This is a continuing series on the common mistakes people make studying for the JLPT. If you’ve missed out on the first part of the series. I encourage you to go back and read part 1. Otherwise please enjoy the show.
Last week, I talked about a common mistake that a lot of people make with flashcards. Flashcards still play a role in language learning and vocabulary digesting, but they aren’t a panacea (which is a big fancy word for cure-all).
They are just one part of the vocabulary learning arsenal that you have at your disposal. There are other tools you can utilize to become a well-rounded vocabulary learning machine. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So let’s get to our 2nd most common mistake:
Mistake #2 – Just studying the lists
You’ve probably seen them out there on the net. They seem to be the hottest thing available – the lists. There are lists of vocabulary, there are lists of grammar, there are lists of kanji, and there are lists of expressions.
The only thing these are really useful for are for reference, or at most refreshers. They shouldn’t be the backbone of your study plan. You should try to be supplementing it with something else.
You may ask yourself why? I mean, it is pretty easy to just grind through vocabulary till you can spew forth translations of all the words like nobody’s business. I mean that’ll get you through the test right?
Well, it’ll probably get you through the first couple of tests (N5, N4, and maybe N3). I suppose if you tried really hard, it might get you through the higher ones as well, but the JLPT also tests your ability to use the word, not just translate it.
Besides, the whole point of studying a language is to use it for whatever reason, travel, business, fun, video games, or simply just being able to watch Japanese commercials of hit TV show stars.
You need to be able to use the word and that means what kind of context and situations you use it in as well as the connotation of the word. Sometimes this is quite easy, I mean everyone knows what a dog is and when to use that word.
But it can get a little more difficult for say 激しい(はげしい) which can mean violent or intense. It can be used to describe everything from a battle to a busy street, though. Would you know that you can say 交通の激しい通り (The busy street), just by looking at the definition – violent, intense – in your flashcards?
So, how do you learn how to use these words? What can you do to learn how to use them?
Solutions to the Problem
The first one is quite obvious. You can use them! Write down all the new words you learned for the day from your flashcards or other sources and try to use them as much as possible in conversations that you have with people.
If you are out of Japan, you can accomplish almost the same thing by doing some writing and submitting it to lang8 or another such resource. There are also social networks galore packed with people that are looking to connect and practice language.
Read Those things called books
Before blogs, people use to get information from things called ‘books’. They are still available today for you to read. Most books aimed at elementary school students are perfect for people studying for the N2. For N1, you can read regular novels.
For lower than the N2, there are graded readers available. These are especially designed for people studying Japanese and have vocabulary that is graded to the certain levels. You can pick up graded readers for N3, N4 and even N5 at White Rabbit Publishing as well as most major big book stores in Japan.
I’ve read through some of these graded readers and have to say they are semi-useful and usually interesting. They have the right idea, but some of the topics are a little boring (at least for my tastes). So, be sure to read through the first couple lines of each story to see if it’s something that strikes your fancy.
I’ve since graduated to movie adaptions which is a genre I highly recommend because if you’ve already seen the movie you can picture the book very easily. I recently polished off Mr. Incredible, a riveting piece of literature to be sure.
At the Very Least…
Looking at these example sentences will give you an idea of how to use the word and what kind of situations it is normally used in.
1) What do you do to practice the usage of vocabulary? Do you read? Do you speak it?
2) What are some difficult words that you’ve had problems with the usage? Or you saw on the test and had problems with?
Let me know in the comments below!
Image by d3b…, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License