So, the December test has come and gone for 2011. Here comes the lull in studying Japanese. I always feel a bit strange in this season, because I know I should be studying, but there is some much stuff I’ve been putting off because I’ve been studying so hard that I need to get to them before my apartment turns into a pile of disorganized stuff.
I’m started to revert back to a more relaxed and natural way of studying the language. This involves increasing the amount of reading and listening I’m doing. I’ve picked up a few books that I’m going to start tackling in order to get better at reading.
I also have a long flight across the Pacific ahead of me because I’m heading to the States for the holidays. I think I’m going to make use of that imprisoned time to do as much reading as I can. There is nothing like being stuck on an airplane with just a book to motivate you to do some serious studying.
I’ve also replaced most of my TV watching with Japanese TV shows and dramas. Recently, there has been a new drama that is on TV now called 南極大陸 (Antarctica) that is about the Japanese team of researchers in Antarctica. I also have a student that has a friend that was lucky enough to be chosen to go down and live in Antarctica for 6 months, so it’s interesting to learn about the forgotten continent.
As for the show, it is an all right jDrama as far as jDramas go. I didn’t like it at first, but it is starting to grow on me. Anyway, if you are in Japan, it’s on NHK Sunday at 9pm. If not, well, I’m sure you can find the jDrama if you look around. You might have to wait a little while though.
Put the Book Down and Walk Away
Leading up to the test, it is easy to get carried away with studying. You absolutely have to refine your knowledge of the Japanese language if you want to pass. This especially true at the higher levels where they will torture you with nuances and fine points, so you have to know the finer points like the back of your hand.
But after the test has come and gone, it’s probably a good idea to go back to ‘normal’ studying. This is exactly what I am starting to do now. It basically involves moving away from answering questions about the language to actually using the language by reading, writing, listening and speaking it.
Because I don’t know about you, but actually the short time before I take the test, I get to the point where it is actually difficult for me to speak fluently. I can listen to anything you have to say, I can read just fine, but when I go to produce something, I stop and start and I feel like I did 7 years ago, when I had trouble ordering a Big Mac at the Japanese McDonald’s.
So, just put the book down and walk away, your Kanzen Master or So-Matome will be waiting for you when you decide to start studying for the exam again.
What are some more Natural Ways of Studying?
Well, you can start by doing some reading with materials that are available at your level. When you encounter words that you do not know be sure to write them down and add them to your favorite vocabulary reviewing gizmo.
If you are N3+, it’s good idea to start using grammar books for reference more than something you want to work your way through (until about 3 or 4 months before the exam). You should try to find this grammar ‘in the wild’, and when you have encountered for the first time, then go and look it up. This is what I try to do in this lull between taking the test and getting the results back.
For those at the N5 and N4 level, it’s a good idea to keep working through your Japanese textbooks until you become comfortable enough with the language to start using native materials. But don’t forget about the native materials! The earlier you attack them the better!
One thing I do advise you to study for year around for the JLPT is vocabulary. You should try to be as consistent as possible in order to memorize as much of the words as possible. Repetition really pays off with vocabulary, and some of the higher levels really need a long time to practice all the words.
How about you?
What are some non-JLPT specific ways you like to study? Let me know in the comments below.
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