The use of word processing software to construct digital texts rather than hand-written ones can help your progress towards Japanese language proficiency. Of course, there is much to be said for writing Japanese by hand; having a good knowledge of the stroke order required to write kanji is not only necessary for writing in many tasks in daily life in Japan, but is also helpful for reading texts quickly and differentiating between similar characters. Indeed, many Japanese lament the deterioration of their ability to write some of the more obscure kanji that has resulted from increased use of computers and mobile phones for text creation. However, for non-native Japanese learners, choosing to write on a computer rather than by hand, at least some of the time, can have some benefits.

Note:The Japanese keyboard has a JIS mechanical input, which is set by the Japanese Industrial Standards.

japanese-keyboard

Benefits

The clearest advantage of word processing in Japanese is the appearance of a small dropdown menu displaying the possible kanji that correspond to the hiragana that you have just written. This means that on occasions where you know the hiragana spelling or pronunciation of a term, but cannot quite remember the kanji, you can quickly be reminded by the dropdown menu. Reinforcing your association between words and kanji characters, it can also be a tool for ironing out your spelling mistakes, particularly in the cases where your knowledge of the pronunciation of a word may still leave some ambiguity in your mind in terms of its actual spelling, such as whether a long or short vowel or a single or double consonant is required.

Take the example of the word “Tokyo”. When writing by hand, you could write the hiragana incorrectly as “ときょ/ときょう/とうきょ” and be none the wiser. Alternatively, you could know and write the kanji by hand while still believing one of the three incorrect options above is correct. In contrast, conversion of these three pieces of hiragana in digital form using the dropdown menu would leave you with something like と居, と今日, or 問う居, which should immediately raise a flag that the inputted spelling was not correct. This becomes increasingly important as your vocabulary grows and the number of words with similar spellings/pronunciations that you use in your writing increases. The dropdown menu can also introduce you to new kanji for words that you already can spell using hiragana, pronounce, and know the meaning of.