Basics of Japanese: Typing
In this modern technological age, typing in Japanese is surprisingly easy. And best of all? No need to buy a real Japanese keyboard! The most difficult part will be setting up your computer to allow for the character input and then just practicing enough to feel comfortable doing it.
Set-up depends on if you’re using a Windows or a Mac. The Mac version is fairly straight-forward and remains about the same regardless of the version. The Windows version is the same too, but it may take a little effort to find where to begin since things change around slightly from version to version.
- Go to Systems Preference and select Language & Region
- Change nothing on here! Instead, go to the Input Sources tab.
- On the Input Sources tab, scroll down and find Kotoeri.
- Check mark the box to enable and then return to your main screen.
You’ll now find a flag in the upper right corner where your taskbar is. Clicking on the flag will let you toggle between your main language and typing in Japanese.
(For this example, I’m using the Windows 10 formatting. Vista, 7 and 8 are similar but may be named differently and are accessible through the Control Panel.)
- Start at Settings and select Time & Language
- On the left sidebar, choose Region & Language
- Leave the country alone, unless you want your whole computer to be in Japanese!
- Under the Languages heading, click on the plus-sign (+) box to add a language.
- Scroll until you find 日本語 – Japanese.
Return to your homescreen. In the bottom right corner, you should see a new box with some words representing your language. If your computer’s language is English, for instance, it will show “ENG”. Click on this and you can switch to Japanese.
Okay! Now we’re all set up so open up a Word document and let’s practice to get used to some special typing rules!
- The spacebar only changes hiragana words into katakana or kanji. Japanese do not use spaces between their words.
It can be difficult at first not to hit the spacebar after every word, but in Japanese that’s just the way you’ll need to learn how to type! Both Mac and Windows’ typing systems are set up to be smart enough to automatically identify the correct characters you need as you type, saving you a lot of time and hassle. Once you get used to it, you’ll only be typing at the very end of your sentences.
- Don’t just blindly trust the auto-select feature.
Sometimes you write words that it doesn’t know (particularly names). Sometimes you write a homonym and it can’t tell if you want き, キ, 木, 機, 気, 着 or 来 when you typed “ki”. Always read over what you typed to make sure it’s selecting the correct character–especially for kanji! If you don’t know any kanji yet, it’s A-OK to only type in hiragana and katakana.
- Hit the ‘enter’ key to remove the squiggle marks beneath the words you’re typing.
- The particles は (ha, pronounced wa) and を (wo, pronounced o) must be typed as “ha” and “wo”.
If you type “wa” by accident, you will get わ. If you type “o” by accident, you will get お. The machine will not auto-correct this for you and it could potentially mess it up from recognizing other words.
- To type ん, you must type “nn”.
If you just type “n” once, it sometimes will be OK because the machine will auto-correct for you. But if a vowel (A, I, U, E, O) is your next letter, it will mess everything up! For example, 店員 (employee) is typed as “tennin” because in hiragana it looks like てんいん (te n i n). If you type it like (tenin) you’ll get 手人–which isn’t a real word!
- Use X to make AIUEO sounds appear smaller.
This trick is especially useful when you’re typing non-Japanese people’s names in katakana. Kristi = クリスティ (kurisutexi). The ‘xi’ gives you a small ィ.
- Type the consonant twice for a little tsu.
しって = shitte, きっぷ = kippu, so on and so on.
Whew! Now that that’s all over, try it out. Type out a self-introduction! Remember: don’t hit the spacebar if you don’t know any kanji yet! Just use it when it comes time for katakana (like for your name). Use the ‘enter’ key to stay in only hiragana and prevent the machine from auto-selecting things for you.
This is how I typed what you see above:
Now you try!