Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. 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.

Keyboard Changes to Unwanted Foreign Language

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 9, 2021)


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

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 2010 or a later version by following these steps:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon
  2. Select Language from the Language group.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select Set Proofing Language. Word displays the Language dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Language dialog box.

  5. Clear the Detect Language Automatically check box.
  6. Click OK.

If you're using Word 2007, the steps are slightly different, but the result is the same. You can check this configuration setting in Word 2007 by following these steps:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Set Language tool in the Proofing group. Word displays the Language dialog box.
  3. Clear the Detect Language Automatically check box.
  4. Click OK.

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, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Keyboard Changes to Unwanted Foreign Language.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is five more than 2?

2021-02-13 12:37:00

Dennis C Barnett

My problem is that I switch regularly between three languages. I use the Windows key and space key simultaneously to move between them. Usually, my keyboard layout changes with those commands, and when I go back to edit something I've already typed, the keyboard doesn't change - regardless of where I am in the document. But lately, it has been changing to whatever keyboard I had been using when I initially typed that particular sentence. I don't want the history of a document to determine which keyboard I use - I want to have control over that. To clarify - I often type one letter or one word in Serbian Latin and then don't change the keyboard as I continue to type in English, since except for a few letters, they are essentially the same. So when I have to edit the English - and I am ostensibly using the English keyboard - but go back to a section that I wrote with the Serbian keyboard, the document insists on holding onto the keyboard I originally used instead of the one I am currently using. I hope this is clear. Thanks.

2020-10-24 00:30:21


I did this and it still keeps going back to the foreign language

2017-01-26 01:35:45


Thanks Allen!

2016-08-14 21:39:30


Thanks. ALT & shift keys did it.

2016-05-31 19:55:54

Rebecca Black

Thank you so much! Didn't know it could be so simple! You're awesome! :D

2016-01-10 23:20:54

Claire Kinner

Thank you very much fixed my problem

2015-07-25 20:41:16


I have been trying but the whole laptop insists on going Spanish my hyphen looks like ' I had to copy paste my email...

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