Japanese Shorthand



In class we’re doing an awful lot of Japanese transcription both in daily exercises and tests. I’ve found that trying to transcribe the sentences fully are near impossible… Once I start writing in ひらがな、カタカナ、or 漢字 my ears almost always shut off (-_-). I’ve tried doing shorthand in English but, because I’m now actively translating from 日本語 > 英語 which is just a ineffective as the original technique.

Soo… What shorthand methods are others using for transcription? Are there any good shorthand guides in Japanese? What tricks and techniques does everyone else use?


Oh, when I took the N4, I did write down the listening parts in Spanish, then answered based on that, because I couldn’t remember all that, and I also couldn’t write it all down in Japanese that quickly. :sweat_smile:

But you say other than that.
Which is fair if it’s transcription and not just getting the message out of it.

At that point, I’d say scribble it out in hiragana as fast as you can without worrying about legibility, and then take your time to make it understandable Japanese with kanji and katakana. That’s probably what I would do.


Personally, I’d recommend just writing things out in Hiragana (maybe what Kazzeon is suggesting too? I got confused). After a bit more, it’ll feel as natural as writing out letters in your native language. Then slowly add the kanji that you write to your repertoire. There are some kanji I can write without a second thought, others take more thought. Don’t use the ones you have to think about during note-taking. I’d say the same for katakana. Better to write it out in hiragana until you can write it out without thinking about it. I’d say it’s prolly worth sticking with just hiragana though. Pretty much all of this is just my opinion, so whatevs.


Do you mean handwriting or typing?

Perhaps do transcription in romaji? It being in romaji indicating to yourself that it has not been properly transformed into kana/kanji and is just a raw transcription of sound? At least as a starter, it would make sense that you’ll be writing in latin letters a lot quicker until you are basically fluent in Japanese, simply because you have so much experience in it.

If your latin alphabet writing is not up to speed, a quick google learned me there’s a shorthand called EPSEMS which is a phonetic shorthand designed to be usable in both Japanese & English.

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If you are worried about speed, this is what I would suggest, write it out in Romaji, then if you have time write it out into proper kana. That way you get what was said, and don’t miss anything, but can then work on translating it properly.

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@svenkevs and @lucon1

It’s true that I can write in Romanji faster than I can translate into English or write kana in Japanese. Unfortunately, my 先生s are actively discouraging romanji use (even on scratch paper during a transcription test) as it is against the class policy. To be fair, it’s also a pretty big crutch and I’m trying to minimize usage myself.

I wonder if there’s a EPSEMS equivalent for Japanese but in a kana variation. That might be worth looking into. Otherwise I might just have to learn how to shitty-speedwrite in Hiragana.


Also, after a quick google search on Japanese Short Hand I found Ryakuji 略字. This looks to be a Japanese shorthand equivalent for Kanji. Has anyone ever tried this system and is it something worth pursuing in the future?

But EPSEMS is designed already with Japanese in mind. Shorthand is typically not made to be similar to existing scripts, they are new scripts that are typically designed for speed. This specific one is phonetic and designed with typical Japanese speech in mind.

Here you can see popular shorthands designed with English in mind (that can be used for Japanese, but are not optimised for it):

There is also nothing stopping you from making your own shorthand. You need 49 characters for the regular hiragana and can add diacritics for the rest. For diacritics can just copy the " & ᴼ and make a new diacritic for diphthongs/double consonants/long vowels (them small hiragana).

Shorthand always takes a good amount of practice though!

On a sidenote: Personally I am actually practicing my romaji on purpose, that is to get comfortable with digital input. I am not too concerned with handwriting but that is a personal learning choice. I don’t consider it crutches if it is something I need and will be needed for the majority of my written production. But whatever the teacher says is the law, so not much you can do there :frowning: .
Do be careful that you don’t spend time learning shorthand only to have your teachers tell you again that any non-kana script is not allowed. The same logic against using romaji can be used against any script. If not, what is stopping you from using Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic or perhaps Korean?


That’s really interesting – unfortunately, I don’t think I have the time to devote to learning an entirely new script… Now I’m realizing that asking for examples Japanese Shorthand wasn’t the best idea. Shorthand is an actual writing style used by Stenographers – Obviously! I’m dumb…

Okay. Rewinding the clock back a bit and rephrasing the question Insert time travel noises

Is there a faster method to write Kana other than print? Perhaps Japanese cursive? Does anyone have any good examples?

I feel like the answer is going to be learn how to write faster – which is totally valid. But I feel the need to ask anyways.

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Hmm, I don’t know much about that. I remember in some guide on hiragana when I just started (can’t remember which one exactly though), that the reason many strokes have this hooky thing at the end (forgot the proper name), is that it’s because the brush is already moving to the start of the next stroke. Perhaps try to write every hiragana as a single stroke? Should speed things up a bit. Maybe also drop a stroke or two with some hiragana (can always drop the ‘drops’ in hiragana, their use in differentiating is only useful between う& ふ I think.

But I have very little experience in handwriting hiragana. So can’t help too much.


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