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Thread: How do Russians and others normally switch between Latin and non-Latin keyboards?

  1. #1
    Hanna
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    How do Russians and others normally switch between Latin and non-Latin keyboards?

    I am just curious about how people in Russia and elsewhere normally handle this.

    I don't mean techie geeks who wor in the IT industry, like myself and several others here, who have parallel English and other keyboard layouts installed as part of Windows, and swap with a a keystroke. But regular, non technical people.

    I mean, if you have a standard Cyrillic keyboard and no other parallell keyboard installed, you still need to type URLs with Latin letters, or if you happen to need to go into the command prompt or write forumlas in Excel or something like that. How is it done?

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    Every keyboard in Russia already has Cyrillic and Latin letters on it.
    Russian letters are often red, while Latin letters are grey. On black keyboards they are all white, and vice versa.
    Latin letters are usually located in the upper left corner of buttons, and Russian - in the lower right corner.
    Russian version of Windows has Russian and English layouts by default, with Alt-Shift combo to switch between them (though many people prefer to change the shortcut to Ctrl-Shift).

    By the way, there is a little helpful program Punto Switcher, which many Russians are using.
    It is trying to guess in which language you are typing (Russian or English), and switch keyboard layout on the fly.

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    zxc
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    I am just curious about how people in Russia and elsewhere normally handle this.

    I don't mean techie geeks who wor in the IT industry, like myself and several others here, who have parallel English and other keyboard layouts installed as part of Windows, and swap with a a keystroke. But regular, non technical people.

    I mean, if you have a standard Cyrillic keyboard and no other parallell keyboard installed, you still need to type URLs with Latin letters, or if you happen to need to go into the command prompt or write forumlas in Excel or something like that. How is it done?
    All of the keyboards that I saw when I was over there were standard QWERTY keyboards and the people used the same method you described above (ALT+SHIFT or clicking on the language bar) to switch between languages. Not that this is the method of the majority or completely correct, but that's just what I witnessed.

    (Well, not necessarily your standard QWERTY as you'd find in the UK or US. Most of them had both Latin and Cyrillic characters printed on the keys.)

  4. #4
    Hanna
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    Ah, ok. So there is no special trick, people just do it in the way that I am already familiar with.

    The reason I was wondering, is because switching input locale is considered *really* complicated by most people in Europe. I notice it here in Sweden for example, and also in the UK. I don't know HOW many times I've explained how to set this up to friends and family, for them to say "Omg, how complicated" etc, etc.

    So it hit me that it is necessary for everyone in Russia and I was wondering if there was any special trick.

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    Formerly computers had a special key "РУС" so that the layout could be switched. They also had more alphabet keys so that it was possible to put the punctuation in Russian layout at the same places as in Latin layout. For example, this is a keyboard of Yamaha computer from the mid-80s (it was the first computer model I ever used):


    Unfortunately, in mid-1990s we saw dramatic spread of the American standard of computers, whose keyboard has no features to support languages other than English. So now we have to press two keys (usually Alt+Shift simultaniously) to switch the layout (or those who uses Linux can employ Caps Lock for that). These keys were never intended for layout switching. American keyboard standard also has smaller number of keys so that dot, comma, question sign and other punctuation are located in different places in Russian in English layouts. When entering Russian text we have to use Shift key to enter such usual character as comma. And we have no possibility to enter some characters such as {, [, ], }, <, >, #, @, & in Russian layout at all. This is very annoying if you have to enter a text with these characters: you have to switch the layout after each word.

    Possibly the fact that computers from 1980s (even imported) had better support for Russian language can be explained with stronger position of Soviet government that required all computers to be adapter for Russian well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    Ah, ok. So there is no special trick, people just do it in the way that I am already familiar with.

    The reason I was wondering, is because switching input locale is considered *really* complicated by most people in Europe. I notice it here in Sweden for example, and also in the UK. I don't know HOW many times I've explained how to set this up to friends and family, for them to say "Omg, how complicated" etc, etc.

    So it hit me that it is necessary for everyone in Russia and I was wondering if there was any special trick.
    Are you familiar with any version of Windows (as far as I get it, you only mean this OS) that doesn't have its normal layout (English-US) already installed? I just can't see any problem about hitting alt-shift/ctrl-shift anytime you need to, really.

  7. #7
    Hanna
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    Interesting explanation, thanks! Yes, I have noticed the super awkward position of comma on the Russian keyboard. That must be irritating absolutely everyone. Can't imagine who agreed that it should be placed there.

    I agree that the fact that English has so few letters and no accents or umlauts complicates! It's not quite as tricky in Swedish as in Russian, but we have 3 more letters than English, and need to use accents more. So ; : and - require pressing shift, and [ ] @ € require pressing ctrl+alt too! I think the situation is similar for German and French too.

    Impressive that you used a Yamaha in the mid 1980s! Was it at home or for some other reason?
    I noticed that for the Yamaha they put the English letters at the same place as the equivalent sound in English. I.e. a completely different position than QWERTY. This isn't still done, is it? When I first took up Russian, I read that there is actually an alternative Russian keyboard layout, which puts the Russian letters at positions that matches the English sounds, i.e. a kind of Russian QWERTY. But the book recommended against using this layout since it is unusual.

    I remember using a model in school, during the mid 80s. Unbelievably (as it seems today) it was manufactured in Sweden by a state owned company. It had a wider keyboard with more keys to acommodate all keys in a comfortable position, as well as Swedish words on the keys for delete and print screen etc. The spec was probably super low, but it could be programmed in Pascal... Of course, local manufacturing of computers did not stand a chance against competition from globalisation, so it never took off but it made me interested in computers and learning more.

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, in mid-1990s we saw dramatic spread of the American standard of computers, whose keyboard has no features to support languages other than English.
    But the advantage of this, it seems to me, is that if you regularly type in MORE than three languages (such as English, Russian, and Hebrew), everything is done by software-switching.

    And even if you type in just two languages (such as Russian and English), using software-switching allows you to switch conventiently between a phonetic mapping (as Hanna noted on the Yamaha keyboard) and the "standard" layout. (For instance, English speakers learning Russian with the intent of studying/working in Russia should really try to become accustomed to the "йцуке" layout, and Russians learning English should get used to the QWERTY layout. But in both cases, using a phonetically-mapped keyboard can be much easier at first!)

    By the way, is there a common name for the standard Russian arrangement, analogous to QWERTY? I always mentally think of it as the "ФЫВА layout" -- because when I learned touch-typing in English as a kid, the teacher drilled it into my head to think of ASDF as the "home keys" for the left hand.

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    It is called ЙЦУКЕН as QWERTY by the first 6 letters

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  11. #11
    Hanna
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    I think what we are saying is that it wouldn't hurt with a few more keys on a standard keyboard. I am sure they could find something useful to do with the extra keys for English speaking users, and it would massively improve the situation for speakers of many European languages, particularly Russian.


    Pretty cool huh:


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    Impressive that you used a Yamaha in the mid 1980s! Was it at home or for some other reason?
    Yamaha was the most widespread personal computer in the USSR in the mid-80s. It was everywhere: in the schools, in youth creativity centers, in young pioneer houses etc. I think you could not buy it for home at the time or it was too expensive (like a half of a car). There were less expensive Soviet-made computers for home use which were more affordable.

    I started programming at 8 years (2nd grade) at a programming group at creativity center. The group was free as anything in the USSR. Besides Yamahas there were also Toshibas there, and other groups were equipped with Soviet computers. My school was also equipped with Yamahas but the informatics subject only started from 6th grade (although as the teacher was informed that I attended a group, she allowed me to program and play games after lessons).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    I noticed that for the Yamaha they put the English letters at the same place as the equivalent sound in English. I.e. a completely different position than QWERTY. This isn't still done, is it? When I first took up Russian, I read that there is actually an alternative Russian keyboard layout, which puts the Russian letters at positions that matches the English sounds, i.e. a kind of Russian QWERTY. But the book recommended against using this layout since it is unusual.
    It was a Soviet standard. All computers, both imported and domestically produced were required to follow it.
    The IBM PC-compatible computers that emerged in mid-1990s did not respect any Soviet standards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post
    But the advantage of this, it seems to me, is that if you regularly type in MORE than three languages (such as English, Russian, and Hebrew), everything is done by software-switching.
    The switching is ALWAYS software. On Yamaha, on Soviet computers the switching mechanism was software based. It is just that the keyboard had special keys for switching layout and more alphabetic keys. Now the US standard considers that switching is not necessary. You have keys for scroll lock, for context menu, for main menu, for sleep and wake up etc etc - but not for layout switching.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    I think what we are saying is that it wouldn't hurt with a few more keys on a standard keyboard. I am sure they could find something useful to do with the extra keys for English speaking users, and it would massively improve the situation for speakers of many European languages, particularly Russian.
    In Kazakhstan, for example, they even have to place letters on the numeric keyboard because all cannot fit on the main keyboard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anixx View Post
    Now the US standard considers that switching is not necessary. You have keys for scroll lock, for context menu, for main menu, for sleep and wake up etc etc - but not for layout switching.
    Is there other language beside American

  16. #16
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anixx View Post
    The switching is ALWAYS software. On Yamaha, on Soviet computers the switching mechanism was software based. It is just that the keyboard had special keys for switching layout and more alphabetic keys. Now the US standard considers that switching is not necessary. You have keys for scroll lock, for context menu, for main menu, for sleep and wake up etc etc - but not for layout switching.
    It sounds like the sort of thing to start an online petition for! Imagine how many people would sign up. Just for them to add one or two more vertical lines of keys to the standard keyboard. For things like language switching and a few extra letters that have to be hidden away and can only be reached with irritating key combinationa.

    I mean, it is certainly in the interest of most people in Europe, everyone in the ex USSR area, and probably Asians too!
    Unbelievable with the Kazakh letters on the numpad!!! Some keyboards don't even have a numpad, so I wonder what they do then....... Like on an Ipad or something...

    The placement of ё on the Russian is weird too, I had practically never had any reason to use that button when typing on an British keyboard, it's hard to use when touch typing. Can't even recall what's on it, but nothing you use regularly. I guess most Russians don't use it, but use e instead. But I use it.

    For some strange reason the American and British keyboards are different, and that is another frustration. On an unfamilar PC you don't realise you are in American mode until you try to get a non alphabetic character, many of which are in a different location than on the British keyboard. I once worked for a company where the keyboard was automatically reset to American English with nothing else available, every time you rebooted.... It drove people mental.

    I was fascinated by the "Dvorak" English keyboard and tried to learn typing on it a few years ago. But it was too hard and I gave up. The idea is that they placed the keys in the most logical and convenient position for minimum hand movement when typing. It is more comforatable and you can supposedly type faster. But it was too hard to re-learn the positions!

    I DID memorise the position of all Russian keys though, since I wanted to be able to type Russian on any keyboard without messing around with stickers. So I can kind of touch type in Russian.......

    It just sounds like quite a lot to ask from Russian pensioners and other computer users who are not familiar with English OR computers... that they should switch languages, etc... When people like my sister who is trilingual and well educated finds it confusing and challenging. She just wrote me a letter where all the Swedish letters were substituted with the closest looking English letter. It's an absolute pain in the neck to read, and I have showed her many times how to get Swedish letters on an English PC - but it's too hard apparently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anixx View Post
    Yamaha was the most widespread personal computer in the USSR in the mid-80s. It was everywhere: in the schools, in youth creativity centers, in young pioneer houses etc. I think you could not buy it for home at the time or it was too expensive (like a half of a car). There were less expensive Soviet-made computers for home use which were more affordable.

    I started programming at 8 years (2nd grade) at a programming group at creativity center. The group was free as anything in the USSR. Besides Yamahas there were also Toshibas there, and other groups were equipped with Soviet computers. My school was also equipped with Yamahas but the informatics subject only started from 6th grade (although as the teacher was informed that I attended a group, she allowed me to program and play games after lessons).

    It was a Soviet standard. All computers, both imported and domestically produced were required to follow it.
    The IBM PC-compatible computers that emerged in mid-1990s did not respect any Soviet standards.
    Very interesting to read! Do you work in the IT industry today? You sure started very early for someone who went to school in the 80s! The Soviet youth programs are very impressive and I hope much it has survived! I did not know that you had Japanese computers back then, but I remember speaking with a Bulgarian guy who told me that Bulgaria supplied computers to much of Eastern Europe - this guy was an IT GENIUS. I was dating him, and sadly was not much attracted to him, but he had a brain to kill for. Back then, I visited Leningrad and since shops were not computerised in any form at all, I got the impression that the USSR was behind in computing. Perhaps only in places like shops though, not in universities, military etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    It just sounds like quite a lot to ask from Russian pensioners and other computer users who are not familiar with English OR computers...
    Guess the situation lacks symmetry. First, Russian symbols, though look similar to Latin alphabet and are partially based on it, differ from English for the most part. You may use transliteration, of course, but to type in Russian you must use a Russian layout.
    Second, people in UK/US/CA/AU/EU/wherever may not bother lerning cyrillic writing, but people in Russia can and will write and read Latin characters. If someone had't got foreign laguage lessons in early elementary school, they are going to learn it all anyway in math classes, like in 4th grade. Yeah, we don't name variables and X's in cyrillic.
    Foreign words and Latin characters are used everywhere, even just for the cool look of it, so you may very well say there little if any users in Russia who are not familiar with characters other than cyrillic. Even past the age of retirement. Hell, the MP3player I got wo weeks ago is by EXPLAY, and as I have come to know, that's actually a Russian company.

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    Властелин Valda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anixx View Post
    Formerly computers had a special key "РУС" so that the layout could be switched. They also had more alphabet keys so that it was possible to put the punctuation in Russian layout at the same places as in Latin layout. For example, this is a keyboard of Yamaha computer from the mid-80s (it was the first computer model I ever used):


    Unfortunately, in mid-1990s we saw dramatic spread of the American standard of computers, whose keyboard has no features to support languages other than English. So now we have to press two keys (usually Alt+Shift simultaniously) to switch the layout (or those who uses Linux can employ Caps Lock for that). These keys were never intended for layout switching. American keyboard standard also has smaller number of keys so that dot, comma, question sign and other punctuation are located in different places in Russian in English layouts. When entering Russian text we have to use Shift key to enter such usual character as comma. And we have no possibility to enter some characters such as {, [, ], }, #, @, & in Russian layout at all. This is very annoying if you have to enter a text with these characters: you have to switch the layout after each word.

    Possibly the fact that computers from 1980s (even imported) had better support for Russian language can be explained with stronger position of Soviet government that required all computers to be adapter for Russian well.
    У меня есть Иврит, Английский и Русский. Так моя клавиатура выглядит как.



    It's a hassle switching 3 languages! I wish I had a button for each...
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    I did not know that you had Japanese computers back then, but I remember speaking with a Bulgarian guy who told me that Bulgaria supplied computers to much of Eastern Europe - this guy was an IT GENIUS.
    I think the MSX standard to which the Japanese computers belonged was the most widespread in the world those days except the United States, as says Wikipedia. MSX - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    One more feature I remember from their experience was that you could move through the text diagonally by pressing two arrow keys at once - very comfortable! In IBM PC - compatible computers you cannot!

    I never seen any Bulgarian computer, although, Soviet-made computers were seen quite often. I also seen some East-German equipment such as Robotron printers and drives.
    My first home computer was БК-0010-01 which at the time costed 600 rubles:

    Im my case the case was gray:

    Although it was not compatible with MSX and had a different architecture, it was heavily influenced by Yamahas in that its imbeeded Basic dialect was a truncated variant of that on the MSX computers. You can also see the two buttons for switching layouts here

  20. #20
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valda View Post
    У меня есть Иврит, Английский и Русский. Так моя клавиатура выглядит как.

    It's a hassle switching 3 languages! I wish I had a button for each...
    Wow, you are running 3 alphabets simultaneously!!! I can't imagine anyone here beats that!


    Quote Originally Posted by Anixx
    You can also see the two buttons for switching layouts here
    Listen and learn, keyboard vendors...

    Very interesting to hear about your experiences of computers in the 1980s! I love to hear stories about people using IT equipment back in those days. My current manager was one of the first female programmers in Sweden, and her stories are very fascinating.

    I have never seen a Russian made computer in real life, but I remember the name Robotron. They definitely made TVs and casette players too! (One has to wonder how a company like that stood up to competition after the German reunification... Their products were not cool, but they were functional and cheap. But I certainly have not heard of them in modern times, so I guess the company went bust, or was bought for about 1 penny.....)

    The first computer I saw was one my dad got from his work, to use at home. I think it was around 1982 and it was an Apple. Later in the 80s I saw a hobby computer that my cousin built from parts off a catalogue. It could be connected to the TV to play computer games off a casette tape!

    In the UK all computer geeks over 40 get nostalgic at the thought of BBC Micro and Altair computers. They had to be assembled by the user.

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