I’ve started a regular ‘rinse, wash, and repeat’ review of N1 grammar. I’m able to understand it all, in context, but I’m a little shaky about being able to choose which grammar point would fit in a particular sentence. And, of course, that is what you need to be pretty confident with on the test. My current strategy with it is to kill it dead. I want to completely over-learn it to the point that I can whip out an N1 grammar point at any time day or night.
I’ve started to increase my listening exposure though. I’ve started on So-Matome’s N1 Listening Comprehension book. This book is more designed to ease you into the level of listening that is required at the N1 level. If the New Kanzen Master N1 book is anything like the N2 book, I have a feeling that it will be a lot more difficult.
I’m also continuing my race through Harry Potter. This book has turned reading into a bit of a treat at the end of the day. I guess you have to be a bit of a Harry Potter fan, but it is a lot of fun to go through. I’m currently at page 100, and getting about 5 pages read a day. I’ve noticed the translator has changed a lot of the writing and some of the speech patterns of the characters to match who they are. This makes it a little more difficult for anyone at a lower level (N3, N2), but fairly good practice for some one at the N1 level.
I’m just not Good at Languages
You’ve probably heard this phrase a lot, or you might have actually said it yourself. I was born and raised in the States, which is, for the most part, monolingual. You could argue that some parts of the States are in fact quite diverse, like Miami for example. But in the heartland, let’s face it, we are pretty much monolingual.
I don’t even think I was exposed to someone from a different country until I was maybe 16 and that was a brief encounter with some exchange students from Japan. I didn’t travel overseas at all, like most Americans. In fact, the first time I was overseas was when I landed in Kansai airport to start my job teaching English here about 7 years ago.
I almost flunked out of Spanish. I ended up switching to German last minute to avoid completely ruining my high school GPA. I spent two years with both languages and I can hardly say a sentence in either. My Spanish is a little better, but mostly because I spent 5 weeks in Spain, not because of class. This whole experience left me with the feeling that I was just not good at languages.
What makes us an Outlier
Do you ever wonder what separates us normal people from the ‘special’ people. What makes someone an outlier? Are they born with it? Were they raised the right way by their parents? Is there just something magical about it?
Well, not exactly, I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called ‘Outliers’. In it, he details what it takes to become an outlier. He goes over some of the biggest success stories of our era from the Beatles to Bill Gates. And in a lot of cases, there isn’t anything really all that special or magically about being an outlier.
He hypothesizes that what separates us normal folk from the outliers is one simple rule. It’s a pretty simple one and easy to remember.
If you spend about 10,000 hours doing something, you will most likely master it.
That’s it, that’s what separates the outliers from everybody else. Of course, you have to have the passion or the access to do that, but in general, it takes about 10,000 hours.
It’s not all Perspiration Though
I would add one small thing to that though. It isn’t all about perspiration. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be all about the perspiration. And it doesn’t have to take 10,000 hours to master Japanese. It takes a lot less time than that, but not just 3 or 4 months despite what others might try to sell you.
You have to learn how to learn as well. Learning is something that is different for every body. Some things work like magic for some, for others those things could be a total waste of time. It all depends on the individual.
That’s why I can give you a lot of tips on the blog, but I can never give you the silver bullet. The one thing that is going to work for everybody. For some people, Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) are the way to go, others prefer to learn things through reading. Either way, make sure you are checking and evaluating what is working for you.
Are you ‘good’ at Languages?
What tactics do you use to learn a language? Let me know in the comments below.
Photo by Ashlee Martin