How to Type an Umlaut in Microsoft Word

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I have been learning the German language for what seems an eternity. I have been taking classes, doing online exercises, learning how to type an umlaut, watching YouTube videos and trying to listen to German news segments.

Perhaps all of that sounds tedious. But it isn’t. I actually thoroughly enjoy learning another language.

I do believe that I have made considerable progress. However, those notions are strongly challenged when a native German speaker strikes up a conversation with me.

Nevertheless, I do enjoy writing, or trying to write, in German. Hence, the need to be able to type umlauts, vowels with those 2 little dots on top. An umlaut simply changes the way that a vowel is sounded.

Learn German Software

How Do You Type an Umlaut?

Curiously enough, a colleague asked this very question recently.

So, how do you type an umlaut on an English keyboard?

So what is the answer?

It depends.

Foreign Language Keyboards

My computer provides the option to select other languages.

Once I select German as the language to use, my keyboard switches. So long as a remember which key now represents which German character, I’m set

Let’s look at an example:

The English Keyboard

My English keyboard on my laptop has a character placement similar to this:

English keyboard without umlauts.
English Keyboard

The German Keyboard

Once I switch to the German language, my keyboard layout looks similar to this.

German Keyboard

Now, obviously the keys on my keyboard look the same as before but now take on the behaviour of the screen dump above. An exception is if you bring up the on-screen keyboard that comes with your laptop. However, then half of your screen is covered by the on-screen overlay.

An Umlaut Example

Using My Keyboard with German Language Selected

Now let’s say I want to type the German words for ‘the refrigerator’ (der Kühlschrank). I can get the letter ‘u’ with an umlaut by typing the ‘[‘ character.

Similarly if I want to type the German word for ‘building’ (Gebäude), I can get the letter ‘a’ with an umlaut by typing the key for the apostrophe character.

Shortcut Keys to Type an Umlaut in Microsoft Word

Switching languages within your computer is one answer, but if you are like me and tend to toggle between the 2 languages, then you could end up with a few typos. For example, I often find myself typing zou instead of you, forgetting that in the German keyboard, for example, the ‘z’ character is now found in the ‘y’ character position.

In addition, shortcut keys can be a solution if you don’t have multiple language support in your particular computer.

So these 2 steps provide a very quick solution in Microsoft Word. 

  1. Press the Ctrl key + the Shift Key + the colon key (:)  (all 3 at the same time)
  2. Type the letter that requires an umlaut.

Even if you do have the option for different languages on your computer, these 2 steps above can provide a quick and easy (lazy for me) way to insert an umlaut in Word without the need for switching languages.

With respect to emails written in Gmail, if you don’t have the language choice option on your computer, Gmail itself provides this option. 

Languages That Use Umlauts

What amazed me, when doing some additional research, is just how many languages use umlauts. For example vowels with umlauts can be found in French, Spanish, Danish, Welsh, Dutch and Luxembourgish to name just a few.

Face-to-Face Language Classes

As an aside, not only are classes very important when learning a language, they ae also very sociable. I have met many a good friend via my German lessons. Learning a new language is an ideal activity to take up in retirement. It’s a skill that can come in very handy during travel pursuits. Classes provide structure to the week’s routine. However, I digress.

One learning technique that I think is a great idea is that of reading and then discussing German short stories. For example, the following series has been both entertaining and informative, taking us through Dino’s experiences as he leaves home to learn another language overseas.

Learn German with Stories: Dino lernt Deutsch Collector’s Edition

Anyway, I can highly recommend setting yourself the challenge of learning a new language. If you decide on German or French or one of the many other foreign languages with special characters, then I hope the tips in this article can help.

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