is there a way to type the accented letters from my keyboard rather than clicking the keyboard on the screen. Its seriously slowing me down to have to click the accented letters on the timed practice.
For windows, use the "United States-International" keyboard. Google on it or go into the control panel and look. It's built into Windows. Once activated, you use key combinations, single apostrophe followed by letter, to get the desired result. This is a must, as reaching for the mouse is crazy. It should be mentioned in the Duolingo Help.
On a Mac: option-` (option-backtick) adds a grave accent to the next character typed; option-u adds an umlaut, option-e adds an acute accent. For example: é can be typed as option-e then 'e'. OS X 10.8 let's you type accents by holding down the key.
On Windows there are alt-codes: alt+138 yields è, for example. See more here: http://french.about.com/od/writing/ss/typeaccents_7.htm
My preferred method for typing Italian is to use an iPad, since I can just flick up on the 'e' to get an è.
I do wish Duolingo allowed me to just type e’ for è, since that's fairly common practice in Italy. They could do something similar for other languages: "u or u" for ü, i^ for î, etc. I know they allow ae, oe, and ue for ä, ö, and ü in German. LaTeX syntax would be good too: \'e for é, `e for è, etc.