Home Ubuntu How To Setup Multilingual Input Method On Ubuntu

How To Setup Multilingual Input Method On Ubuntu

By sk
Published: Updated: 13.8K views

For those who don't know, there are hundreds of spoken languages in India. Among them, 22 languages are listed as official languages in Indian constitution. I am not a native English speaker, so I often use Google translate if I ever needed to type and/or translate something from English to my native language, which is Tamil. Well, I guess I don't need to rely on Google translate anymore. I just found way to type in Indian languages on Ubuntu. This guide explains how to setup multilingual input method on Ubuntu operating systems.

This guide is officially tested on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. However, it might work on other Ubuntu versions and Ubuntu variants like Linux mint, Elementary OS and Pop OS.

Setup multilingual input method on Ubuntu Linux

With the help of IBus, we can easily setup multilingual input method on Ubuntu and its derivatives. Ibus, stands for Intelligent Input Bus, is an input method framework for multilingual input in Unix-like operating systems. It allows us to type in our native language in most GUI applications, for example LibreOffice.

Install IBus On Ubuntu

To install IBus package on Ubuntu, run:

$ sudo apt install ibus-m17n

The Ibus-m17n package provides a lot of Indian and other countries languages including amharic, arabic, armenian, assamese, athapascan languages, belarusian, bengali, burmese, central khmer, chamic languages, chinese, cree, croatian, czech, danish, divehi, dhivehi, maldivian, esperanto, french, georgian, ancient and modern greek, gujarati, hebrew, hindi, inuktitut, japanese, kannada, kashmiri, kazakh, korean, lao, malayalam, marathi, nepali, ojibwa, oriya, panjabi, punjabi, persian, pushto, pashto, russian, sanskrit, serbian, sichuan yi, nuosu, siksika, sindhi, sinhala, sinhalese, slovak, swedish, tai languages, tamil, telugu, thai, tibetan, uighur, uyghur, urdu, uzbek, vietnamese, as well as yiddish.

Add input languages

We can add languages in System Settings section. Click the drop down arrow on the top right corner of your Ubuntu desktop and choose Settings icon in the bottom left corner.

Launch System's settings from top panel
Launch System's settings from top panel

From the Settings section, click on Region & Language option in the left pane. Then click the + (plus) sign button on the right side under Input Sources tab.

Region & language in Settings ubuntu
Region & language section in Settings section

In the next window, click on the three vertical dots button.

Add input source in Ubuntu
Add input source in Ubuntu

Search and choose the input language you'd like to add from the list.

Add input language ubuntu
Add input language in Ubuntu Linux

For the purpose of this guide, I am going to add Tamil language. After choosing the language, click Add button.

Add Input Source Ubuntu
Add Input Source

Now the selected input source has been added. You will see it in Region & Language section under Input Sources tab.

Input sources Ubuntu
Input sources section in Ubuntu

Click the "Manage Installed Languages" button under Input Sources tab.

Manage Installed Languages In Ubuntu
Manage Installed Languages In Ubuntu

Next you will be asked whether you want to install translation packs for the chosen language. You can install them if you want. Or, simply choose "Remind Me Later" button. You will be notified when you open this next time.

The language support is not installed completely
The language support is not installed completely

Once the translation packs are installed, Click Install / Remove Languages button. Also make sure IBus is selected in Keyboard input method system.

Install Remove languages ubuntu
Install / Remove Languages In Ubuntu

Choose your desired language from the list and click Apply button.

Choose input language ubuntu
Choose input language

That's it. That's we have successfully setup multilingual input method on Ubuntu 18.04 desktop. Similarly, add as many as input languages you want.

After adding all language sources, log out and log in back.

Type in Indian languages and/or your preferred languages

Once you have added all languages, you will see them from the drop download on the top bar of your Ubuntu desktop.

Choose input language from top bar in Ubuntu
Choose input language from top bar in Ubuntu desktop

Alternatively, you can use SUPER+SPACE keys from the Keyboard to switch between input languages.

Choose input language using Super+Space keys in Ubuntu
Choose input language using Super+Space keys in Ubuntu

Open any GUI text editors/apps and start typing!

Type in Indian languages in ubuntu
Type in Indian languages in Ubuntu

Add IBus to startup applications

We need let IBus to start automatically on every reboot, so you need not to start it manually whenever you want to type in your preferred language.

To do so, simply type "startup applications" in the dash and click on Startup Applications option.

Launch startup applications in ubuntu
Launch startup applications in Ubuntu

In the next window, click Add, type "Ibus" in the name field and "ibus-daemon" in the Command field and then click Add button.

Add Ibus to startup applications on Ubuntu
Add Ibus to startup applications on Ubuntu

From now on, IBus will automatically start on system startup.

And, that's all for now. It is your turn now. What application/tool you're using to type in local Indian languages? Let us know them in the comment section below.


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guntbert August 10, 2019 - 2:42 am

Great read, thx a ton :-))

Silvain Dupertuis September 2, 2019 - 1:53 am

I have all this working for a romanized keyboard for Lao language, under Ubuntu 18.04
But I am using a national keyboard (Swiss french), and ibus-m17n engine uses the US layout.
So I have to modify the mim table accordingly (and it becomes very complicated with friends using the French keyboard).
ibus-setup has an option for this, but Ubuntu is using ibus in another way and does not “listen” to what is setup with ibus-setup.

cmn December 8, 2019 - 1:23 am

ibus-m17n does not work in Ubuntu 19.04 and 19.10 like in earlier versions including 18.10

andrew January 31, 2020 - 10:27 pm

i have done all these, but still can’t display german character. i have installed english, chinese, germany input language, chinese and english works, but german language does not display german character.
can you help me pls ?

andrew March 12, 2020 - 3:30 pm

this method is good for many languages, such german language, but no use for chinese language input.

any idea how to do Chinese language input using ibus ?

sk March 12, 2020 - 6:43 pm

I don’t know why this method is no use for Chinese. I will check and update the guide if I find any workaround. Thanks for letting me know.

andrew March 12, 2020 - 3:31 pm

my previous chinese input method works because i was using fcitx input method instead of ibus.

Harsha November 11, 2021 - 7:11 pm

Thank you very much. This helped. I was able to setup Kannada input.

sk November 11, 2021 - 8:08 pm

Happy to help.

Salma Muradkhan December 13, 2021 - 10:44 am

I want a kannad keyboard mechanical typewriter keyboard layout for kannad speed typing so pls help me for settings i have downloaded ubyntu 20 versoion

sk December 13, 2021 - 3:51 pm

Hi, the procedure is same for all Indian languages. This guide is written for Tamil support. Just choose Kannada language instead of Tamil and follow the same steps. You’re all set.


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