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AZERTY keyboard at centre of battle to protect French lingo
An AZERTY keyboard. Photo: The Local

AZERTY keyboard at centre of battle to protect French lingo

Oliver Gee · 19 Jan 2016, 12:50

Published: 19 Jan 2016 12:50 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Jan 2016 12:50 GMT+01:00

If you've ever tried to use an AZERTY keyboard (named after the order of the first few keys in the top left) - you'll know the irritation.
 
For starters, there's an A where the Q should be and a Z where the W should be - at least as far as us foreigners are concerned. And where on earth is the "@" symbol? 
 
The keyboard was designed as a rival to the English QWERTY system, and is used almost exclusively in France and Belgium. 
 
But if you're a French person trying to use the French keyboard, the problems are apparently significantly worse. 
 
Indeed, the French Ministry of Culture concluded that it's "almost impossible to write correctly in French with a keyboard made in France". 
 
Why?
 
Due to the lack of a normalized version of the AZERTY keyboard, finding certain French symbols is like a guessing game of finger Twister, all because different computer brands make different shortcuts.
 
As a result it's tough to find "double chevrons" (or « French quotation marks »), the capital squiggly C (Ç or c-cedilla), and ligatures - which are when two letters are joined together (like æ and œ).
 
And you may as well give up if you want capitalized ligatures (like Æ). 
 
Worse still, if you're using an AZERTY keyboard on English settings (as some of us are at The Local), then you can absolutely forget finding any of these symbols, and you may as well just use copy paste. We did. 
 
Not only that but many foreigners get frustrated with the fact that they need to press shift to get numbers as well as a full stop.
 
"It really is illogical. Why prioritise symbols like %#+' over numbers? And swap the comma and full stop please, I hate having to press shift when I'm typing," said reader Dave Chambers.
 
The government has said it's time to act against the current clumsy system, hoping to catch up with other European countries, like Germany and Spain, where typists can often access French symbols far more easily than the French can.
 
And the move has been supported by the Academie Francaise, the notoriously tough guardians of the French language, event though other European countries have made their own language-specific keyboards. 
 
The government says it wants the new keyboard to have the capabilities to write letters from other European languages, and all of France's regional languages.
 
Story continues below…
The ministry has put its trust in France's national association on standardization and certification, AFNOR, to come up with a solution, a draft of which is expected to be complete by summer. 
 
Elsewhere in the world, most computer users are familiar with the QWERTY keyboard, which was so designed over 100 years ago to avoid typewriter jams by spacing out letters which typically follow one another, like S and T. 
 
 

France is tired of being unable to write in French.

Posted by The Local France on Tuesday, 19 January 2016
 

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