How to Change the Language on a Mac Keyboard

Typing in a different language (such as Latin-American Spanish)? Learning a new one (like Basque)? Find out here how to change the keyboard language and layout on a Mac.

First, Mr. Legan Turns the Chessboard

A certain L. Legan turned his chessboard in 1913 and… stopped.

With a corner of the board pointing at the other player and one at himself, he began to arrange the figures much like in a typical chess configuration (pawns in front, royalties behind in the center, etc.) but filling the corner in quite artistic a manner, of course.

In Legan’s chess, everything else (but the movement of pawns, of course, which now is diagonally) works like it does with the standard form of chess.

Now that we’ve turned that corner, how about picking a different variant for the keyboard layout on a Mac? No need to hold it with one corner pointing to you—but you can try, of course:

How to Change the Language on a Mac Keyboard

Using the Menu Bar

Time needed: 1 minute.

To switch the keyboard language to set the keyboard layout and auto-complete language on a Mac using the input source switch in the menu bar:

  1. Click the Input Sources icon in the Mac menu bar.

    How to spot: The menu item sports a flag or a flag together with the current input source’s name.
    Just one source: If only one input source is currently available, the menu bar shows the Emojis & Symbols dialog icon instead.
    No “Input Sources” menu item: If you do not see the menu item, you can enable it in System Preferences for easy language switching; see below.

  2. Select the keyboard language and layout you want to use from the menu that has appeared.

    Language missing: If the keyboard layout you want to use is not in the menu, select Open Keyboard Preferences… and see below for adding it.
    Keyboard shortcut alternative: You can also switch between languages using the keyboard alone; see below.
    Change the keyboard language on a Mac with the menu

Add the “Input Sources” Mac Menu Bar Item

To add the language-switching Input Sources menu bar item on macOS:

  1. Select (Apple logo) in the Mac menu bar.
  2. Choose System Preferences… from the menu that has appeared.
  3. Go to the Keyboard category.
  4. Open the Input Sources tab.
  5. Check Show Input menu in menu bar.

Change the Keyboard Language with a Mac Keyboard Shortcut

To change the active keyboard language and layout for input on a Mac using the keyboard alone:

  1. Press and hold the Control key.
  2. Now press Space to bring up the keyboard language change menu.
    Custom keyboard shortcut: You can change the key combination to bring up the menu; see below.
  3. Press Space (while holding Control) until the desired language is highlighted.
    Language not in menu: If the keyboard layout you are looking for is not in the menu, see below for adding it.
  4. Let go of the Control key.
    Choose the input language with a keyboard shortcut on a Mac

Set up a Mac Keyboard Shortcut for Language Switching

To pick the key combination to change the keyboard language on a Mac:

  1. Select  | System preferences… from the menu.
  2. Go to the Keyboard category.
  3. Open the Shortcuts tab.
  4. Select Input Sources on the left.
  5. Check at least Select the previous input source.
    Next: You can also check Select the next input source, of course.
  6. Tap the current keyboard shortcut (or the empty space) next to Select the previous input source.
  7. Press the key combination you want to use for changing the keyboard language.
    Choose a keyboard shortcut for changing the Mac input source

You can also make the Function key bring up the input sources switcher:

  1. Open Keyboard in System Preferences; see above.
  2. Go to the Keyboard tab.
  3. Select Change Input Source for Press fn key to.

Add Keyboard Langauges to Mac

To add a new keyboard layout to macOS on your Mac:

  1. Select  | System preferences… from the menu.
  2. Open the Keyboard section.
  3. Go to the Input Sources tab.
  4. Click + underneath the list of current languages, keyboard layouts and input sources.
  5. Choose the language and keyboard layout you want to add to your Mac.
    Search: You can search for languages as well as keyboard layouts.
  6. Click Add.
    Add a new keyboard language and layout to your Mac

How to Change the Language on a Mac Keyboard: FAQ

Will changing the keyboard language using Input Sources also change the language for autocorrect and spelling?

No.

The language used for checking the spelling—and, if you want, auto-correcting it—on a Mac is typically

(How to change the language on a Mac keyboard tested with macOS Monterey 12.3; updated September 2022)

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