than one language then you need different input languages.

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