Live Text for Japanese

Since the launch of iOS 15 and an iPadOS 15.1, iPhone and iPad users have been able to use Live Text to select and interact with text through their camera or within saved photographs and images. How useful is Live Text for those of us working with texts written in Japanese? The short answer is “not very,” but casual users may find some reasons to use the feature.

The main problem that I have encountered on my devices is that Live Text doesn’t recognize hiragana or katakana and instead converts these characters into hànzì (Chinese characters used in Chinese writing). I had initially thought that this was an issue with my settings, but even after some tweaking the problem persisted. It wasn’t until I began writing this review that I decided to try to troubleshoot the issue by searching for a solution on the internet. As it turns out, at the time of writing Live Text doesn’t support Japanese. This is not immediately obvious unless one searches for the answer, since the device recognises that text exists even in images containing Japanese and allows it to be interacted with.

The phone’s failure to recognize the katakana term Musurimu ムスリム.

The fact that Japanese isn’t supported means that accurately copying and pasting text from a photograph or in real time through the camera is impossible because all kana are rendered incorrectly. Nevertheless, since Live Text recognises hànzì one is able to use the look up function to search for certain terms in the device’s dictionaries, through websites suggested by Siri etc. If one has enabled the device’s Japanese dictionary it is possible to look up Japanese terms as long as they are written entirely in kanji. Terms that are entirely or partially constructed of kana including words that feature okurigana (kana suffixes) cannot be searched. It is also important to note, that whilst one can attempt to use Live Text on vertically aligned text and the feature will ostensibly recognise the start and end points of different characters this does not prove accurate with Japanese language texts.

Successful recognition and dictionary search of the kanji-based term Daibubun 大部分.

Using Live Text for Japanese has huge limitations since the language is not supported, but it might  be useful for those looking to quickly search for certain terms. If Apple develops Live Text to function with Japanese it will become a highly useful tool, but at present I don’t recommend investing much time into using the function apart from limited dictionary searches.

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