Apr
03
2010

iPhone tip: add Japanese words to the dictionary

While I love my iPhone with a passion, I have to admit that the Apple team could have put a little more thought into what features would be needed in Asia. One of the major shortcomings of the iPhone for users in Japan (and I would guess other Asian countries as well) is that your input dictionary doesn’t learn.

iPhone-chan (or as I call my iPhone: ai-chan) tries to detect words contextually (I think…), but any non-standard character usages you manage to get into the system are quickly forgotten.

Fortunately, there’s a workaround. And don’t worry, you don’t need to jailbreak your phone to get it to work.

The answer? use the iPhone address book.

When typing in Japanese, your iPhone uses names and readings from your address book as a kind of second dictionary for its text auto-complete. This was a very smart way to program the iPhone since the most common reason to use non-standard kanji/words to begin with is because they’re used that way in a proper name (which, if it’s someone/someplace/somewhere you know, would probably be in your address book anyway).

use the iPhone address book to add words to the Japanese dictionary

  1. The first word you want to enter (kanji)
  2. The reading for the first word that you want to use to access it
  3. The second word (in this case, a custom kaomoji)
  4. The reading to bring up the second word

Of course, this is great news for us. It means we can create dummy entries in our address book for words we want to register in the iPhone dictionary. You can use both the first and last name fields to enter your custom words, meaning you can register 2 words per entry.

The downside is that this creates an entry in your address book that weighs your address book down with irrelevant information. So it’s your call; if there’s a word you use often that you want to be in your dictionary, consider using this method. But be warned that overdoing it will leave you with a really untidy address book.

functional custom word registered in Japanese dictionary

Works like a charm.

There are a couple 辞書登録 (dictionary registration) apps at the (Japanese) iTunes app store but all they all use this same principle of adding to the address book. They just try to make the process of adding and removing words easier.

There is, however, one Japanese jailbreak app which add words and phrases directly to the iPhone. But unless you really need the functionality and you’re pretty good with both computers and Japanese, sticking with the address book workaround is probably your better option.

Posted under Living & Enjoying Japan by Nihonshock.

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