Why are Keyboards Different in Different Countries?


Keyboards are far more unique and interesting than you may initially realize. We grew around one sort of keyboard, the Qwerty keyboard, and few of us have been exposed to anything else. But, most countries have a unique keyboard designed to fit around their language and linguistic patterns.

If you are wondering why are keyboards different in different countries then look no further, you have come to the right place!

This article will cover everything you need to know about how keyboards vary from country to country, language to language, and why that is the case.

Why are keyboards different in different countries
Why are keyboards different in different countries?

Keyboards change depending on a countries language

Most countries have their language, or, at least some variance of a language that they made theirs over time. Take the US and the UK, for example. They both speak English, yet have an entirely different way of speaking, writing, and even different words for certain things. Think Mum and Mom, or pavement and sidewalk.

There are keyboards specific to each of those countries based on their currency, too. Someone with a US keyboard might have a £ and $ key, whereas a UK one might also have the Euro symbol (€).

Then, you can also compare entirely different languages. A french keyboard, for example, has the majority of their vowels on the top left section of the board.

Where we have qwerty keys, they have replaced the Q with an A and occasionally the W with a Z. It varies. In French, the letter Z crops up far more than it does in our language. So it has been repositioned to be more accessible.

Why are keyboards different in different countries french keyboard
French Keyboard

Related Article: How do Chinese Keyboards Work?

How many different types of keyboards are there?

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To be precise, there are infinite types of keyboards. Custom keyboards are so prevalent and easy to make that the combinations are endless. There are over a trillion different combinations of 82 keys, so you could go on forever listing them out.

However, there are some more common than others. There are around 15-20 regularly used layouts of keyboards. Following all the major languages. Plus, the inverse keyboards for left-handed people.

You can rightly assume that every major language has its keyboard, especially if that language has unique letters or characters. Someone who speaks English only could get by typing on a French keyboard if they had to, but you wouldn’t have a hope in hell of typing on a Chinese one. And vice versa.

The need for unique keyboards is most prevalent when countries have their own alphabet. But, some get by without. For example, Russian can be written in English characters or Russian ones. So you can get your point across using a Qwerty keyboard just fine.

This also works to an extent in what we might call symbol-based languages such as Chinese, where a specific character represents a word. However, its harder to chop and change a symbol that has an expanded meaning for several English words.

What is the most common keyboard layout?

The most common type of keyboard is by far the Qwerty keyboard, named after the order of the first 6 letters from left to right on the top row of keys. It has been designed to be as efficient for standard English as possible. It is part of the reason you feel comfortable typing on it.

Of course, practice and repetition play a part in that. But the testing of various keyboard layouts before finally arriving on the Qwerty keyboard speaks to its efficiency.

Though there have been some studies showing that the Dvorak layout may actually be even more efficient, of course, that’s after you adjust to the completely different layout which may take some time.

For those of us who used a Numpad style keyboard on older phones, we can attest to how much easier it is to use the Qwerty keyboard than the alternative. That’s why phones have full keyboards, not just 26 letters divided by 9 numbers.

What are the differences between the Qwerty keyboard and other countries?

The differences largely lay in the positioning of certain letters. Many languages use the same 26 characters, many languages also included other variations of those characters. For example, French accents a huge amount of their letters. But, they are still the same letter.

The biggest reason for moving the keys around is the frequency of use. As mentioned above, some languages use certain letters far more. Z is hardly ever used in English, so why would it sit in the center of the keyboard? Unlike T, or Y, that are used frequently, Z is hardly used at all and has thus been relegated to the bottom left corner of the keyboard.

Think of how hard and uncomfortable it is to reach the letter Z. Why would a language like French, or German want such a well regularly used key to be so hard to reach? They wouldn’t.

Are there other types of English keyboards?

Yes! There are interestingly two English keyboards that have been argued to be better and more efficient than the Qwerty keyboard. They are called the Dvorak and the Colemak.

They are arguably better positioned to be quick and easy to type on given the evolution of the English language. However, there are some problems.

If one company, such as Microsoft, were to switch over to such a keyboard there would be a lot of backlash. Everyone would be forced to completely re-learn how to type, by force rather than choice. This could effectively kill the company.

People are so used to typing on the Qwerty keyboard that anything else is seen as uncomfortable and inconvenient. Sure, it may be the most efficient choice over time, but people aren’t willing to undergo the fall-off in productivity until we all adjust. The Qwerty keyboard does just fine.

Conclusion:

Hopefully, this has answered any questions you may have had about why are keyboards different in different countries. It is almost entirely convenience based.

You could choose to use a foreign keyboard if you like, but it is hard to adapt to. If you want to have a look at what each keyboard looks like, you can change your phone’s keyboard settings and have a go typing on one of them. It might look cool, but it can feel completely unusable.

The best keyboard, in my and most other people’s opinion, is the Qwerty keyboard. If you fancy trying a new one out, then maybe the Dvorak or the Colemak would be more what you are looking for.

Good luck finding the right keyboard for you, happy typing!

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