Typing in Japanese

One area where MS shines is in international support. You think they're a monopoly in the U.S., try outside the country. But if you check out this poist by C�dric, who kindly responded to my questions earlier about the Japanese language you can see that Microsoft actually has put a lot of work in this area. This is an awesome post - it explained quite a lot I didn't know.

Here's a snippet:

Now to the point: how do you type Japanese? It's actually surprisingly easy with Windows (especially with Windows XP, which has a top-notch Asian language support called IME). You start by typing the word in "Romaji" (the occidental spelling for Japanese). For example, car in Japanese is said "kuruma". As soon as you have typed "ku", IME will look it up and replace it with its Hiragana representation. Then "ru", then "ma". At this point, you have a Hiragana spelling of the word (three characters). Japanese will be able to read it fine, but will probably frown on it because of the childish nature of its spelling. At this point, you type "space" and IME will look up its dictionary to see if a Kanji character exists for this word. If it does, your three characters get magically replaced with the correct Kanji representation.

It is a fascinating process in many aspects:

  • With this typing method, it is very easy to even pass for a perfect Japanese writer (although very often, IME will present you several potential Kanji characters, and you might end up choosing the wrong one).
  • Another thing interesting about it is that you can basically type a language perfectly and yet be unable to reread yourself...
  • Japanese actually forget Kanji characters. A lot of my friends definitely confirm this trend, as English becomes more and more ubiquitous in the information age. Consequently, they typically type their documents in Romaji and are sometimes surprised to see IME replace their words with Kanji characters that they had totally forgotten about...

Very cool. This stuff is fascinating to me. Check out the rest of his post for links to cool Quicktime videos showing how to write in Katakana and Hiragana characters.

Thanks, C�dric!


Later (the next day): The famous, but blogless, Greg Brown emailed me with this tidbit:

just read yr post on japanese input methods and had to let you know that microsoft has only recently gotten around to copying what apple has been doing since the early 90s. windows xp is the first microsoft OS that has not had laughably inferior support for asian languages & character input. macs since at least system 7 (with the appropriate language kits installed) have been able to do this, which may be part of the reason macs were so big in japan for so long...

i hate to see microsoft get credit when they don't deserve it :)


Thanks Greg - I'm with you. I should have known better than to give MS credit for something innovative.

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