How do Japanese keyboards work

How Do Japanese Keyboards Work?

Japanese has three writing systems, four if you include romaji which are Latin letters. So one might ask how do Japanese keyboards work. In this post you’ll find the answer.

The Japanese Writing Systems

Japanese has four writing systems:

  • 漢字 kanji (about 2200 characters)
  • ひらがな hiragana (46 characters)
  • カタカナ katakana (46 characters)
  • ローマ字 rōmaji (26 characters)

You can write every Japanese word in hiragana, katakana or rōmaji.

For example, the word for Chinese character 漢字 can be written as かんじ (hiragana), カンジ (katakana) or kanji (romaji).

If you now compare all the writing systems, you see that the rōmaji has far fewer characters than both hiragana and katakana but still lets you write all Japanese words.

How Do Japanese Keyboards Work?

Japanese desktop keyboards are basically the same as English QWERTY ones.

But when you type, your input gets converted into Japanese characters.

So, if you want to write the Japanese word for “Chinese character” which is 漢字, you simply take the rōmaji version which is kanji and type it in.

The computer will first convert the Latin letters into hiragana which gives you かんじ.

And based on that it gives you recommendations for a Chinese character that fits.

The reason why it doesn’t convert them straight into a Chinese character is that different words share the same pronunciation. For example, kanji can mean Chinese character when written as 漢字 but written as 感じ it means feeling.

How Do Japanese Phone Keyboards Work?

There are two types of Japanese phone keyboards:

QWERTY style, which works the same as a Japanese desktop keyboard

ひらがな style, which works by dividing all hiragana characters by their first letter. Because Japanese sounds are always made up of a consonant at the beginning and one of the five vocals (a, i, u, e, o) at the end. So if you have “K” for example this gives you: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko.

The hiragana style keyboard works by dividing all characters by their first letter. On the keyboard, it only shows the first one. But by long-pressing onto for example na you get the menu with all characters starting with n. You then swipe in the right direction to get the right character.

From there on it works the same as a computer keyboard and it will convert the hiragana you typed in, into Kanji characters.

Thanks for Reading

You should now know, how Japanese keyboards work.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section.

And here is some other content about Japanese keyboards: How Fast Can Japanese People Text

And here is my guide on how to learn all 2’136 kanji characters in 3 months: How to Learn Kanji Effectively

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One Response

  1. Hallo!
    This topic is also interesting especially for me cs I didn’t think about how to use keyboards in Japanese. It is of course natural for me Japanese, on the other hands I don’t know how to set my phone and how to type in Deutsch yet. If you don’t mind, could you please tell me it on message or something late when you have time(I know you’re busy for EASTER today!!:))

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