How to write the Italian accented vowels with a Korean computer

Some time ago on this web site we illustrated, in two pages (scrivere in coreano e scrivere in coreano 2) for the Italian visitors, how it is possible to write in Korean using a computer running an Italian operating system. This new page is, instead, for those, Italians or Koreans, who are using a Korean computer and need to write in Italian using properly also the accented vowels that are not normally achievable with a Korean operating system.


orcing a Korean computer with Korean operating system to write the accented vowels of the Italian is not at all an easy task. For this reason the newsletters sent from Korea in Italian reproduce our Italian accented vowels (à è ì ò ù) using the vowels followed by an apostrophe (a' e' i' o' u'). This way of displaying the Italian accented vowels is also often used by someone here in Italy, but the person using an Italian keyboard knows that one can do better than that.

In the Korean keyboard, the keys are marked with both the Latin letters and the Korean letters, while the operating system, which runs the keyboard, allows only two positions: one choice, that appears signaled by the A letter, allows you to write in the Latin alphabet (especially for English), while the other one, which appears signaled by the Korean syllable, allows you to write in Korean and enter Chinese characters according to the Korean pronunciation. To switch from one to the other of those positions you can also simply press the right Alt key (corresponding to Alt Gr on the Italian keyboard).

Considering just the QWERTY part of the keyboard (ie, the Latin letters), we note that this keyboard is identical to a U.S. keyboard (except for the button that has the symbol in excess of the Korean Won currency) and, as we shall see, this lucky disposition of the keys allows also you to find a way to simply write the accented vowels of the Italian. This possibility is based on the fact that the arrangement of the keys of the Korean keyboard is identical to that of an American-International (in Korean 미국-국제어) keyboard. As you will see, once you have made the following changes, which add to the Korean keyboard an American-International software keyboard, anyone can write in Italian with a writing that does not differ in any way from what is obtained using a computer with Italian keyboard and Italian operating system.

Windows XP

I got the screens in Korean Windows XP thanks to the courtesy of the General Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Milan, which allowed me to use a Korean computer with Windows XP operating system. A special thanks to Dr. Song Ho Sog who assisted me in the experiment.

For this first test we will work on a Korean computer running the Windows XP Korean operating system, still very much used. In the explanations this will always be compared with Windows XP in English, just to make us better understood. In each of the screens we included a black pointer that indicates the item or area of interest.

To open the Control Panel

Let's start by opening the Control Panel, operation that on an English computer is done by clicking Start and selecting Control Panel. Let's see what is the corresponding screen on your Korean computer.

As you can see, on the Korean computer our Start is translated by 시작 (bottom left) and Control Panel is shown by the word 제어판 (pointed out by the black pointer).

By clicking on that word, the Control Panel opens. In the 제어판 window, among the various icons, you should select the one that in English would be International and Language Options and in Korean is labeled 국가 및 언어 옵션.

To choose another keyboard for Korean

When you select this icon with a click, it opens the 국가 및 언어 옵션 window, corresponding, as we said, to our International and Language Options. Of the three tabs we see at the top (that on an English computer would be “International Options”, “Languages” e “Advanced”) select the middle one ("Languages"), which in Korean is 언어. The selection of this tab brings up a new area that we see in part shown here below. Let's click on the 자세히 button pointed out by the black pointer, which in English corresponds to "Details".

The selection of this button brings up a window that in English appears with the title Text Services and Input Languages, and in Korean becomes 택스트 서비스 및 입력 언어. In the particular case shown in the figure below, the computer was already prepared for the use of Italian as input language with an Italian keyboard, as well as of Korean (KO 한국어) with a normal Korean keyboard (signaled by Microsoft IME 2003).

We must be careful to actually choose the keyboard for Korean. Under the heading KO 한국어, highlight the word corresponding to Keyboard, which in Korean is 키보드 and then click the 추가 button (here pointed out by the black pointer), that on an English computer would be Add.

In doing so, we make appear another window that in English would have the title Add Input Language, while in Korean is called 입력 언어 추가. We see that in this small window, at the top, as input language (입력 언어) is highlighted Korean (한국어). The black pointer suggests that in the first instance we highlight the second field which refers to the keyboard (where we see written IME 2002), and then select, in the final part of that field, the box with a v symbol, here signaled by the black pointer.

By clicking on that box you open up a long window that displays the names of several keyboards that you can use to write all the languages of the world. For the English of the United States there are various options, such as the American Dvorak, for instance. But we are interested in finding the American-International keyboard, which in Korean is called:


As soon as you click these words, you are brought back to the previous window, which now shows that, for Korean, it was indeed chosen the American-International keyboard (미국-국제어). If you find that the writing is different, just repeat the previous selection. On the contrary, if the words are correct, confirm by clicking the button 확인 that corresponds to our OK. (The other button, the one with the inscription 취소, is instead our Cancel.)

The selection of the 확인 button makes us go back to the Text Services and Input Languages (택스트 서비스 및 입력 언어) window that has now changed and shows, in addition to the Korean keyboard (Microsoft IME 2003), the presence of the American-International (미국-국제어) one. Now we just have to click the button corresponding to our Apply, which in Korean is 적용 (at the bottom right) and then click 확인 (OK) (at the bottom left).

You go back to the International and Language Options (국가 및 언어 옵션) window, where you conclude your work by clicking 확인 (OK).

At this point the worst is over. It remains now to see what was all this for, that is to say what is the service of this American-International keyboard we laboriously wanted to add to the normal Korean keyboard.

Use of the American-International keyboard to write in Italian, and not only

Earlier we said that the American-International keyboard is useful to write the accented vowels of the Italian and we also mentioned that, if you do not consider the Korean letters engraved on the keys, the Korean keyboard of the computer is exactly the same as an American keyboard, especially the American-International keyboard. This type of "international" keyboard allows you to write in all the major European languages, Italian, French, German and English, allowing you to create all the letters that are needed in those languages and that do not appear directly on the keyboard.

The Korean keyboard

To achieve this goal, a few keys, like the one in the upper left bearing the tilde (~) and the grave accent (`), the one to the right next to the Enter key bearing the quotation mark (") and the apostrophe (') are "dumb", that is they do not immediately display a character on the screen, but display it only when, after that, another key is pressed. If, for example, you want to actually write just a tilde (~), you will have to press in the first instance the key with the tilde (naturally pressing down the shift key) and then press the space bar. On the contrary, if you wanted to write the Spanish n character with the tilde (ñ), after pressing the tilde key you press the n key. Similarly, to get the German umlaut (ü), you press first the button with the quotation marks (") and then press the u. To write the c with the cedilla (ç) of the French language, the first thing you press is the button with the apostrophe (') and then the c key. To get the i with the circumflex accent (î), you press the button with the caret (^) followed by the i key.

With regard to the Italian language, the key with the tilde (~) and the grave accent (`) is used to obtain the vowels with grave accent, including the capital vowels (as the È vowel which is often used as initial letter in a sentence), while the key with the quotation marks (") and the apostrophe (') is used to obtain the é vowel with the acute accent (in this case, the apostrophe is used as an acute accent). In order to write a, e, i, o, u with grave accent, as a first thing you press the key with the grave accent and then the vowel (getting à, è, ì, ò, ù). To write the e character with acute accent (é, which is needed for words like perché, benché, etc.) press first the key with the apostrophe and then the vowel e. It’s not difficult and, after a little practice, it becomes spontaneous.

People used to write in Italian with the Korean keyboard will already be heavily conditioned and, at first, will continue to write first the vowel and then the accent, and this automatism will be difficult to eradicate. With the American-International keyboard, however, the accent must be written before the vowel. So, for example, to get the accented a (à), you do not have to press first the A key and then the one with the grave accent, because this would give a wrong result (you would get a`, and that grave accent after the vowel would appear just when you press another key). This is not what you wanted to get. To achieve the desired result, you will have to press first the key with the grave accent (`) and then the key with the A (a), sequence that will eventually give you a lovely accented à.
Another operation which is hard to get used to is having to press the space to display the apostrophe. In order to write l'uno o l'altro, you have to remember to press the space after having pressed the apostrophe key, because otherwise you get lúno o láltro, with accented vowels and without apostrophe.
Initially, you may find this process quite unnatural, but then, over time, you will acquire the necessary automatism.

How to switch from the normal Korean keyboard to the American-International one

When you want to use the new keyboard you just created with the software changes made, simply open the program you intend to use to write the text, move to the window of the writing program (Word, Publisher, Notepad, etc.), display the Language bar, click on the figure that indicates the keyboard (which is initially a small ball for Korean) and select 미국-국제어 (American-International). After the selection, the small ball (which represents in miniature the Korean peninsula) is transformed into the figure of a miniature keyboard.

We achieved a check of the correct operation of this method by invoking the software equivalent to Notepad, which in Korean is called 메모장, and writing the following letters with accent: à è é ì ò ù.

To return to write normally in Korean

To return to the usual writing in Korean with the Korean keyboard (한글), just run at the contrary the same operation you have just seen, selecting again Microsoft IME instead of 미국-국제어.

A note on the operating systems following Windows XP

For the next operating systems, the operations to perform to achieve the same result are quite similar to those outlined above for Windows XP, even if not identical. As we have seen, you must ensure that you can use the American-International virtual keyboard as an instrument for the input of the Italian text by the Korean keyboard. Let us briefly see the instructions for Windows 7. We delay the instructions for the Windows 8 operating system until this late operating system will be a bit more stabilized.

Windows 7

The screens in Korean for Windows 7 where obtained thanks to the courtesy of the Korean Commercial Center (KOTRA) in Milan that allowed me to use a Korean computer with the Windows 7 operating system.

  1. Click the Start 시작 button and select the Control Panel 제어판 option from the menu that appears.

  2. In the Control Panel 제어판 window select the icon which has the name Country and Language (국가 및 언어).

  3. In the Country and Language 국가 및 언어 window that opens, select the Keyboards and Languages (키보드 및 언어) tab and then select the Change keyboards (키보드 변경) button.

  4. In the next Text Services and Input Languages 택스트 서비스 및 입력 언어 window, look for Korean 한국어, highlight the word Keyboard 키보드 and then click the Add 추가 button.

  5. In the Add Input Language 입력 언어 추가 window look for Korean (Republic of Korea) 한국어 (대한민국) and under Keyboard 키보드 select 다른 항목 보기 which corresponds to Details of the English operating system.

  6. In the next Add Input Language 입력 언어 추가 window you see a list of virtual keyboards for all the languages of the world. Search for and select American-International 미국-국제어 and then click OK 확인.

  7. You are brought back to the Text Services and Input Languages 택스트 서비스 및 입력 언어 window where you see that, for the Korean 한국어, now there is also the American-International 미국-국제어 choice. Click Apply 적용 and then OK 확인.

  8. You go back to the Country and Language 국가 및 언어 window where you conclude your work by clicking OK 확인.

  9. In order to use the new keyboard to write, open you favorite word processing program, then display the Language bar, click on the figure that indicates the keyboard (which is initially a small ball) and select 미국-국제어 (American-International). After the selection, the small ball (which represents in miniature the Korean peninsula) is transformed into the small figure of a keyboard.

  10. On the page of the writing program (which, also in this case, is Notepad 메모장) we try to write a short phrase in Italian with many accents:

A final consideration

Of course the best solution would be that Microsoft decided to transform the virtual QWERTY keyboard IME from (United States) English to American-International, which would allow the use of the Korean keyboard to write also most of the European languages, without having to resort to adding a new virtual keyboard, as we have done here.

Sviluppo di un’idea dell’autore del sito.

Torna all'inizio della pagina
© Valerio Anselmo