I laid out a 5 month plan a few weeks ago that gave you exactly what I was going to be doing for the rest of 2012. During the months of July and August, I scheduled myself in for some listening practice. The main reason for this is because listening is a skill I can practice while doing something else (like walking to work, brushing my teeth, etc…)
I decided to pick up the So-Matome book for listening first because I thought it would be easier in terms of content as well as to get through (because of the ample English that is used). I was write about it being easy to get through, but wrong about the content being easy.
The content was actually quite difficult in my opinion. Some of the questions seemed to be a bit more difficult than the actual test. One used a vocabulary word that I didn’t even know in English (interferon). But, this was good in the sense that what you were practicing was listening for main ideas and the ability to skip over the words you don’t know.
This is a good book that gives you an idea of what each of the questions are like as well as some key vocabulary that will come up on the test. It is a pretty good introduction to the listening at this level, but if you have a problem with the listening section of the test, you will need to do more work after this book with something like the New Kanzen Master N1 Listening book.
Format of the Book
Most of the So-Matome series follows a 6 or 8 week course format, but the listening book is a little different. There are 5 chapters, the first 4 chapters have about 5 sections each, while the last chapter is a mini practice test (about 80% of the size of the real test).
The first chapter is a general skill building chapter where you practice shortening of sounds, for example ている → てる. They also go over tricky listening things like stops and long vowel sounds. There is also one section that goes over formal Japanese that was pretty helpful and another section that went over expressions that imply something more, which Japanese is full of.
The second chapter goes over each type of question you’ll see on the test. It’ll give you the flow of the question (do you see the question first? Are the answers printed in the test booklet?) and then gives you one sample question of each type. What is kind of handy is that they put the script for the CD in the practice section so you don’t have to check in the back.
The third and fourth chapters essentially contain a lot of vocabulary and expressions that are most likely to come up in the listening section. There are a few really tough abstract words that are a bit tough to learn, but there are also two sections on katakana words. Katakana words are usually not a big issue, but there are a handful of them that have different meanings from their English meanings.
The fifth section is a shorter listening practice test. I found it to actually be a bit easier than the rest of the book, but that was just me. Maybe all the practice at the beginning really did prepare me well?
What I like About It
There is a ton of vocabulary in this book that a simple dictionary entry can’t really explain well, so it was good to see those words listed in a good cheat sheet. I also felt like the 1st chapter was incredibly helpful in improving my raw listening skills.
What I don’t Like About It
There weren’t an real strategies in this book. For example, they didn’t go over how to take notes for the last couple of questions where the question is not given to first. In general, this book goes over what the questions are like and the vocab and expressions, but doesn’t give you an tips on how to take the test.
I felt like it was a good book that was worth buying. I will get a lot of practice out of it as I go back over it and review the different listening passages. However, I almost feel like this should be secondary book to New Kanzen Master. In other words, pick up NKM first, than if you need more practice do this book. I just started NKM, and I’ll be reviewing it in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that.
What’s your Take?
Have you used So-Matome N1 Listening book to study with? How did you feel about the level?