There’s one very useful figure in this survey conducted by Marsh Inc and reported on by japan.internet.com into typing, namely the use of romaji versus kana input – wait until after the demographics and I’ll explain it!
Between the 5th and 7th of June 2009 300 members of the Marsh monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. The sample was split 50:50 male and female, and 2.7% were in their teens, 17.3% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, 20.0% in their fifties, and 20.0% aged sixty or older.
Japanese keyboards usually come with two layouts; one way to explain is to take as an example the word Tokyo, in kanji 東京. In romaji, meaning using the Roman alphabet to spell, one types “toukyou” on a standard QWERTY layout and presses the space bar to convert to kanji. For kana input, the five individual kana syllables that make up the word need to be typed, namely とうきょう, with an extra shift key push to get the small よ. On the standard kana layout, the keys correspond to “s4g)4”, so one can see that if you often mix Japanese and English, romaji input saves you having to learn two layouts.
On the other hand nearly all Japanese mobile phones use kana-based input, and indeed a recent phone was advertising as a unique feature the ability to input in romaji and convert to kanji.
Q1: How fast do you think your own typing is? (Sample size=300)
Very fast 3.3% Reasonably fast 14.3% Perhaps faster than average 24.3% About average 24.3% Perhaps slower than average 21.3% Reasonably slow 8.3% Very slow 4.0%
Q2: Can you touch type? (Sample size=300)
Perfectly 8.7% Pretty well 29.0% Occasionally type without looking at the keys 29.7% Usually type while looking at the keys 30.0% Hopeless with keyboards 2.7%
Q3: When entering Japanese, do you use romaji or kana input? (Sample size=300)
Romaji input 87.7% Kana input 12.0% Other 0.3%