Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Keyboard Changes to Unwanted Foreign Language.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 6, 2015)
Erica wonders why Word all of a sudden changes the keys to "foreign" lettering. For example, without warning when she presses the question mark she'll get an "e" with an accent, and the "~" (tilde) produces a "#". All of the keys seem to be remapped to the foreign language and Erica doesn't understand why. The only way she knows to stop it is to close the document and open it again.
In all likelihood, this problem needs to be addressed in both the operating system and in Word. Windows systems can have multiple language configurations installed on them. For instance, it is not unusual to have both English and French installed on a given system (this may happen when the user is in a country—such as Canada—that has two dominant languages).
When there are multiple languages installed in the operating system, the system provides a way to easily switch between the languages. On most systems this is instigated by pressing Alt+Shift. If you press this shortcut inadvertently, you can find yourself typing in a language you didn't intend. The solution is to press the shortcut again so that you return to the language configuration you want to use.
You should remember, however, that the Alt+Shift shortcut may not work on all systems. For some language combinations Windows may use a different shortcut (such as Ctrl+Spacebar), and it is possible that a different shortcut than these was specified by a previous user of your system. (The shortcut can be modified in the Control Panel under the heading of regional and language options.)
Within Word, you might want to check whether the program is configured to automatically detect languages or not. If it is, then it is possible that the language switching is occurring because of the words you are typing within your document. You can check this configuration setting in Word 2007 by following these steps:
Figure 1. The Language dialog box.
If you're using Word 2010 or Word 2013, the steps have been changed slightly, but the result is the same. In order to check the configuration setting in Word 2010 and Word 2013, follow these steps:
Figure 2. The Language dialog box.
When you make the language setting change in Word, it is applicable only to the document or template that you have open at the time. If you want the change to be applicable to all your future documents, you'll want to open the Normal template before making the change and then save the template after the change is made.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8715) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Keyboard Changes to Unwanted Foreign Language.
Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!
What is the easiest way to switch between English spelling variants in a document? This tip examines a couple of ways you ...Discover More
Want to convert your usage of Word from one language to another? It's not as easy as one would hope, as you'll discover ...Discover More
When copying information into a Word document, you may want to make sure that the information pasted is formatted as a ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.