JLPT BC 45 | My Eureka Moment

Japanese LeapI just put some finishing touches on the Ultimate JLPT N5 Anki Deck v1.1. I’ll try to get out a full post with all the details soon, but basically I combined a lot of cards that had similar meanings. I’m still keeping some words with several different meanings as different cards though. So, for example, 本(hon) has three cards, one for the noun of the kanji – book, one for the prefix of the kanji – head, main, and one for the counter of the kanji used for long cylindrical objects.

The principle behind this is that the less you have to remember the better, so I reduced the number of cards and hopefully made it so they are easier to remember. If there are any problems with the cards though let me know. Or if you have any suggestions on how to make them easier to work with also let me know. I’d like to hear about it.

Starting Out with Japanese

Whenever you start learning any language it is easy to stay motivated at first. You can see your progress very easily. It seems like every day, you can look back and remember some new phrase or group of phrases that you learned and can be proud of.

I remembered when I first starting learning Japanese I could at the end of the day tell you what kana or kanji I learned, what kind of situation I practiced, or some new phrase that I could use. I was excited to try to use my Japanese (very poorly) with native speakers. I could barely make 2 or 3 sentences, but still wanted to go out and use it just because I had it.

At the Intermediate Level

Now, I can probably comfortably say that I’m at an intermediate level of Japanese. This is where studying becomes more difficult. It’s incredibly easy to get de-motivated at this level for a variety of reasons.

First, you are no longer starting out, so the small things that you learn every day don’t seem like much in comparison to the large body of knowledge you already have of the language. So, you can’t see a whole lot of progress.

Second, you still aren’t fluent. I can watch most movies and TV shows and understand major plot points (except maybe period pieces with classical Japanese), but I can only really understand the main idea of a news story, usually none of the details. I can read books meant for elementary school kids, but not the newspaper.

I recently bought a copy of Civilization 5 in Japanese, thinking that it was just a game and wouldn’t have all that difficult of kanji in it. I was completely wrong, I’m not even sure if some of the kanji in the game is N1 kanji. It’s still a good challenge though.

I personally study for about 2 or more hours a day along with exposure to Japanese at work and chatting with family and friends. Still, even with all this studying, it is hard to see solid proof of my progress.

Take a Leap

However, I’ve begun to realize I’m a lot more capable then I think I am. It’s easy to fall into a rut of just thinking you are a certain level with the language when really you are much higher (or in some cases much lower).

The important thing is to believe in yourself and make it happen. Nobody ever learns anything if they don’t challenge themselves. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and make mistakes.

There have been plenty of times I’ve made foolish mistakes with my Japanese and people laugh at me or look at me strange. I think it is moments like that where you learn the most. The JLPT is definitely something that can test you and bring you out of your comfort zone, but there are other ways to do that to.

Journey out of your Comfort Zone

If you haven’t already started, I highly recommend using native materials of some kind in your studying. Even if it is just for a small portion of studying, it will really help you see how the language is actually used. The sooner the better with this.

Web resources are especially useful because you can use rikai-chan (or rikai-kun for Chrome) to help you read the Japanese before you’ve learned it. So, there is no excuse really to start studying right away.

You can also strike up a conversation even if you don’t have to. I’ve lived in Japan for awhile and it seems like from the start I always avoided store staff. I was too afraid to ask them questions for some reason, but now I’ve taken on a completely different approach. I try to talk to them as much as possible, even if I know exactly where the tofu is, I always try to ask anyway.

If you aren’t in Japan, you can find a Skype partner to chat with. It might seem a little odd at first to chat with people you hardly know on the Internet, but my experience has always been that people that want to learn a language are generally very charismatic and friendly. They want to communicate, so it can be a lot of fun to meet people through Skype.

Whatever you do, don’t be shy and don’t say to yourself “I’m not that level yet.” because who knows, maybe you are.

Take a Leap of Faith

Push yourself out of your comfort zone and make it happen. I’d love to hear about it in the comments, too!

P.S. Do you like to leap around like you just don’t care? Awesome! You should join my newsletter!

P.S.S. Did you take a leap of faith? Then, you should leave me a comment on iTunes and leave me a review.  If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show.  Thanks!

Music by Kevin MacLeod Photo by Sabrina’s Stash

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Julian September 14, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Hi Mac,

    I was wondering how you did on the past JLPT. Did you finally pass the N2? When are you planning on taking the N1?

    I failed the July N1 by 2 points…so frustrating…

    -Julian

    • Mac September 15, 2011, 2:25 pm

      Dang! 2 points that has got to be enough to make you go mad.

      I didn’t pass, but by a much larger margin I got 75/180 and you need 90. So, I’m just reviewing and practicing the same stuff to make sure I’m confident with it. I mostly just make foolish mistakes, especially in the reading, and a little in the listening. I need to stop being so foolish :).

      Anyway, best of luck to you this December. Are you taking it again?

  • Kana September 15, 2011, 11:19 pm

    I’m at N2 level at the moment, and have been studying for quite some months. Will take it in December.

    I can see progress every day! Everyday I learn new words from reading articles (news, articles from lifehacker jp, etc). Also, since I already have some stuff for N1 to study, as soon as I’m done with N2 on december 4th I’ll start studying for N1.

    Mac, I reccomend you start reading the news and adding the sentences from the news (if not too long) to anki.

    The next weeks I’ll intensify my reading of articles and N2 reading materials (using a timer in order to get used to pressure).

    It’s seriously amazing how much progress I can see. I can now easily memorize words, and I can write those words without even having writing them once! That’s because I got used to writing them mentally.

    Are you taking the test in december?

    • Mac September 17, 2011, 2:45 pm

      Yeah I’m taking the test in December again. I failed N2 this time, so I’ll be retaking it. I think I just need to increase my reading comprehension SPEED lately. As well as improve some of my listening accuracy.

      For the sentences that you add to anki, do you just have the native sentence on one side of the card and kana on the other side of the card? or Japanese/English?

      I’ve heard of the Anki sentence method before, and I have put it to limited use here and there, but maybe I should increase the use of it a little bit more.

  • Tim September 16, 2011, 2:17 am

    I was planning on taking the N4 this December, but my progress appears to be too slow.

    I love the idea of getting out of your comfort zone and really trying to push what you know, making horrendous mistakes and just not worrying about them.

    My biggest issue is not being understood by people. I still “think like an English speaker.” I try and work out in my head what something would be in Japanese, try and work out the verb conjugations and the particles, and then write or say it (depending on the form of communication). Even my wife sometimes wonders what I am actually trying to convey; but usually she can work it out because she realises that I’ve gone from _this_ in English to _this_ in Japanese – and most of the time it just isn’t said like that in Japanese!

    Anyway, I am studying for N4 now and then – not every day, and definitely not for two hours! Memrise has been a bit of a help, but writing the kanji is a whole nother ball park! Forget trying to make sense of the news. Even after three years of hearing spoken Japanese and trying to cram grammar and vocab into my head, I can’t even pick up the context of basic family conversations; though my mother-in-law speaks very slowly for me, and she is very patient when I fumble my way through words, trying to hit on some sort of meaning…

    The whole being past the beginner stage and not seeing any real progress is very challenging, but it’s good to know that there are other learners out there who struggle just as much and feel inadequate, no matter how much they study and practise. 🙂

    • Mac September 17, 2011, 2:50 pm

      I’ve totally been there Tim. I’ve spouted out a nice detailed sentence thinking that at the very least a native would be able to guess the meaning from context, and I just get a blank stare or confused look. And then my wife will try to correct me in English and say something rather similar but obviously a lot clearer. The best you can do is take a moment and either repeat the corrected sentence a few times or better yet write it down (but sometimes a pen and paper really isn’t at hand). At the very least take the time to ‘notice’ the mistake, don’t just bump over it and attempt to continue the conversation. That was a mistake I made early on.

  • Kana September 18, 2011, 8:25 pm

    Mac, my anki sentences are like the following:

    japanese sentence (front)

    hiragana/english meaning of the new word (back)

    What are you going to to to improve your reading skills? I’m interested because its my lowest skill. And I did a mock test and finished everything 4 seconds before the time limit.
    Time limit sucks man. I do so many mistakes thanks to time pressure, like stuff I know that, I fail because I was reading it fast (all sections).

    • Mac September 19, 2011, 11:25 am

      I’ve been doing a lot of reading of native materials to improve my reading skills, and I’ve picked up a new book 試験に出る読解N1/N2 which is pretty good. It has very difficult vocabulary, but I think that is an advantage to it. It is probably more difficult than the test, so when I take the test, it’ll be easier for me to do.

      I’ve started timing myself too, so I can try to stay focused.

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