Touch-typing and LingQ

I always wanted to ask people who know or learn several languages: how do you type in all these languages on the same computer? Do you touch-type or do you use a screen keyboard? Do you have several keyboard layouts installed and switch them every time you need it or do you have one “combined” layout which allows you to type in several languages without switching?

I tried to make non-standard, “combined” layouts for myself at home (one for several Cyrillic-script Slavic languages) but was disappointed because when I needed to type on a computer and this computer wasn’t my own, there were only standard layouts installed, and I could not use my new skills.

And also I have some questions about touch-typing in general. When you read and then retype texts using the touch-type technique, trying not to make any mistakes, does it help you to improve your writing skills? Do you write more easily due to such exercises? I recently found that this technique helps but do not have enough experience by this moment. And what software do you use for such “retypings” or “dictations”? Is it a standard text editor or a specialized error-proofing program?

I know a computer program which is widely used by Russians and Ukrainians for mastering touch-type technique in Russian, Ukrainian, English, German and Italian. It is called Ergosolo: for offline version, and for online verison of trainer. The online version is a community website where competitors in touch-typing meet. It resembles social networks a little. Those who know Russian may find these sites interesting, because their founder, Vladimir Shahidzhanyan, is a famous Russian journalist, psychologist and university professor and he has collected many interesting articles and videos on his personal site . Unfortunately, the very little part of this content is presented in both text and audio/video format, it is either text or multimedia, but the content itself is interesting, and the same is true about its author as a person.

Anyway, my goal is not to promote Shahidzhanyan’s sites but to find a program or a technique which can help me write better and faster in foreign languages. I tested Ergosolo and found it fit for me in some aspects, but not ideally. It does not allow a learner to make mistakes, providing various punishments, growing more severe for repeated mistakes (to retype a line, a block of lines, a whole text). Its benefits are error-proofing and its interface: a learner sees not only one line of text, as it is in most keyboard trainers, but a paragraph (4-6 lines depending on your screen size) of source text and a paragraph of text being typed by them, which also trains their visual memory (this is really so, I’ve tested it). It is useful. But the drawback of the program is that it doesn’t allow to upload custom texts into it. The original texts are a little boring, I’d like to upload my favourite stories or LingQ lessons into there, but I can’t.

Here is a screenshot of online keyboard trainer:

Here is a screenshot of offline keyboard trainer:

Honestly, I’d like to know what LingQ founders think about touch-typing and LingQ combination. Isn’t it very hard to make an online keyboard trainer tool for LingQ with an interface resembling Ergosolo a little (1. Source text section; 2. Text being typed; 3. Keyboard layout for reference)? It could be linked with any LingQ lesson or its fragment, or imported text, allowing the learner to train touch-typing while listening and reading the text. I think this can be a useful addition to LingQ writing tools which can help a LingQ member improve their writing skills even faster than only using tools that are already present. Soon after starting touch-typing practice a learner would become more active on the Forums. I think there will be no need to introduce punishments for learners who do not manage or do not want to touch-type very well, but there may be little awards for those who reach a certain level. And of course, with that tool on LingQ one could save on a separate keyboard trainer subscription!

Steve, Mark and all my LingQ fellows, what do you think? I know, I know, you have very limited resourses, but maybe some of our community members who are familiar with programming may act as volunteers or for a pay a little less than standard?

Wow! I am going to reply to your first paragraph only: the rest is way too technical for me, although fascinating.

I do touch-typing in any case and so to challenge myself I EITHER use the ASCII terms on my desktop for the Western languages (they are a pain on the Notebook, although doable) OR I switch to the various keyboards provided by Microsoft, incl. Cyrillic and Arabic. I still have trouble typing any kind of Japanese, my brain hasn’t sussed that one yet.

The advantage of the ASCII keys is that I’ve memorised them over the years, so it’s no trouble using them.

The MS keyboards help me to confuse my brain nicely - especially so when using the French or German keyboards!

I know that Steve and others use virtual keyboards. On the Mac it’s apparently very easy to type foreign characters with the help of the Option button.

Well, Dmitry, two things.

  1. tl;dr.

  2. Sanne is right. It’s very easy to type in different languages on a Mac. I primarily use Russian and English. I learned to touch type on an ANSI (US English) keyboard, so I use the phonetic layout for typing Russian. That way I don’t have to learn two many new keys. Occasionally, if I need to enter diacritics in the Latin script, it’s very easy to do with the Option key. For instance, Option-A produces å; Option-U followed by a vowel produces the umlaut (i.e. ü, ä, ï, etc.). Option-S produces the eszet (ß); Option-C the c-cedilla (ç); and so on. All this within the regular US keyboard layout.

Now, of course this method doesn’t cover every possible character in every existing script, but it covers a great deal of them. If necessary, I can always switch to a different keyboard layout and bring up the built-in keyboard viewer for reference.

I don’t have problems with touch-typing. Being developer, I now the standard English layout very well. Being Russian, I know Russian :slight_smile: Also I can easily touch type in Arabic.
With Japanese kana layout I had difficulties, but when I switched to romaji input (like the majority of natives), it became much easier.
My favourite touch-typing tutor is VerseQ — Unfortunately it has only Russian and English.

And yes, I have 4 layouts in all my PC (at work and at home): English, Russian, Japanese and Arabic.

  1. Am I correct that this method is available on every Mac?

If you need a multilanguage keyboard layout in Windows, you may create it by yourself with MSKLC program (Microsoft Learn: Build skills that open doors in your career). But your layout will be available on your computer only. You also may install it into a public computer if you have enough rights to do it, and then should uninstall it after using because it may bother or puzzle other users of that computer.

The other way is to install N layouts and switch among them constantly in a circle (or install and uninstall them several times a day).

  1. To be short, I found that if I exercise intensively in retyping texts in another language using the touch-typing technique, it soon makes my writing in that language easier and faster.

You mean will you be able to use additional keyboard layouts if you’re at someone else’s computer? Yes, you will. Entering diacritics in this manner has been a standard feature of Mac OS for several decades.

In addition, you can input Chinese characters by handwriting them using the trackpad:

This is also a built-in feature of the operating system.

This is way too technical for me, but I want to share an online site I use. It is TypeIt,

I cut and paste from TypeIt into Word, email, and online sites. I have only used it for the languages I have studied; Norwegian, German, Spanish, and French. I tried it with my Droid 2 but couldn’t get it to work.

Thanks a lot! TypeIt seems to be a very nice site.

My main question is not about diacritics though, it’s about touch-typing. If one copies many texts in a foreign language using the touch-typing technique, will he or she be able to write better, faster and with less percentage of errors in that language?

No idea. When the children were small I used to earn money by typing for others. My brain would simply go into fast-type mode, unless there were glaring errors in what had been dictated or which I was copying. Trying to learn from the text would have slowed me down too much. I don’t know whether any subliminal learning took place (apart from now being ace at English spelling).

I do know, though, that writing with my trusty fountain pens helps me to use language better.

I feel my writing in any language is not as good when I use a computer. When I write with a pencil (more about that later), I take more time to think about what I am writing. I have lined paper next to my computer and will often outline my thoughts on paper before entering them into a document on my computer. I appreciate the editing I can do with my computer and would not want to go back to correcting errors with the “white-out” products I used with a typewriter.

I’m a pencil person and am somewhat fussy about the pencils I use. I have a small collection of mechanical pencils with either a 0.3 or 0.5 lead. My email address begins with pencils4me… to show my appreciation for pencils and my occasional frustration with technology.


I see what you mean now. Well, typing or writing will certainly improve your skills in a language. No doubt about it. I don’t think, however, that it matters whether you touch type or hunt and peck. The former is preferable for many reasons (for example, you don’t have to take your eyes off the screen, so you can actually see what you’re typing while you’re typing it, and hence you can catch the mistakes sooner).

The best way to learn is to simply type a lot of text. Grab a book or any kind of well written text in a foreign language and just retype it. Work with as much material you can get your hands on. Even if you don’t touch type, chances are you will learn it along the way. But that’s secondary, unless you do this for a living (like I do).

So, to boil it down to one simple idea: yes, typing is a great way to learn languages.

I can’t say that typing in Arabic helped me to remember set phrases, grammar rules, etc. Though it really helped me to remember all possible shapes of Arabic letters (an Arabic letter can have up to 3 different forms!)
In general I think it depends. Some people learn better when they listen to material, some prefer read texts out loud. Perhaps there is some who remember what they type. But when I touch-type I don’t think about typing at all, my fingers write what they want (especially they like to write ‘Contract’ instead of ‘constant’). And as I don’t concentrate on text that I am typing I doubt that typing will help me to understand a language. Though if I type text on and then somebody record it to me — mmm… In this case typing will definitely help me to remember something :slight_smile:


I learned to touch-type in English layout pretty recently. When I typed by hunt and peck, the old slow way, I did not feel any improvement in English. But when I started to touch-type, I noticed that I more easily recall the words I once typed, their order and frequently used combinations, and I can construct a new writing in a shorter amount of time. I just want to know if it is by accident or I may use this effect for learning languages.