Language Life Hacks

Language Life Hacks

This morning in Elementary Hebrew I was sitting next to Jeff Block and struck by how he navigated effortlessly from typing English, to Hebrew, to Greek and asked him, “How do you switch so fast between typing English and then Greek? He said he created a hot key to swap between keyboard language configurations. All of you language learners know the click saving value of this hack! Jeff’s written a whole blog post about some useful aids he has come across and/or developed. What follows is an excerpt of his post. You can link to the whole post here. Thanks Jeff for sharing!

Using Greek on the Mac

Speaking of writing papers, the need to be able to type in Greek and easily switch back and forth between Greek and English is paramount. I’m a Mac user, so I can’t speak to a PC-based setup. Hopefully, you’ll find these tips and tricks helpful.


(At the time of this writing, I’m using OS X Yosemite [v10.10].)

Font: I am still deciding between two font families…

I started out with the Gentium Font Family for Greek in Word and other contexts on the Mac. Download the font (either from or from my site), then install as follows:

  1. Unzip the downloaded zip file
  2. Add the two TTF files to your font manager
  3. If you had a Word document (or equivalent) open trying to read this font prior to installing it, make sure you close Word entirely — on the Mac, it’s not enough to close and reopen the doc; you must close the whole app (⌘-Q, not ⌘-W)
  4. Re-open the document
  5. And you should see the Greek text.

Once I started Hebrew, I discovered the fonts from the Society of Biblical Literature. There are three fonts out there: Greek, Hebrew, and a BibLit font, which attempts a hybrid font that “combines Greek, Hebrew, and Latin characters, including transliteration diacritics.” Installation procedure would be identical.

Add Greek Keyboard: To create my own Greek text on the Mac, I added the “Greek Polytonic” input source from keyboard settings. I do NOT recommend the “Greek” source, because it doesn’t support accent, breathing or other marks as effectively (in my opinion) as does the Greek Polytonic keyboard.

First, add the input source:

keyboard-settings1   keyboard-settings2

Once the input source is added, you will see it in the menu bar…


And you can setup a shortcut (also in keyboard settings; see the image to the right above; select the “Shortcuts” tab — which allows you to switch quickly back and forth between your native keyboard and your new Greek Keyboard, using a hotkey. I set mine to ⌘-[ (to scroll left) and ⌘-] (to scroll right) between the options. Note that if you select something that already exists as a hot-key, you’ll have to remove that hot-key from the old shortcut. Obviously, any given key combination can only link to one thing.

Using the Character Viewer: TODO

Microsoft Word

(At the time of this writing, I’m using Word v15.)

Hide Spelling Errors: Word helpfully underlines all your lovely Greek text with red squiggly lines indicating that it is an incorrectly spelled English word. That’s pretty annoying. The good news is that you can easily turn this off. Select “Tools” in the menu (NOT the ribbon, the menu), then “Spelling and Grammar” (first item), then check “Hide Spelling Errors”. This will only work for the current document, but it will send the unhelpful red squiggles out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Make sure you’re using the right language: In the status bar at the bottom of the app, from the left, Word shows you: page number, word count, the spiffy dictionary icon, and then the language Word thinks you’re using. I’ve noticed that if you switch back and forth between Greek and English, then this indicator can get confused. The way this always seems to reveal itself is with red squiggly lines under correctly-spelled words (see about), but also when I type a double quote (“), I get a funky double arrow character (« or »). If this happens, look at the language indicator for that part of the text, and it will likely show “Greek” when you’re trying to work in English. Just change it (click on “Greek” in the bottom bar, and select “English (US)”, then retype your quote mark.greek-quote-mark

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