JLPT BC 71 | Going on Man Dates

Japanese speaking

Even a baby can do it

I have finally given in to doing a little bit of studying for the N1. I’ve started to try to absorb as much of the vocabulary I can on a daily basis. I know that is going to be the most time consuming part of the whole studying process, so I want to get started early, working my way through the vocabulary list for that level, especially, if it suppose to be somewhere around 18,000 words. That’s still pretty hard to believe though!

I am at about page 115 of the Itoi book. I seem to be averaging about 50/50 with it. That is, about 50% of the articles I can understand fairly well, the other 50% I really struggle to make heads or tails of. I usually have to look up a lot of words, and even then I’ll usually end up asking a native for clarification.

I am already at about 7% of the N1 list on Sticky Study for iPhone. I really like the look and feel of the app, but there are a few features of it that I’m not a huge fan of. I’m also starting to distrust their N1 list a little. It only contains about 3300 words, but I think the N1 test has a lot more than that. I’m definitely supplementing this with a lot of reading and plugging words I don’t know into memrise.com

One last really big personal announcement is that I’m going to be a father soon. In about a month from when this podcast is published, I’ll be a proud father. That’s why I’ve been a bit non-committal with my study goals recently. I know that as soon as the baby comes my schedule is going to be turned upside down, so for the moment I’m playing it a little cool. But, I will try my best to get a respectable score this December though!

Going on Man Dates

So, if you’ve been following the podcast recently, you know that I’ve been on the hunt for a good conversation partner. Mostly I want to be able to practice Japanese conversation, so that I can get my fluency up. I also wanted to be able to talk to a male speaker, because it seems like I get plenty of exposure to female speakers of Japanese at work and with my wife.

This seemed a little awkward at first to tell you the truth. I felt like I was going on a man date, but after the first couple initial meetings with a few nice folks, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable, and the whole conversation practice thing is getting a lot smoother.

My advice is, if you are going to try this at home, by all means start small. Start with a few short meetings where you just introduce yourself to each other and consider a success. This is especially true if you are at the N5/N4 level I think. At this level, it might be pretty difficult to keep a conversation up for more than a few minutes, so take baby steps before going overboard.

Am I ‘learning’ anything?

I think one concern that was brought up by a few commentors when I first started talking about this was that they felt like they didn’t really learn all that much. This is true to a certain extent. You aren’t really going to be able to take home something really tangible from these chats. Chances are pretty good that your chat partner doesn’t have a list of vocabulary handy that they want to go over with you.

But, you are practicing the basic, but essential skill of speaking. One misconception that I had of language learning (and a lot of people make this mistake) is that I thought if I learned a word, I could use it. So if I read it, put down on a flashcard and drilled to death, I could use it; it was mine.

However, that really isn’t completely correct. You have to practice speaking the word in order to be able to say the word. That may seem like common sense to some (or most?) people, but it wasn’t completely evident to me, and I often see students make the same mistake. So, I wanted to start practicing the skill of speaking and using the language.

My main goal behind all of this is to be understood. Not be super ultra correct; not have perfect pronunciation; not drop that bomb 四字熟語 (yojijukugo) or four kanji compounds. The idea here is to be understood and get my point across. Be able to discuss things and support my opinions without drifting off into ええと。。。

What Separates the Cool Kids from those Other People

In my experience, through talking to people that have passed the N1 and N2 in person, by email, and by the blog, I’ve learned that they tend to have a few things in common. One major thing in common is that they use the language on a daily basis. So, every day, they are writing, speaking, reading and listening.

You can study drill books all you want, but you will have to start using it in order to take it to that next level. It’s my belief that it is almost impossible to do so otherwise. For some people this jump into using it is, psychologically, quite big, for others it is just a small step on their road to fluency. Either way, it is something that you must do.

Getting a chat partner or even a pen pal are just a couple of tools that can also help you if you are studying Japanese outside Japan. You are fighting an uphill battle being outside the country, but it is completely possible if you immerse yourself in the language and take the initiative.

What are you doing to use Japanese?

How are you making an effort to use the language frequently? Let me know in the comments.

Join my newsletter for hot tips that I don’t share on the blog. If you like the podcast, be sure to stop by iTunes 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!

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What Should the Podcast be About? (select up to 3)

  • What I am doing to study and prepare (25%, 76 Votes)
  • What's it like to live/work/study in Japan (18%, 55 Votes)
  • Focus on grammar/vocab/kanji for one level (per year) (18%, 54 Votes)
  • Interviews with test takers (15%, 47 Votes)
  • Mnemonics for Kanji/Vocab/Grammar (15%, 47 Votes)
  • Japanese Culture (9%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 165

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Music by Kevin MacLeod Photo by Mark Evans

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Hilary March 17, 2012, 5:34 am

    Congratulations on the new addition to your family. I hope everything goes well for mum and for the baby too.

    I work as an ALT in Hokkaido so I hear fluent Japanese all the time and I have one teacher (who speaks fluent English) who makes me speak in Japanese to him because he knows I’m trying to learn it.

    I still find, though, that I’m only using basic grammar and short sentences when I speak Japanese. I guess the only way to break out of that is to practice it more and more.

    • Mac March 21, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Yeah, that is kind of one ‘advantage?’ of the JLPT, it forces you to use grammar points that you wouldn’t naturally use per se, but help you be more articulate. I guess one strategy that I’ve heard a few people use is to try to focus on one grammar point at a time and try to make use of that point as much as you can for a week or so. Then move on to another grammar point.

      Something I see with my students a lot is that they will learn how to use a particular grammar point, but they don’t know WHEN to use it. If you give them a test on it, they will score 100% each time, but they just don’t use it naturally. I think this is due to a lack of a variety of context. So if you keep a particular grammar point in mind and try to find as many appropriate contexts as you can to use it in over the course of week, you can hopefully learn to use it appropriately. Does that make sense? It’s bit of a complicated concept.

  • Tim March 18, 2012, 7:27 am

    Congratulations, Mac. Our third is due in a month, too! All girls for us, hahaha. Ah well, しょうがないね. Still pretty darn happy about it. 🙂

    @Hilary: Yes, it simply takes practice, practice, practice. I still feel like I only use basic language (after more than three years!), and often can’t think of how to phrase what I want to say in Japanese; but you do what you can do, use what you know, and you keep on trying and failing and making a fool of yourself and just having a good time, all in one big, bundled mess of broken Japanese. 🙂

    My work is the same: mostly female teachers. Aside from 校長 and 教頭, there are only two other male teachers. But I try not to worry about how either gender tends to speak. I’m still at the stage where I’m just trying to work through more basic grammar and improve my ability to work things out in Japanese without having to translate _everything_ from English. Headaches!

    • Mac March 21, 2012, 3:07 pm

      Any speaking practice is good speaking practice, eh? I guess I’m the same way, I don’t care that much, but I’ve noticed my female listening is significantly better than my male listening 🙂 Guess that helps out around the house though, hehe.

      Anyway, thanks for kind words. 3 daughters! Wow! Congratulations to you, too!

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