Guide to Japanese

The following guide is designed to help you input Japanese in the iKnow! app.

Romaji, hiragana, and katakana

The Japanese written language uses two phonetic systems, hiragana and katakana, and one character-based system, kanji.

Hiragana is used primarily to write words native to Japanese, while katakana is used to represent words borrowed from Western languages. Romaji is the system that is used to represent both hiragana and katakana in the roman alphabet, but you usually will only see romaji in Japanese textbooks.

The first step to learn Japanese is to learn hiragana and katakana. Fortunately you can learn these easily with the iKnow! Hiragana and Katakana courses.

Japanese input

In iKnow!, we follow the same conventions that Japanese word processing systems use when it comes to typing Japanese. Inputting Japanese on a word processor has a few quirks. The reason for these is that some letters, such as "o", have two distinct symbols in hiragana (を and お) and certain sounds aren't represented by any one key on a standard English keyboard.

The following is a guide to the most troublesome aspects of inputting Japanese with a computer.

Long vowels

To lengthen an o or u sound, type ‘u’:

くう (kū ) → kuu
じゅう (jū) → juu
きょう (kyō) → kyou

To lengthen other vowels, just repeat the vowel:

きい (kii) → kii
おばあさん (obaasan) → obaasan

The exception is え which takes an ‘i’ to lengthen:

えい→ ei

In katakana, always use a dash to lengthen any vowel:

テーブル→ te-buru

Typing ん

Type ‘nn' if the んis at the end of the word, or the next character is a vowel:

じかん → jikann 
でんあつ→ dennatsu  
(Typing denatsu would convert to でなつ.)


Type ‘du’ to produce the づ in つづく.

Typing を

Type ‘wo’ to produce the "o" which indicates an object of a verb:

ごはん を たべる (gohan o taberu) → gohan wo taberu

Double consonants and typing っ

Type a consonant twice to produce the small っ:

きって→ kitte
がっこう→ gakkou 

Typing small vowels

Type ‘x’ before a small vowel:

ウェールズ (Wales) → uxe-ruzu 
ハロウィーン (Halloween) → halouxi-n

This is only usually used to write katakana (loan words from other languages).

For ティ, you can type ‘thi’ or ‘xi’:
ミーティング (meeting) → mi-thingu 
パーティ (party) → pa-texi

Typing small characters

Typing an 'x' before ya, yu, yo will allow you type these small characters. This is especially useful if you make a mistake like:

Question: 電車
User types: densho = で ん し ょ
System recognizes: で ん し _
User types: xya = ゃ
System recognizes: で ん し ゃ

[っ] → ‘xtu’
[ぁ] → ‘xa’
[ぃ] → ‘xi’
[ぅ] → ‘xu’
[ぇ] → ‘xe’
[ぉ] → ‘xo’

Please note that the conversion process is built into the application itself, so you only need to use English input. Japanese character input via IME is not accepted.