Should I Use Kana or Romaji Input on my Phone? — 36 Comments

  1. Ah yeah, I actually didn’t even know my phone had the option of using romaji. It was actually quite painful to even type こんいちは for me with the swipe version because I have never used it before. I’m glad to know that I can just use the QWERTY layout. At some point I will put in the effort to learn the swipe method, but I’m pretty much running at max capacity with my learning so I will put that off into the future. <3

  2. The kana keyboard is more impressive when you show it to Japanese people though. I like to use the kana keyboard because it is cooler and since I didn’t have any experience with qwerty smartphone keyboards until last year. Like I only got a smartphone because I went to Japan.

  3. I tried kana flick for a week and quit, too much work, glad to know I am not an ugly duckling haha.

  4. I will mention that I never saw a single person in Japan using romaji on phone. Not to mention every single person I handed my phone to use (yes I’m very extroverted) at bars would have no idea how to use romaji keyboards. They would look at me baffled and I’d have to switch to kana.

    I am extremely quick at romaji, but remember it’s double the button presses to get most characters in Japanese with romaji, so if you master the flick technique it’s theoretically faster. With that said, i use romaji because of inherit benefits from English.

    Do as you like :D

  5. I actually prefer to use the flick input over romaji because I feel prone to be off by one letter on the romaji keyboard and mess up what I’m writing. Though maybe there is autocorrect for the Japanese romaji keyboard that I don’t know about?

    Either way, I had fun learning how to use the flick keyboard and can use it at a decent speed so I think I’ll stay with it.

  6. At least you don’t have to press each number key 1 to 4 times to cycle through to the letter you want (and if you miss it you have to go through again)! XD

    I remember when predictive text was a big deal.

    • Oh that was painful. The first time I went to Japan (to study abroad for a year) it was before smartphones existed, and it was SO painful going from predictive text to having to press each number key multiple times again when I was writing in English. My non-Japanese friends and I would send messages in Japanese because it was so much quicker than writing anything in English, hehe.

      • But even before smartphones you had the T9 thing, right? I think most phones had that, maybe except some really old from the 90s.

  7. I can write so much faster in Japanese using the kana flick input rather than romaji, but maybe that’s because I have a lot of practice at it? I’m actually faster than my husband (who is Japanese), mwah ha ha ha. I also used to use a ガラケー so I guess I had already memorized the position of each kana, which probably helped.
    Now that smartphones have got a bit bigger it’s not so much of an issue, but I used to find it SO FRUSTRATING to write in English on it because I would constantly hit the wrong letter as the onscreen keyboard was so tiny. The kana buttons are much bigger, so I never get the wrong one.
    I think it’s worth trying out kana input (I’m sure you can still get apps that teach you how to do it, that’s how I learnt!).

  8. I find with romaji on my phone(very little Japanese support on it, so I have to use romaji) I’m more likely to default to English thinking. With the kana keyboard on my tablet I have to switch the pronunciation straight to Japanese text, so I stay with it more. Both are slow for me on devices, since I’m only really using two fingers at most. Typing this took forever.

    Fastest for me is a full two hands qwerty computer keyboard all fingers at the ready. And because of the speed, and not looking at the keyboard much while I type, if I am switching through English I don’t notice it.

    (Katakana’d my name since there’s another Jen here, hi other Jen)

  9. Ultimately I feel like if romaji input could eventually be faster than kana input the 20-something girls of this country would have figured that out by now. The time it takes to learn kana input isn’t so bad and you can get proficient very quickly. Switching to an English QWERTY keyboard and back is just a simple keypress so that is sorted too. There are also 交換 shortcuts for certain things like らいん→LINE and つたや→TSUTAYA so you don’t even always have to switch.

    Getting used to it takes some time, but it is one of those skills that every native has so I feel like it’s just part of the learning process.

  10. I exclusively use the Romaji input. The flick method takes way too long for me and makes me anxious actually, so I don’t see the point in trying to learn how to use it. It’s really cool to see others use it~

    I do have the kana input as an option for some of my Japanese friends who may use my phone time to time, but that’s the only reason why.

  11. Some people might remember that before smartphones western phones actually had a keyboard layout quite like the kana one. With multiple letters on each of the 10 number buttons. I can in no way understand why that layout completely vanished with smartphones! I could type in my pocket and faster than lightning with that layout and then suddenly “boom” QWERTY without being able to use 10 fingers and with buttons way too small to hit anything right. Now writing anything on my phone is a pain and I haven’t even been able to find any decent 10-button layout apps for Android. Sucks! (can you tell I feel quite passionately about this? :P)

    My Japanese keyboard came with romaji layout by default, so I never even considered there to be any other layout. I have switched to kana layout now and will see if I love that as much as I did the old wester phone layout. At least I should be able to hit the right keys now since they are much bigger than those pesky QWERTY keys :D

    • Don’t know about android but the Japanese kana keyboard on apple comes with a 10 key keyboard for Roman letters that can be flicked the same way

  12. I exclusively use kana input maybe because I’m a nostalgia freak and I just miss them flippable 携帯’s from a decade ago :))

  13. I started using the flick keyboard, because I found that this was the most popular method in Japan. I saw no reason to challenge that. I am still pretty slow with it, but no worse than if I were to use a romaji keyboard, since I suffer from the same issue that Silwing mentions above with missing keys on phone qwerty. The keys are simply too close together for me, so I spend a lot of time correcting typos – even when typing in English. If there was a phone flick keyboard for English, I would switch in a heartbeat :)

    • I just realized that the kana keyboard on my iPhone also has a flick keyboard for romaji. It was surprisingly easy to use, so I think I’ll try this out for a while.

    • 18 months later… I’ve been using the Kana flick keyboard and it works great. The most difficult part is remembering which direction is which vowel sound, but that gets much easier with practice. I dropped the idea of using it for English pretty quickly, but I’m sticking to kana flick for Japanese.

  14. If you ever want to use a phone in Japan, and allow others to see it/use it, I would recommend kana.
    idk if it is just me, but I suck at typing on a qwerty keyboard on phones (in english too) and end up with too many typos, and kana helps prevent that too as the buttons are bigger.

    • The keyboard app I use (Simeji) allows easy switching between Kana and Romaji keyboards, so I wouldn’t go so far as saying you can’t use a phone in Japan without learning Kana input XD

      Maybe I’ll try messing with Kana input sometime just to see how it feels, though =)

  15. I use kana on my smartphone…really for all my electronics. I even bought kana labels for my computer keyboard.

    The reason I do this is that I found I had some really stubborn pronunciation problems. I did everything I could to fix them, including shadowing, reading aloud, and reciting the あめんぼの歌 every day.

    My senpai/study partner and I worked out that I was still being heavily influenced by romaji. I could not work out how or why. I did not spend much time at all with romaji in my early studies. It took a while, but after eliminating every other possibility, we worked out that the only thing it could be was romaji input. I was surprised because I touch type, so I do not really think about the letters when I type, but I think that this made it worse, because I think I was subconsciously being influenced.

    It was annoying at first, because it did slow me down, but I am actually at the point now that I am starting to be able to touchtype in kana, even though I never went through any drills like I did when I first learned to type. I think I did notice a big improvement in my pronunciation though, and the stubborn problems did really start to improve almost immediately.

    I do not know if this would be true for anyone else. Pronunciation was (and still is to a certain extent) a struggle for me.

  16. I’ve gone back and forth between the two options, and I’d say there are pros and cons to each as you might expect.

    – Slower if you’re not used to it
    – Harder to type something like じゅう, at least for me
    – More accurate, bigger buttons
    – Easier to type “weird” things like づ or ぢ or a bunch of small ぇぇぇぇぇs without having to remember some wacky key combination

    – Way faster, assuming you’re used to qwerty keyboards
    – Accuracy sucks, argh… (I almost never want to type the combination “ks” in Japanese, why can’t my keyboard figure that out and correct to “ka”?!)

    Ultimately I tend to prefer kana even though it can be frustrating at first. It just feels so much nicer (for me at least) to cut out the middle-man and type か instead of having to convert it in my brain to “ka” and then let the phone convert it back to か.

    One thing I will recommend: give the Google Japanese keyboard a try if you’re on Android. It’s basically the flick keyboard, but all the kana are actually visible prior to holding down a button, so it’s less of a brainfreeze when you’re trying to remember which kana is where. Kana training wheels, basically.

    • Thanks for the comparison ジャック.

      Just for those who do want to know the shortcuts on the romaji input, づ: du, ぢ: di, and any small あいうえお is x + あいうえお.

  17. I have actually switched to kana input not only on mobile devices but on my computer. I know most Japanese people type in romaji on computers, but my reasoning is that it helps to break the link between romaji and Japanese in one’s mind and there are a variety of reasons for doing that.

    I did wonder if learning to touch type a completely different layout would affect my ability to type English. It doesn’t but what does happen is that if I try to type a Japanese word in romaji, even something as simple as the name “Sakura” in an English sentence, my finger-memory goes haywire and I am groping for the さ-key.

    This to my mind shows that the switch is doing exactly what I intended. Breaking the mental romaji-link and training my subconscious (the level at which finger-memory operates) to think about Japanese sounds in kana-terms.

    If you are interested in trying this experiment, I wrote more about how to go about it here (you don’t need to buy a Japanese computer or keyboard, you’ll be happy to know).

  18. I’m shocked to see so many people like romaji keyboard that much more. I tried using one for like three seconds and I hated it it so much I immediately got rid of it.

    Really frustrating too seeing as unfortunately, there are no good English swipe keyboards with kana options on the market anymore ever since Swiftkey Japanese came out of beta and forced romaji on everyone. So incredibly frustrating for me.

    • If you use kana input on Kindle Fire, by default it uses flick input for kana and switches to qwerty for romaji. This seems eminently sensible. My Android device forces me to use a horrible Romaji flick input alongside the standard kana one.

      Having said that I do prefer the Android version of kana flick with the visible kana options.

      Obviously I use kana input on mobile devices for the same reason I do on the computer and I have definitely noticed the difference it makes.

      • I don’t know what version of Android you have, but if you install Google Japanese Input, there’s an option in the settings to use flick for kana input, and Qwerty for English input.

        At first I thought I was forced to use English flick in the cell phone layout alongside Japanese flick, but I dug into the settings and found out I can switch the English keyboard to Qwerty while still being able to use kana input.

        Simeji keyboard also has the same ability, which is an option for Androids that can’t use Google Japanese Keyboard.

        For Google Japanese Input go to ソフトウェアキーボードの詳細設定, then check off 英字入力はQWERTY.

  19. I actually switched over to kana input on all my Android devices in January. I rarely ever use a Qwerty keyboard for romaji, since I haven’t been using a computer much lately. So it’s been all kana input for me for quite a few months!

    I think if you were to give kana input a shot for a week, you would find the adjustment really doesn’t take long at all. At first chatting with my Japanese friends was a bit of a struggle. But now it’s a breeze. I wouldn’t switch back!

    I don’t know if I’m necessarily faster, but I like having rid romaji from another part of my life. I realized I’ve been having some pronunciation and spelling issues because I’ve been relying on typing with romaji. For instance, when I tried to spell にゅうりょく(入力) using kana input, the kanji wasn’t coming up and I didn’t understand why. It didn’t click in my brain that it was に + ゅ, while I was typing ぬ + ゅ, which of course doesn’t make any sense. But because we just type “n” + “yu” in romaji, and I normally think of the word in kanji, my brain was drawing a blank for the hiragana. Typing with kana input fixed that.

    The typos I make using flick mode are definitely different than the ones I made using a romaji keyboard. I feel like the one I make most often is forgetting to add dakuten, which is something I noticed happens often with another learner I know who uses flick mode. But I make so fewer typos than I did using Qwerty, since the keys are pushed so closely together on my tiny smartphone in Qwerty mode. I type in English using Qwerty and am constantly making typos on my phone because of it.

    For Androids, there are three basic Kana input typing methods:
    Flick + keitai

    They all use the same keyboard layout, which looks like an old cell phone keyboard (as opposed to a Qwerty layout). Flick lets you swipe up, down, left and right to access each individual kana within their 行 groupings (like あ行 would have あ through お). While keitai would have to tap on a 行 multiple times to get to the certain individual kana within that 行. Flick + keitai combines the two, so that you can use either one at any time.

    For my smart phone, I use flick exclusively. The reason for this is because when you have keitai mode enabled as well, you have to press the jump arrow to type the same kana multiple times in a row, while when it’s turned off you can just flick to it multiple times. I don’t see the benefit of enabling both flick + keitai at the same time. Since I use Qwerty for typing in English on my phone, typing in English is no harder than it would be if I were typing Japanese using romaji.

    For my Android mini pc connected to my TV, I actually use both keitai modes for Japanese and English. Since I have to type with a mouse, I find using a keitai layout for both English and Japanese to be faster than Qwerty. Flick mode does not work on my Android mini pc.

    I also use kana input on my electronic dictionary, (which is actually a bit extreme because it’s like keitai input, but all the 行 are in one row instead of separated into columns, but I’m sticking to all kana input.) If I were to go back to using a computer regularly, I would set up kana input as well, but for now I just borrow a computer from time to time.

    • I must correct myself. You used kana input for three years.

      I read this article some time ago, but didn’t comment until now, so I forgot about that part <(^_^).

      But for other learners, just don't let the adjustment part scare you if you really want to try kana input out!

  20. I think that the 50 key is a good medium between the two and is best for learners. It lists all kana in a grid system in aiueo columns. This allows the learner to get used to seeing the kana and reach it easily without having to memorize the keitai flick input on top of that. Japanese natives already know the kana and thus can focus on how to efficiently use the flick method.

  21. Ever since I found out that there was a way in Android phones to use T9 (the old phone layout) instead of T26 (the “usual” QWERTY keyboard layout), I never went back to T26. That said, I also use T9 when typing in Japanese. I use a different keyboard app on Android other than Google keyboard which also has flick input option for both Japanese and English. It took me a while to get used to, but I’m comfortable now with using flick on both English and Japanese.

  22. A big reason I use the kana flick is so I don’t type on the wrong keyboard.
    I had romaji on my iPad in 2016. I used it to type emojis, cause at that time the Japanese predicitive text included kao and emojis but the english one didn’t. (こまる was my first JJ definiton cause I used the emoji so often)
    My little brother kept accidently typing hiragana nonsence everytime he borowed my ipad.
    When I got my smartphone the next year, I set it to flick with hints. I also use simji.
    Though several Japanese people have struggled to type on my phone- because they only use romaji keyboard.

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