JLPT BC 104 | Master the Kanji

JLPT BC 104 | Master the Kanji post image
iKanji Touch

Practicing Kanji on a Touch-sensitive Device is a Perfect Match.

The holidays have come and gone.  They were the best thing for me because I got to relax and spend time with family.  But also the worst thing for my studies because it meant I ended up with very little time to study, which to be honest is okay.  We all need time to relax I think.

But time has become my biggest enemy lately.  I wanted to do so many things during the break and only got about half of the things done.  Well, time, and old fashion laziness.  This winter has been just unbelievably cold for our area.  That makes getting up and around that much harder to do.  (There is no central 24 hour a day heating here at least for poor folk like me.)

Of course, it is just going to get rougher on the road ahead.  My daughter will soon be able to walk around and destroy things.  And, I’ll be actively shopping for the biggest purchase of my life (a house to move into with any luck).  My goal is still to pass N1, but I have a feeling that it is not going to get the priority that it once did.

Kanji Master

A new goal that I’ve set for myself is to master all the kanji I need for N1 by the end of at least April (hopefully by the end of March).  I only have about 550 more kanji or so more to master, so I figured I would do my best to get them all done before the next test in July.  That way I can read anything without issues.

550 kanji seems like a huge chunk of kanji to remember in just 4 months time, but I feel like at this higher level it is a lot easier to learn and master kanji than at the lower levels.  You start to really get used to how they look and also (more importantly) how all the kanji radicals look.  Kanji radicals are critical to accelerating your kanji study.  The sooner you learn them the faster and easier you’ll remember kanji.

You might have also guessed that kanji at the N1 level is not so important and it really isn’t.  I feel like if you know N2 kanji, you can pretty much read a lot of what is out there.  It also helps if you have been drilling vocabulary words with their kanji (even if they are much more difficult kanji) from the beginning.

For example, N1 kanji is full of semi-useful kanji for trees and animals, but then there are seemingly really common kanji in there too like 豚 (buta) for pork.  I learned this kanji a long time ago when I first started grocery shopping in Japan.  It almost seems strange that it is on the N1 kanji list.

Right now, I’m using an iPhone app called iKanji, which I really like.  Mostly because it is fairly simple to use and looks pretty stylish, too.  It tests the writing of the kanji in a way that is useful to me;  all I have to do is trace the outline.  I really don’t need to know how to write the kanji from scratch (starting with a blank screen).  I’m just not going to be doing that much handwriting of kanji in my near future to warrant that.

Learning about Houses

At an advanced level of language learning it starts to get a little more difficult to find new material to learn with.  Most standard Japanese textbooks take you to N4 or almost to N3, which is a good conversational level for the language.  This is where a lot of folks stop learning a language for whatever reason.  So it is trickier to find good material to use at the higher levels.

The prep books for the N2 and N1 levels of JLPT are excellent resources, but let’s face it, drill books aren’t ‘real’ Japanese.  And, that is probably why you started studying Japanese, so you can use real Japanese, right?  I don’t think you start studying so you can pass a test.

Learning about your favorite hobby or even learning a new skill in Japanese is a great way to practice at a more advanced level.  One big reason for this is that you can usually find a variety of books about the topic in Japanese.  And since all of those books will be using a similar set of vocabulary to describe things, you can review the vocabulary over and over and see it used in different ways by different authors.

I happen to be interested in buying a house in Japan, mostly because you can get a lot bigger place for less money than if you were to rent an apartment.  But, if you know anything about Japanese houses, they are completely different than a lot of other countries.  At least, they are a lot more different than house buying in the states.

So, I needed to do research on buying houses in Japan, and since there aren’t a lot of Japanese house buying books in English, my only choice is to do a lot of reading in Japanese.

And learning about house buying is actually pretty interesting.  The books available on the topic are also great learning resources because a lot of them have pictures and diagrams explaining the key concepts, which is a lot easier than trying to read a novel.  I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to negotiate with a real estate agent successfully or not, but will see.

How are your plans coming along?

Have you tried anything wild and crazy yet?  What are your SMART Japanese study goals for the new year?  Let me know in the comments below.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Lucy January 13, 2013, 6:02 pm

    Although I’m no way close to N1 or gaining mastery of Kanji, I am starting to a new book, “New Penguin Parallel Text Short Stories in Japanese” edited by Michael Emmerich, its has eigth (not so short) stories and its good because on the right it is Japanese and on the left is the same story in English. There are Furigana (振り仮名) on some of the Kanji(not all though) so it makes it abit more easier to read.

    As for memorizing Kanji, I saw the two episodes of 濱キス where they did the Kanji Stairs (漢字階段). The technique there was really helpful for me to memorize the kanji there for my Dec test too~ I also recently added a few random Japanese people on my facebook to help me when I face a problem in Japanese while studying, in exchange I help them in English. I also go often to blogs of famous Japanese idols so that I will be able to learn to read while not losing interest or getting bored.


    • Clayton MacKnight January 14, 2013, 3:02 pm

      That sounds like great advice and a good plan. I keep seeing that penguin book around. I’ve thought about picking it up, but usually just end up reading a used book instead. Let me know how it works out for you and if it is a good read. Seems like it would be.

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