There always seems to be a race to finish the JLPT, to get to N1 as soon as you can. The idea is to get it out of the way and move on with your studies. For example, some people might need it for a job, others might need it to look better for a permanent residency application (N1 helps you qualify in certain situations).
And I think a lot of us would like to not do so much drilling and go back to just using the language. Because the JLPT can sometimes lend itself to over-drilling. Maybe you didn’t pass this particular level and you feel like you should have because you have been using Japanese for awhile now, so that in turn leads you to drill grammar and vocabulary relentlessly.
I’ve personally been studying for the N1 now for about a year and a half. Well, that isn’t completely true. I’ve put down the drill books several times so I can do things like read Harry Potter and read up on house buying in Japan. But, for the most part, N1 has been my goal over the last year and a half.
And from time to time I get a kind comment or email from someone about the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for 9 years but still haven’t passed N1. I’m sad to say it, but there are actually people that have been here much longer than me that could barely manage N5. Living and working in Japan doesn’t automatically make you fluent after all.
And being conversational doesn’t automatically mean you can pass even N5, but that’s a different story.
Becoming fluent isn’t a race, there is no deadline for passing N1. Passing N1 with 2 years of studying doesn’t earn you a special merit badge (although it is admittedly pretty cool).
Who said you have to be Fluent in 3
days, months, years?
Benny Lewis, the blogger behind “Fluent in 3 Months”, is incredibly inspirational. He travels the world learning new languages, trying to master a new language within 3 months. He has many great tips and really walks the walk with language learning. And I do think that you can become pretty conversational within 3 months if you completely immerse yourself like he does.
But let’s be realistic. A lot of us have other things going on and can’t just take 3 months to breathe it all in. We have distractions, classes or a job, possibly family, and just, ya know, having fun. Benny still has great tips to get to speaking fast. And I think he has some great advice, but his lifestyle is a little hard to emulate and some people might not want to leave everything behind to come live in Japan.
I would say that Japanese can be a big part of your life or a small part. You can slowly make your way through the JLPT or take them head on and study for them every waking hour. It really is your choice.
Have a Goal and Move Toward It
Just because you can be fluent in 3 months doesn’t mean you have to do it that way, or should do it that way if that doesn’t match your personality/lifestyle. There are many ways to get to where you want to go.
It’s best to know what your goals are beyond just passing the test, too. Do you want to travel in Japan? Chat with your Japanese friends? Watch jDramas all day without problems? Make sure your goal has a personal meaning for you and keep moving toward it.
Passing the test is cool, but don’t let just being cool be your goal. What are you going to use all this knowledge for? Or are you in it just for the challenge? Nothing wrong with that either.
It really doesn’t matter how long it takes. A friend of mine, who has been in Japan for about 12 years just took the N4, and he is half Japanese! So, if you’ve been putting it off, don’t worry about it. Even if you think you are too old to change your ways, give it a try and challenge yourself. Just remember there is no time limit.
How Long have you been Studying?
I’d like to know how long you’ve been studying and are you moving toward your goals or just enjoying the ride? Let me know in the comments.
Photo by Mrhayata