Are you still poking around with your pointer fingers?
Lost when it comes to typing tildes or inverted question marks?
Just can’t break those English keyboard habits?
Any Spanish speaker today needs to incorporate typing practice into their language learning routine. If you ever hope to write in Spanish or even just shoot an email to your native-speaking friend, you’ll need to be able to find letters, accents and punctuation without conducting a scavenger hunt across your keyboard.
This guide will help you get there.
I’ll introduce key elements of Spanish keyboards and help you set one up on your computer. Once you’ve got a hang of the new keyboard layout, I’ll give you some informative and fun resources for improving your typing speed.
With a little dedication, you can use these sites to take your Spanish typing skills from ¡que horrible! (how horrible) to ¡increíble! (incredible) in no time.
5 Steps to Become a Spanish Typing Pro, with Tips and Practice Resources
Step 1: Define Your Goals
Defining your goals will help you plan for the right level and amount of Spanish typing practice. If you need to type in Spanish for academic or professional reasons, you’ll probably aim for faster typing with higher accuracy than if you’re just learning to chat with friends. Typically, your Spanish typing goals will fall into one of these categories:
- Work: At work, you may be required to type everything from contracts to reports to informal emails. If you work or are hoping to work in a Spanish environment, typing skills will make your day-to-day life much easier. Some jobs even require typing speeds of 70 to 120 words per minute.
To keep up with your deadlines and commitments, this may be the best reason to practice typing in Spanish.
- School: If you’re enrolled in a Spanish course or if you’re studying in a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll be given assignments to type in Spanish such as essays or research papers.
Correct spelling and punctuation is particularly important for academic writing, so you’ll need to be familiar with typing accents, Spanish punctuation and more (which we’ll cover below). As you type, be sure to check the spelling of words in your favorite online dictionary.
- Fun: We type all of the time using social media. Text messages, chat, email and social media posts are excellent ways to practice your Spanish. You can even learn text message slang shortcuts to type your message faster.
No matter your goal, make sure you’re not practicing Spanish typing in isolation. Keep on track with your other study methods, and make sure you’re getting plenty of exposure to authentic Spanish language use so that you’re learning to type new words as you encounter them. FluentU is a great option for this—it provides real-world Spanish videos, like movie trailers, funny YouTube clips, news reports and more, which have been transformed into a language-learning experience.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
Step 2: Add a Spanish Keyboard to Your Computer
You’ll need to set up your computer for switching back and forth between the Spanish and English keyboards.
Note that there are two main variations of Spanish keyboards: the Spanish (international) keyboard and the Latin American keyboard. The main difference is that the ç used in Catalan isn’t included on the Latin American keyboard.
Also, the accent key is located on the third row (next to the ñ) on the Spanish keyboard rather than on the second row (next to the p) on the Latin American keyboard.
How to Set up a Spanish Keyboard on a PC:
- Go to the “Control Panel” from the Start Menu.
- Click “Region and Language” and select the “Keyboards and Languages” tab.
- Click “Change keyboards…”
- From the “General” tab, select “Add…”
- Scroll to the Spanish language options (there are about 20 options). Latin American countries will give you the Latin American Spanish keyboard option. “Spain (International sort)” and “Spain (Traditional sort)” will give you the Spanish keyboard option.
- Select a language, click on the “Keyboard” option and select your keyboard.
Note: If you’re making a selection from a U.S. computer, the U.S. keyboard is always offered as an alternate keyboard. Ignore this option.
- Click “OK.” You’ll return to the “General” tab.
- Click “Apply.”
- Click the “Language Bar” tab to select where you want to see your keyboard language options. I recommend “Docked on taskbar.” This will show your language options at the bottom of your screen. Click “EN” and your other language options will appear.
How to Set up a Spanish Keyboard on a Mac:
- Go to “System Preferences.”
- Click on “Keyboard,” then “Input Sources.”
- Click the “+” symbol under the left sidebar.
- Scroll to the Spanish language options. Select “Spanish – ISO” for the international standard option.
- Select “Show input menu in menu bar” to easily change your keyboard from English to Spanish and vice versa.
Step 3: Look for Key Features of the Spanish Keyboard
Take some time to compare the differences between the English keyboard and the Spanish keyboard that’s now installed on your computer. Learn these key elements first to cut down on mistakes as you start typing in Spanish.
Letters and Accents
The key for the letter ñ on the Spanish keyboard is located to the right of the l key (where you’d find the semicolon key on the English keyboard).
Accents are an essential part of writing in Spanish. You’ll need to learn how to type accents in order to spell words correctly in Spanish.
- For lowercase letters, first type the accent key (´), then type your vowel and you’ll get á, é, í, ó or ú.
- For uppercase letters, type the accent key, then press and hold the Shift key, then type your vowel and you’ll get Á, É, Í, Ó or Ú.
Sometimes, you may wish to type a diaeresis (¨) over your u in words like güero (vain).
- To type this letter in lowercase: type Shift and hold, then type the accent key and release Shift. Then type u, and look at that! You’ve just typed a ü!
- To type this letter in uppercase: type Shift and hold, then type the accent key and release Shift. Then type Shift and hold, type the u key and release: Ü.
The keys you just used to make accents are called “dead keys.” This means they usually require you to press another key after them to type a character. If you press the space bar after typing them, just the symbol will appear.
For each punctuation key from left to right across each row, moving from the top to the bottom of the keyboard, you’ll find lots of differences. Here are the necessary ones:
In addition to learning where punctuation marks are located, you should also note some key differences in usage between English and Spanish for various punctuation marks. Check out this article on Spanish punctuation for more details.
Or Try This Shortcut
Do you just want the most common Spanish characters in a button format? An online tool called TypeIt lets you easily write with buttons and then copy and paste them into your text.
Step 4: Test Your Typing Skills
Typing skills are generally assessed by the number of words you can accurately type per minute, measured in wpm (words per minute) in English or ppm (palabras por minuto) in Spanish.
If you want your Spanish typing level to become comparable with your English typing level, check your English typing level first. Set an approximate goal in wpm. Then, take a couple of initial typing tests in Spanish to see how much improvement you need to make.
I prefer 10FastFingers for testing my speed because you can complete the test easily without leaving the main screen. The text format is fixed at a minute and you’ll type a text that’s presented in a large font. However, it scrolls line by line, so you aren’t able to look far ahead.
You can test English and Spanish, among several other languages. Your results are given automatically upon completion with various metrics (keystrokes, accuracy, correct words and incorrect words) in a shareable format.
Continue testing your Spanish typing skills over the weeks or months to track your progress.
Step 5: Practice Typing in Spanish Online
So, once you know your Spanish typing level, how can you actually start to improve? Below, you’ll find a variety of typing exercises and games you can complete in Spanish.
Limit yourself to a practical amount of time, such as 10 to 20 minutes each day. You can also combine your Spanish typing practice with daily writing practice, which will greatly benefit your Spanish.
The look and feel of the lessons on Goodtyping reminded me of the typing course I completed in elementary school, which was (wince) back in the ’80s. The lessons start with lots of simple repetition, but the site won’t allow you to skip ahead easily.
If you choose Spanish, the entire site is in Spanish, which goes for most of the typing practice sites available.
Sense-lang offers a comprehensive set of options for improving your typing such as games, tutorials and typing tests. Both easy to navigate and visually appealing, you can browse through all of the tutorials to find the level at which you’d like to start practicing.
Click the language drop-down menu at the upper right corner of the page and then you’ll get to select the type of Spanish keyboard you prefer.
Each exercise has a game-like feel. The program displays your real-time results as you go through the lesson. Overall, I was quite pleased with this site.
Typing Scout offers simple typing games where animated text cards fall down the screen or turn over for you to type. The visuals are pleasing, but the games are quite simple and repetitive, so it may be best for quick tune-ups or for younger learners.
Put the site and keyboard in Spanish by clicking the drop-down menu in the upper left corner.
If you want straightforward tutorials without bells and whistles, try Artypist. It’s full of textbook-style lessons followed by example practice sessions. The initial lessons loosen up your hands through typing repetitions—but if you want to get to more challenging stuff, just click Saltar Este Ejercicio (Skip This Exercise) under the keyboard.
One nice feature is that you can set preferences to test yourself such as your minimum words per minute and maximum repetitions. You can also easily assess your typing proficiency on the Statistics page.
Unlike other sites, MecaGratis includes typing videos for each lesson. The typing lessons move at a practical pace and they give good advice for improvement. For instance, the third lesson is on “concentration” so you can consider both your mental and physical habits.
Just be aware that you may run into technical glitches on this site.
typeracer offers a typing race where you compete with other players online. You have several options: multiplayer, practice or enter a race with your friends.
Little cars representing each player move forward based on your typing speed. When you finish, the screen immediately drops away from your own race to the overall scores and results, so I was confused at first about my results. But when I scrolled back up to the top screen, I saw that I’d won!
Velocidactil connects you with other players for a race much like the one offered by typeracer. It has a cute graphic of a dinosaur who moves forward for each correct word you type. One nice feature is that it includes a space to chat with other players. This site is probably the best when it comes to online interaction.
Keep in mind that Spanish speakers will correct you if you type words without accents. I learned that the hard way. Thankfully, once I started typing on a daily basis, my hands quickly adjusted to my Spanish keyboard. It may seem tough at first, but remember that practice makes perfect. Your hands will get used to typing accents, tildes and upside-down question marks in no time.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.