Where are my keys?

Being deeply interested by what happens in a human being’s brain, I recently came across an interesting one: what part of the brain actually does know where each letter is when typing a message on a computer? In other words: where is the key-feature stored amongst our mess of grey cells? No need to follow any kind of training, the daily usage of computers nowadays makes our generation able to have a rather intuitive understanding of how to write and type on a computer keyboard so one knows without really knowing how where each key is and to what letter this corresponds to.

The confusing bit comes when one is using a foreign keyboard. No big headline on this one: Frenchies are using a special type named AZERTY while English speakers use QWERTY ones (first line of characters). Why this difference in the first line? I can’t tell. But for some obvious reasons and due to the extensive usage of words with accents, the French keyboard is different and numbers for instance can be generated by using the capital lock - the “by default” feature being the most commonly used letters with accents such as é è à etc. Makes sense. I don’t really know but it turns out that I never found my way around using code numbers to generate accents on letters (as there is one) and I always have to use the “switching” feature on any computer that tells the software I am using a different keyboard as I know where each letter is by heart on a French one. Confusing thing when someone is using my computer and it turns out to be on the “French” mode: you think you are pressing the Q key and an A appear on the screen. Weird.

Having said that, an obscure question remains: how about UK and US keyboards then? As far as I am aware, both countries are speaking the same language - and yet, keyboards are different. Due to currency differences, the pound and dollar signs obviously imply some sort of discrepancy. But for recently (or sort of) added symbols, how come the @ is placed in such different locations on both keyboards? Hmmm… Same for quotation marks, €, # and even the Enter key… As a matter of fact, my Mac at home is an American computer, I work on a British PC and my mother tongue is French which means I spend a fair amount of time switching keyboards, often using a French keyboard without technically having worked or owned one for over 6 years now. I must admit feeling confused about how my brain may find its way around all of this (which might sort of explain my rather intricate way of thinking) or whenever I have to write something on my parents’ laptop keyboard when back in France… As funnily enough, I cannot actually type an English message on a French keyboard and vice-versa.

Anyway, just to introduce the idea that February 21st is actually the International Mother Language Day - whatever that means. I realize there must be some far more interesting things/days to celebrate… But just a friendly reminder that… Sadly, English will never be my mother language.