JLPT BC 77 | Variety is the Spice of Life

Japanese Study MethodsI’m more than half way through ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本 (230/350 pages) and things are getting a lot smoother.  I’m really able to pick up and understand a lot more.  There are the occasional chapters that I get really messed up about, but one strategy that I’ve started to adopt more and more is try to push my way through the entire essay.  Then, go back and re-read it a slower after I’ve looked up all the words I don’t know and I’ve read through the entire thing.  Usually during this second time through things tend to snap into focus.

I’m actually looking forward to finishing this book off and moving on to focusing more on the N1 grammar that I need to know.  I’ll probably be doing that while I’m reading another novel, hopefully something a little more fun to read like Harry Potter or something.  I want to get through all the N1 grammar at least once before I make a valiant effort for the N1 in July.

I’m also still working my way through StickyStudy for iPhone.  If you are interested in picking up this app, I created a video that reviews StickyStudy for iPhone that you might want to check out.  At first, I thought it didn’t re-test words that you mastered, but it does, it just does it a lot later than I expected it would.  Still probably the most aesthetically-pleasing flashcard app in iTunes at the moment.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Some people have a tried and true way of studying.  You might drill words to death on memrise.com, read manga like it is going out of style, or shift through thousands of sentences in Anki.  Chances are if you have reached an advanced level in your studies you have tried several different kinds of study methods in order to come up with what interests you and what helps you recall the most stuff.

I’m starting to realize though that if you just focus on one particular source for learning, there are some drawbacks to this.  You can’t really rely on one resource to get you everything you need.  For example, reading manga is great, but in realty reading manga a lot helps you get better at reading manga.


The book I’m reading now, ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本, is a great source of essays and musings from Mr. Itoi.  It contains a lot of writings that are similar to the kinds of essays you see on the tests.  But, I’m starting to see some of the same words being repeated.  This isn’t so bad actually because I get to naturally review their meanings in context, but I also feel like I should try out a different author later.

Another example of this is when I went to the clinic when my wife was having a baby recently.  I could get a basic idea of what everyone was saying, but needed to look up a lot of extra vocabulary.  Also, just the phrasing of what the nurses were saying and asking me was a little unfamiliar to me.  Overall, it was of course an amazing experience (having a baby) and a good learning opportunity as well because I was extremely motivated to know what the heck they were talking about.

The JLPT is good in the respect that it forces you to spread out your learning.  You can’ simply watch jDramas all day and expect to pass the test.  You have to spread out and hone your skills in order to have a chance of passing the higher levels.  In this way, it pretty much prepares you for anything that is going to come your way.

How to Add some Spice

My current philosophy is that the minute you start getting really comfortable with a particular source of material is the minute you should start thinking about changing to something else.  I’m starting to see this with ほぼ日.  It is getting easier and easier and so maybe it is time to branch off and do something else more challenging.

It’s good to challenge yourself with something even if it seems next to impossible at first.  This is especially true if you are at a higher level (N3+).  Try to take on some material that almost seems next to impossible.  This is the best way, in my opinion, to smash through plateaus you might run into from time to time.

What is your Favorite Spice?

What are some non-standard sources of materials that you use to flesh out your study routine?  Let me know in the comments.

Music by Kevin MacLeod and photo by Michael Caven

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Arisah April 25, 2012, 5:41 am

    Great post, and Congratulations on your baby!

    I am one of those studiers who winds up reading a lot of manga because it’s funner then flashcards and the such. In attempt to pull myself out of the rut, I bought several novels (or more honestly- obsessively bought a great deal of novels). And I discovered just what you stated- I’m real good at reading manga. Novels are a whole other ball of wax. I remember flipping through one of my more difficult ones and thinking, “Well, I can understand the dailouge.”

    I eased into novel reading by attempting to translate random pages at first. After such a stretch of manga it was difficult to get used to non-dailouge style sentences. Last month I finally finished reading completely through my first book – “A child called ‘It'” in Japanese. I had remember enjoying it in English and the grammar was comparibly simpler. It was difficult at first, took me a week to finish the first chapter but my comprehension was building steadily and by the end of the book I could read a full chapter in one sitting. I’m on the sequel now, it’s also a good beginning series for study because it’s a biographical series and the grammar increases with the age of the main character.

    I live in the absolute middle of nowhere, so studying is slow paced. Seriously, the closest town is an hour away and the internet here is limited. I’ve spoken to a few Japanese people briefly on the internet, but besides my books and mangas that’s all I’ve really got in the way of exposure.

    When I need to add some spice I try my hand at translating things from English to Japanese (and of course it’s a whole lot easier for me to translate dialouge).

    I love your blog, it’s been very helpful. Don’t stop writing.

    • Mac April 30, 2012, 12:07 pm

      That’s a great tip about the book Rissah! I’ll have to check that book out. Is the title – “I t”(それ)と呼ばれた子 幼年期? Looks like a pretty good series.

      I recommend trying to get a regular conversation partner. There is nothing like having someone that uses the real-live language on a regular basis to talk to. Also, you learn faster when you are experimenting and seeing what makes sense and what doesn’t.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting and the great book suggestion!

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