Back in January I made a fool-hearty challenge to learn 550 kanji in about 3 months. I’ve been using iKanji for all my kanji studying. It is a very nice looking and simple kanji studying app for iOS devices. I’ve been tirelessly drilling myself with it. Sometimes spending a good 30 minutes or so, trying to get through all my kanji for the day.
The journey has been quite tiresome to be honest, but I’m glad I ground through it. I’m happy to report that I have managed to learn all N1 and N2 kanji (and almost all the N3 kanji) listed in the app. If I had to do it again though I would try to take it a little bit slower to be honest. It just seemed to be too much drilling and not a lot of practical use toward the end.
And studying all these kanji doesn’t mean I can read and write each kanji perfectly. That will take a considerably more review before I’ve got that down. But, I can more easily discern between easily mistaken kanji as well as guess the meanings of new words in context.
Just to give you an example of some of the not so often used kanji that I was studying 熙, a kanji meaning bright, sunny, prosperous and merry. These are all good things, but I don’t ever remember seeing this kanji in the wild. I actually ended up taking a look to see what words it appears in and it seems to only be used for a an old, but famous Chinese dictionary (康熙字典).
This leads me to believe that studying kanji at the N1 level is not quite as useful as it is for the other levels, where it is practically invaluable. But, I can at least read almost anything that is thrown at me now, which unlocks a lot resources.
Re-learning Reading Comprehension
My reading score was pretty low last time I took the N1, a paltry 9 which is really not that good at all. I’ve been trying to track down specifically what my problem is with getting this score up. Is it my vocabulary and grammar? My reading speed? Or something else?
Last year, before the December test I did a final push to practice my reading skills as much as possible. I managed to complete both New Kanzen Master and So-Matome in 2 months and this didn’t give me any more points. Some of the reason is because I made a stupid gamble and lost, but I suspect there was another reason for it as well.
I think my reading comprehension skills need improvement. As in, I have a hard time putting together the main idea of a reading so that I can answer the questions about them easily. Sometimes I have to do a lot of guess work and as you can see from my test results, guessing is not my strong point. So, it’s probably best to try to refine those skills some more.
I’ve been combing through all reading material and making sure I understand every sentence, every phrase, every nuance. It is a bit of an intensive exercises that involves me asking a lot of questions, but I feel like I have made a lot of positive changes to my reading comprehension.
I’m not entirely sure this will pay off completely this July, but it is worth a try. And it will benefit my Japanese overall, so I want to give it a try. It pairs well with my learning all the N1 kanji. I think it is important to have the foundation in place then crank up the speed.
Speaking of July
I am going to try the test again this July, but I am not nearly as focused on it as I was before. Work has gotten a lot busier and I want to spend time with family as well. I’m going to treat July as a progress check. In some ways, I think I might actually do better if I don’t put so much stress on myself to succeed.
I do really want to improve my reading score, which shouldn’t be too difficult. 9 is such a low absymal score. I’d like to at least double it. Passing the reading section (getting 19+) would be a great goal to hit this time around. Of course, as tough as this level is, just moving up a few points can be an achievement.
I see my busy schedule and hectic lifestyle as a challenge and not a handicap. I think a lot of people are in a similar position with their studies, so I’ll be sharing as many hacks as I can on how to fit studying in and how to make it to the top. It should be a lot of fun.
How are you preparing for the July test?
Are you getting ready to take the test? If it isn’t available in your area, what are you doing to stay focused?
Photo by Paul L. Dineen