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It's not immediately obvious how to insert characters from foreign alphabets and symbols into your text, but emacs is more linguistically-aware than a lot of software, so it should come as no surprise that it's possible.6 In fact, you can use emacs to compose texts in Asian alphabets (e.g. Chinese, Korean), right-to-left alphabets (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew), and insert any character in the unicode definition.
If you are mostly writing English, with the occasional odd foreign character, it's easiest to use C-x 8. For example C-x 8 Y produces the Yen symbol (¥), C-x 8 L produces the pound symbol (£), and C-x 8 o produces the degree symbol (°). There are about two dozen characters easily available through this method. Type C-x 8 C-h for a list of them (or type C-h b for a list of all keybindings).
Some Commonly Used Special Characters