Change Your Mobile Phone To Japanese

You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Your current English-set phone is your shore. Your Japanese-only phone that awaits is your ocean. You get it. You’ve thought about this before. You know it’s time. You have to change your phone language setting to Japanese.

Why You Need To Change Your Mobile Phone To Japanese 4
This always sounds like a good idea, but is it really that big a deal? Will it change your life? You already study with a billion other things. Do you need to invade your phone?

Yes. Yes. Yes. There should be no question or concern left in your mind. Here’s why:

8. Han Unification

Sometimes kanji don’t look like they should. This is known as the Han Unification problem. This problem is gone when your phone is in Japanese. No need for messing around with the fonts.

Don’t think that this is an issue? You sure?

Why You Need To Change Your Mobile Phone To Japanese 2

7. Treated as an equal

Setting your phone to Japanese means your phone assumes you are a native Japanese person and will be treated as such. Everything that goes on in your phone, including advertisements, apps, the app store, and error messages are all now part of study time.

6. Acquisition through muscle memory

Even if you are at a low level, you can navigate your phone by using muscle memory. You’ve probably used your phone more than a few minutes a day, so you may now how to get around it. This “excessive” experience should make any transition a joke.

5. Daily visual reinforcement

Every day on your phone is a new language adventure. One that doesn’t even need a dictionary. Seeing 設定 below the settings icon, 時計 below the clock, 音楽 below music will tell you what the words mean without ever having to look them up. Seeing them every day slams them into your long term memory. This is a high tech version of Daily Defender.

4. Increase Japanese interaction frequency

Why You Need To Change Your Mobile Phone To Japanese 1

If you are looking for a way to introduce more Japanese to your life there is no better way. Apparently people use their phones a lot. Every time you use your phone counts as studying now. Guilt removal?

3. Katakana Boost

Katakana is often neglected, getting a back seat to the reigning Hiragana. You don’t usually get enough exposure to it. This ends now. Katakana’s lair is in your smart phone.

2. Text to Speech

Want a new way of having a Japanese conversation with yourself? Who doesn’t. Or you could use whatever voice assistant lives on your phone. Japanese Siri is waiting?

1. Motivation Infusion

There is no better motivation than waking up first thing in the morning and seeing Japanese on your alarm clock. These small changes make a difference and remind you of your ultimate goal at every turn.

Almost a perfect world?

With so much greatness, why wouldn’t you get started immediately? Most people’s concern is that it’ll slow them down, or in case of an urgent situation, things become unnecessarily complicated.

However your speed will increase to your normal speed after a little time. And if it is absolutely an urgent situation, you can always change your settings back to English temporarily.

The Setup

The great thing about changing your phone to Japanese is the extreme ease which it can be done with (and reverted if you feel you aren’t ready).

  1. Android: go to Settings–Language & Input–Language–日本語.
  2. IOS: go to Settings–General–International–Language–日本語.

That’s it.

A few additional tips

  • Learn how Japanese days and dates work.
  • Wait till you are Intermediate level to avoid frustration.
  • Give it time. You may want to change back to English after a few days. Fight the urge.
  • Download the Google Japanese IME.
  • Check out the list of “Internet Error Messages” in the theme pack.

Getting you started

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Since there will be a lot of new words you will come into contact with for the first time, I thought I would give you a small list that will help in the beginning.

  • 電話: Phone
  • 電話番号: Phone Number
  • 電話帳: Address Book
  • 連絡先: Contacts
  • メッセージを送信: Send the message
  • 電池: Battery
  • 画面:Screen
  • 時計:Clock
  • 設定:Settings
  • データ利用量: Data Usage
  • 縦向き:Portrait
  • 自動回転:Free to Rotate
  • 次へ:Next
  • 同意する: Agree (to terms and conditions)
  • 無料: Free
  • アプリ内購入: In-app purchases
  • 類似のアイテム: Similar apps
  • おすすめ:Recommendation
  • ユーザに人気: Popular with (other) users

Made the switch?

What was your experience like after changing your phone to Japanese? What benefits did you discover? What obstacles did you face?

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Anime and Visual Novel enthusiast, who has a goal of achieving fluency in Japanese within 1.5 years. After being told by everyone that this is too unrealistic, he now has "realistic" goals of graduating as an alien fairy and helping the world.


Change Your Mobile Phone To Japanese — 24 Comments

  1. Perhaps it takes some dedication, but I’ve always transitioned back shortly after setting my devices to 日本語.. I found myself learning menu item positions and not reading the kanji, most of the kanji I didn’t look up the readings and they just got ignored.

    Apart from my computer, I only really use my devices for times where I’m in a rush, and this can sometimes cause frustration when not in English due to time constraints (can’t spend 10 minutes looking up kanji by radical when only got 2 minutes to send a message/make a call)

    Perhaps I need to push past this and It will pay off, may give it another shot!

  2. I just changed it, thank you for reminding me. Good advice on waiting until intermediate, I’ve tried this before with my computer as a beginner and it didn’t last long.

  3. Thanks for the Han-unification tip. I was having problems with Anki in Android showing up Chinese characters instead of the Japanese ones.

  4. I tried doing this a while ago and my version of Android doesn’t have Japanese in the language list. Go figure.

    Once I get a phone upgrade, this is the first thing I’m doing.

  5. I changed over my devices (iPods, phone, computer, gaming consoles and handhelds) to Japanese about four years ago. I remember the hardest thing was dealing with my computer when it was an emergency or when I was installing something or when my mom was on my computer. I would have to change it to English frequently, but would always put it back in Japanese. I went through a similar thing with my other devices.

    I found that with my iPods and phone (when I eventually got an iPhone), I would just go my muscle memory. It bothered me that I wasn’t actually reading the names of apps and stuff, but at the same time, there were so many things I just couldn’t read and couldn’t be bothered to look up. However, over time, I found that I was starting to read the names of things in my settings or in other apps without forcing myself to do so. It came naturally.

    And now, I can navigate the more complicated things on my computer, picking up computer-specific vocabulary and such. I’ve come a long way from four years ago!

  6. Some Android phones (like mine, I have a Galaxy Note 4) don’t list 日本語 as an available language when you go to settings, but it is still possible to make the switch. You can use an app called “MoreLocale2” in the Play Store to make the language Japanese. Note that this will most likely require you to connect the phone to a computer and enter some text into the command line (there are tutorials if you google it) to give MoreLocale2 permission to change your language. Even if it is a bit of a hassle, it is totally worth it and great for your Japanese. Highly recommended.

    Note: For those of you who might be worried about “Rooting” your phone, this is not that.

  7. I switched my phone to Japanese a while ago, maybe right when I was moving towards intermediate. I found it much easier than switching my computer over since there’s more pictures and generally less text compared to drop down menus etc.

    I have an iPhone and my favorite part is having the navigator voice in the maps app being Japanese. Her voice is WAY better and there’s not too much vocabulary used, it’s quick to get them all down. I love it when she tells me 到着しました!^_^

  8. Just gave this a go myself on iPhone.

    If you want the full package, you should also set the calendar settings to Japanese. This is done on the same settings screen. You will probably find it easier to do this before you change the phone language ;)

  9. Would have done this aaages ago but my phone doesn’t have the option. Next phone I will make sure it does. Changed my ubuntu laptop to Japanese yesterday though. It’s pretty cool so far. A lot of reading practice since programs also default to Japanese eg Firefox and VLC.

  10. I just did this for the first time — the Japanese keyboard is crazy! Though this admittedly will make using a Japanese dictionary much easier :D

    Other than that though, doesn’t seem TOO extreme. Definitely a lot of new vocabulary, but at least it’s in a pretty clear context. Let’s see if I can stick with it…


  11. Are you kidding me?! I was trying to get Anki to work on my phone and for whatever reason switching to Japanese allowed it to work. Japanese is supreme!

  12. I’ve had my phone in Japanese for a while, and I think the scariest moment was installing some big software updates for the first time. No biggie (switch back to English if you need), but it felt like I might accidentally sign my life away. ^_^;

    If you use Japanese directions, learn some vocab words first (turn, go straight) and make sure you give yourself a little extra time the first couple of tries. I made some funny repeat mistakes at a fork on the Interstate (big loopy highway), thinking that the wordy “don’t exit and continue straight, exit is on the right ahead…” directions were a fancy, emphatic “EXIT on the right IMMEDIATELY.” Also, friendly tip: if you’re driving long-distance or around construction, don’t panic if you hear 回り道 and a bunch of words you don’t normally hear. It’s just announcing a detour, followed by your usual turn, go straight…instructions. ^_^;

  13. I have tried this multiple times on both my iPhone and iPad mini. I also switch back to English. It works for a while, but then I want to look at something more complicated and it is all in Japanese and I can’t understand a thing. If I click one wrong button I could end up doing some irreversible or otherwise extremely annoying. I’ll try again with my iPhone right now, so we’ll see.

    • There is nothing wrong with switching back to English when it is something you really don’t want to mess up on. As long as you switch it right back to Japanese afterwards you do yourself no harm. Eventually you’ll feel more confident about it, and it’ll just become an annoyance to switch it to English. Best of luck with your second try.

    • I sent a map of my location to a colleague yesterday :) – I just wrote “oops” and he smiled back. Apart from that it’s all good. A bit hard at times, but that just means it is forcing me to learn. Don’t worry too much about it. The risk of you doing significant harm is actually very low.

  14. How the heck are you guys getting More Locale 2 to work and change to Japanese on the Android without a root?

    • You don’t need to root your phone. You just have to enable the debugging console and use it to grant one extra permission to the app. If you attempt to change it without permission, the app will tell you what to do to allow the change.

      It *is* a fairly technical process, though. Maybe somebody with video-making skills could tackle the task of creating a tutorial video? =)

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