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Writing in Non-English Alphabets
Many fields require close interaction with texts not in English. The more advanced work you do in these fields, the more likely it is that you will need to include languages other than English in your own writing. This guide provides resources and tips for using non-Latin alphabets with as little hassle as possible.
Most recent computers allow users to switch languages and keyboards using unicode fonts. This method is preferable to non-unicode fonts because most computers can read unicode. That means you can send your documents to other readers or open them on multiple devices without worrying about whether your fonts will be readable. Windows and Mac operating systems have the capability for many different alphabets, including Arabic, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Greek. To add a new keyboard to your interface, follow these instructions.
- Open "Settings"
- Select "Time and Language"
- Select "Language" or "Region and Language"
- Click "Add a Language"
- Select your desired language from the list. If you are using a modern language, select the most appropriate dialect.
- If you are using Greek as an ancient language, after it has installed click on the language pack and then click "Options"
- Click "Add a Keyboard"
- Click "Greek Polytonic." This will allow you to type diacritical marks such as accents, breathing marks, and iota subscripts.
- Once your new language is installed, Windows adds a menu to the bottom menu bar, near the date and time. In English mode, it will look like the letters "ENG." You can switch keyboard modes by clicking on this menu and selecting your desired mode, or you can cycle through them by pressing the Windows key + Space.
- Open the Apple icon drop-down menu at the top left of the screen
- Select "System Preferences"
- Click the "Keyboard" icon
- Click "Input Sources"
- Click the "+" button and add the languages you wish to have. For Greek, Greek Polytonic is best. For Hebrew, Hebrew-QWERTY is best.
- Click the "Show input menu in menu bar." This will allow you to switch between languages. Now in the top right portion of the menu bar you will see a symbol that will change depending on which language you have selected.
- CTRL + SPACE is the hotkey to switch between languages. (OS X El Capitan)
- To see where certain letters are on the keyboard, click the language symbol on the menu bar and select "Show Keyboard Viewer"
Unicode Keyboard Maps
You can find keyboard maps online by searching for your operating system, the keyboard name (e.g., "Hebrew" or "Greek Polytonic"), and "keyboard map." A full guide to typing polytonic Greek, including all of the diacritical marks, is here.
If your OS does not have access to a unicode font for the language you need, you may need to install a third-party unicode or non-unicode font. If you are working with fonts that are not unicode compliant, make sure they are installed on all of the devices you might use to edit your documents. When you send documents that include non-unicode fonts to other readers, it is best to send them as PDF files or double-check that the recipient has the exact same font installed on their device, or your non-English text will be turned into an unreadable mess. For the fonts in this list, follow the installation instructions given on the respective sites, or Google instructions for installing fonts on your specific OS. The library does not provide these fonts and is not responsible for their functioning or upkeep.
- The Society of Biblical Literature provides fonts in Biblical Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Coptic, Uncial Greek, and Estrangela Syriac. There are also fonts for transliteration and text-critical symbols. The main SBL Hebrew font may provide more diacritical markings than standard unicode Hebrew.
- StShenouda.org has instructions for installing unicode or other fonts for Coptic.
- Wikipedia has a list of Ge'ez fonts.
- The Beth Mardutha Syriac Institute has links to many Syriac fonts.