Why the French can’t write in French using their own keyboards

You missed an accent here… and here….
You missed an accent here… and here….
Image: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
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It is “practically impossible to write French correctly using a keyboard that has been bought in France.” Who says this? The French Ministry of Culture.

France uses the AZERTY keyboard, which was introduced 100 years ago as its counterpart to the standard English-language QWERTY keyboard. Though the keyboard is French-designed, it’s become nearly impossible for the French to properly write in French.

Noting that computers in  Germany and Spain allow French speakers to write in French better than the French “because their keyboards permit it,” France announced plans this week to overhaul the French-language keyboard (link in French).

The main problem with the current set-up is a lack of standardization, which allows manufacturers to produce a variety of different models in the French market. This has resulted in some keys—such as @ and €—not being in the same place and different brands making different shortcuts. It’s difficult to find French quotation marks, known as double chevrons, the character ç, and ligatures. Instead, the rarely-used character ù has it’s own key and you often have to press shift to get a period.

The Ministry claimed that the lack of regulation has resulted in users ignoring important French grammar rules, such as ignoring accents on capitalized letters as they’re hard to create. The Academie Française—seen as the guardians of the French language—is not happy with this (link in French).

In a bid to prevent these errors from being normalized, and to save the French language, the Ministry of Culture has partnered up with French internet consultancy ANFOR to develop a new keyboard that will gradually replace the current models of AZERTY keyboard. (That said, it will not be compulsory for manufacturers to use them.)