Friday, November 13, 2009


Next month I am taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). There are four levels, level 1 is ridiculously hard and I admire anyone who can pass it. You have to be able to read around 2,000 kanji and know some really obscure grammar. It takes around 900 hours of study to pass it. Most people equate level 1 with fluency. Level 4 is the easiest with only about 80 kanji and only the most basic grammar.

I am going for level 3. I know 300-400 kanji and have finished a beginner's course (both Genki textbooks.) I'm not really that interested in staying in Japan past next year but I think a level 3 certificate would look really great on my application to the Peace Boat. The test is December 6th and I lucked out and am scheduled to take it at the university near me. I don't even have to change trains!

I took my first practice test last night and was really worried I was going to fail it since I've had a hard time so far working through my test prep workbook. But I got a 75%. With a passing grade at 60% I might just pass this thing. Obviously I still need to study in order to get that up and guarantee a passing grade but I'm a lot more confident than I was last week.

So here are some more random thoughts about the JLPT -

- They are changing the test next year so level 3 will actually be harder, so it's important I pass this year. I'm not sure I will ever go for level 2. Studying Japanese is interesting but my first love is still Spanish.

- I really thought I was going to be better in grammar since the vocab lists in the Genki books are so random, but it turns out I suck at grammar. Really this shouldn't be a huge surprise since this was (and still is) my weakness in Spanish and French as well. My head does a good job of grasping the overall concepts of grammar but to ask me the nitty gritty details like which particle to use "ga" versus "no" for example then I blank out.

- I know more kanji than you actually get on a test and this sometimes confuses the heck out of me. I'm so used to reading the kanji that I sometimes blank out when I see only the hirigana. I tried looking up jusho (address) in the dictionary yesterday and felt like an idiot when the kanji popped up and I realized what an easy word I had messed up on.

- I studied pretty sporadically before I decided to buckle down and take this test. It's amazing how much progress I've made with both listening comprehension and speaking skills in my daily life here in Japan since I've made a concerted effort to study more regularly. Without Nathan at school to distract me I am going to try to keep up this trend until I go home in the summer. It's a good motivator to have instant results. That's something you don't get when you are studying in your own country versus being in the country where the target language is spoken.

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