How to Do iPhone Voice to Text in Japanese

  • March 19, 2018 / Lily Cernak

Voice to text is a technology that generates text as a person speaks. With the amount each of us uses our smartphones steadily increasing, it is becoming more and more important to know how to use voice to text on those phones. Writing messages using voice to text is often faster than manual typing, especially for long messages. Voice to text can also be very helpful for people who have disabilities related to motor control. In this post we will discuss how to do iPhone voice to text in Japanese. 

(To view a full listing of our articles on technology and Japanese, click here!)

I only discovered the utility of smartphone voice to text recently, but now I use voice to text in English and in Japanese on my smartphone every day. I use it to draft emails, texts, lesson plans and exercises for my students, and various memos to myself. It’s a great way to safely and quickly get a message out while in standstill traffic, to type when your hands are full, or to draft documents while doing housework.

Smartphone voice to text in Japanese is more or less exactly the same as a voice to text in English. The only real differences, as you might suppose, are the punctuation commands. This article will go over all of the important Japanese voice to text punctuation commands for iPhone and what they mean, as well as general tips for using voice to text on your smartphone in Japanese.


To do voice to text in Japanese, you need to have a Japanese keyboard installed on your smartphone. If you are not sure how to do that, or if you would like tips on typing in Japanese on a smartphone, you can read our article on those topics here.

Punctuation Commands

This list of punctuation commands is in English alphabetical order. Some things (such as a question mark) can be generated using several different voice to text commands, but we have listed just one or two commands for each item to keep the list succinct and easy to reference.

1. Colon

Japanese uses the English term for “colon,” so to produce a colon say “colon” but with Japanese pronunciation: コロン koron.

2. Comma

To produce a comma, say てん ten. Note that this will produce a Japanese-style comma. てん ten means “comma,” but in other contexts can mean a variety of other things, including “dot” or “point.”

3. Ellipses

To produce an ellipse, say てんてんてん tententen (“dot dot dot”).

4. Exclamation point

To produce an exclamation point, say either: 感嘆符 kantanfu (which in kanji is written “feel lament sign”) or びっくりマーク bikkuri ma-ku (“surprise mark”). びっくり bikkuri is a gitaigo, which is a type of onomatopoeic/sound symbolic word that represents an action, motion, or state, rather than a noise. びっくり bikkuri is the “sound” of surprise. (Click here to view our article on onomatopoeic words).

5. Hard return

To produce a hard return (the “enter” key when typing manually), say: 改行 kaigyou (“renew go/row”). The second kanji is pronounced ぎょう gyou in this word, but you probably recognize it from the word 行く iku (“to go”). This kanji, like many kanji that represent fundamental ideas (e.g. up, down, go, come, etc), has an unusually large number of pronunciations and specific meanings, including 行く iku (to go), 行う okonau (to carry out/do), and gyou (line). If you say 改行 kaigyou multiple times quickly, you can produce multiple hard returns.

6. Parenthesis

To produce an open parenthesis, say: かっこ kakko.

To produce a close parenthesis, say かっこ閉じる kakko tojiru.

かっこ kakko is the Japanese term for parenthesis, and 閉じる tojiru is a Ru Verb and means “to close.”

7. Period

To produce a period, say まる maru. Note that this will produce a Japanese-style period. まる maru is not really the Japanese word for a period, but because Japanese periods are circles and まる maru means “circle,” まる maru can be used colloquially to mean period.

Japanese uses Japanese-style periods at the end of sentences, but Western-style periods in decimals. If you want to produce a Western-style period for a decimal, simply say てん ten where you want the period to be. For example, to produce 1.5 say いちてんご ichi ten go. てん ten can mean a variety of things depending on the context, including “comma,” “dot,” and “point.”

8. Question mark

To produce a question mark, say either: 疑問符 gimonfu (which in kanji is written “question/problem sign”) or はてな hatena. はてな hatena is a word that means “oh my!” when said as an exclamation, and “well/hmm” when said at the start of a sentence.

9. Quotation marks

To produce a quotation mark, say かぎかっこ kagikakko.

To produce an end quote mark, say かぎかっこ閉じる kagikakko tojiru.

Note that this will produce Japanese-style quotation marks. かっこ kakko is the Japanese term for parenthesis, and かぎ kagi means “hook/bracket” or “key” depending on the kanji it is written with. かぎかっこ kagikakko is a Japanese-style quotation mark. 閉じる tojiru is a Ru Verb and means “to close.”

10. Smiley face

To produce a smiley face emoji, say: スマイリー sumairi-.

Tips and Additional Information

1. You can do voice to text in Japanese on both iPhone and Android phones.

However, if you have an Android phone, the punctuation commands we went over in this article may not work. There used to be a keyboard app called Swype that could be installed on Android phones that would make voice to text punctuation commands in Japanese possible, but that app is no longer available for download.

If you already have Swype installed on your Android phone, you may still be able to use it to use Japanese voice to text punctuation commands. If you do not already have Swype installed, be careful! There are several other apps in the Android app store with the name “Swype” or a similar name, but these are not the same Swype.

Either way, Japanese voice to text should work on your Android phone, but after the phone types what you say you may need to physically type in the punctuation and the hard returns. Remember: DRIVE SAFELY!! If you are using voice to text in the car, always wait until you have parked to look at OR edit what your voice has typed.

2. In Japanese, voice to text is 音声入力 onsei nyuuryoku.

If you want to find additional punctuation commands, using 音声入力 onsei nyuuryoku as part of a Google search will bring up Japanese articles with lists of punctuation commands.

3. Japanese voice to text should work with either type of keyboard (romaji or kana).

Smartphones generally offer two kinds of Japanese keyboard — a romaji keyboard and a kana keyboard. For more on the usage of these keyboards and the differences between them, click here to view our article on typing in Japanese on smartphones.

4. Voice to text technology will sometimes misunderstand you.

So (unless you are driving!!) it is a good idea to quickly proofread messages and documents produced with voice to text. For instance, sometimes saying 改行 kaigyou will just produce a set of kanji that can be pronounced “kaigyou” or “kaigyo” (such as 開業 (which means “open a business“) or 海魚 (which means “ocean fish“)) rather than producing a hard return.

5. If you have never used voice to text on your smartphone before, you may have to give the phone permission.

It may ask you for permission in English, but if it asks in Japanese, the Japanese “permit” button looks like this: 許可 (kyoka).


That’s all on iPhone voice to text for now! If you have any questions, or if you are having trouble getting voice to text in Japanese to work on your phone, leave us a comment and we’ll help you out!


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