JLPT BC 120 | Building up Reading

JLPT BC 120 | Building up Reading post image
Japanese reading

You can’t be taken seriously unless you have an eggplant on your cover.

Last month, I said I was going to start reading Kazoku Geemu, but I got sidetracked for technical reasons. Apparently, you need a kindle device, or kindle for Android to read the eBook version (Kindle of iOS doesn’t work). I don’t happen to have either a Kindle device or Kindle for Android at the moment so I guess I am out of luck. I’m not sure if this is a licensing thing or what.

Instead, I went to the bookstore and picked up the latest issue of PHP magazine. No, it’s not a magazine about web programming which is what I thought it was at first. PHP actually stands for ‘Peace and Happiness through Prosperity’. It sounds a little suspicious in a cult kind of way, but it is actually a pretty good collection of essays about life lessons from various semi-famous people in Japan.

Essays for the JLPT are sometimes taken from these magazines or one of the books they have published. And if you read a few of the essays they tend to give off the same feeling as ones you would see on the test. They tend to tell a story and then go on to talk about what was learned from that.

The company was actually founded by Konosuke Matsushita. And if that name sounds familiar, it’s because he founded Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, which is now commonly referred to as Panasonic, or the ‘National’ brand inside Japan. He is generally regarded as one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Japan.

I had read an issue of it about a year ago, and I can see a noticeable difference in speed and comprehension. I was really happy to see that. However, the topics do start to get a little boring after awhile, so I might try a different magazine the next time I’m at the bookstore.

Japanese to Japanese Dictionary

I’m pretty embarrassed to say this, but I’ve finally made the move to a Japanese to Japanese dictionary. It has been a long time coming, of course. I probably should have switched at about the N3/N2 level, but I had established a (bad?) habit of using Kotoba (now, weirdly renamed imi wa?) on my iPhone because of all its handy features. Also, at the time I couldn’t find a good Japanese to Japanese dictionary that didn’t cost a lot for the iPhone.

The main reason why I made the switch is because I started running into words that had the same or similar definitions in English and I really needed a clearer definition of the words I was learning. Also, a lot of Japanese to Japanese dictionaries have collocations to give you an idea of how it is used. And of course, you get double practice, both the definition and the word are in Japanese.

I was able to find a free JPN to JPN dictionary for iPhones called Kotobank. It does the job fairly well. It’s not very verbose, and words aren’t cross-linked (click to go to a definition of a word) which premium dictionaries like Daijisen have, but overall it does well for being free.

Unfortunately, it is only available in the Japanese iTunes store, which means you’ll need a Japanese account. That requires a Japanese credit card, Japanese Paypal account, or a Japanese iTunes card. If you are outside of Japan and don’t have one of those, I’m sure Google will tell where (and how) to get one though.

Going on a SRS Diet

Lately, I’ve been trying my best to cut down on my review time. Mostly because I’d like to do other things with my study time, and keeping up a huge stack of cards at my level tends to get a little boring and not as useful as doing more reading.

And, like I’ve said a few times before, I want to build more courses. I’ve already created improved N5 and N4 courses that test kanji readings differently, and I’m currently working on a katakana course to compliment the very popular beginner/hiragana course I already have built up. I’m really looking forward to getting them out.

What are you up to?

Do you have any suggestions for a good Japanese to Japanese dictionary (that doesn’t require an internet connection)? How early did you start using a Japanese to Japanese dictionary?

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ron August 22, 2013, 5:14 am

    You mention that you need a Japanese credit card, paypal account, or iTunes gift card to get a Japanese iTunes account. This is actually not true. It’s really easy to create an iTunes account for any region for free. All you need is an address.

    To do it, go to the iTunes store where you want to make a purchase (or download free stuff). You must do this on a computer. It doesn’t work on iOS. Try to purchase a free app. The Japanese dictionary you linked would be perfect. Then there is an option to set up a new account. If you set up your account in this way, then there is an option for “no payment method” when creating your account and you don’t have to pay anything. You do need to have a valid Japanese address however, but there are plenty of Apple stores in Japan that make perfect addresses to set up an iTunes account. Pick your favorite one.

    Happy downloading folks!

    • Clayton MacKnight August 27, 2013, 3:46 pm

      Awesome, this is a great tip. I guess I never tried to do it that way. Whenever I create a regular account it tells me it needs some kind of payment. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Mitchell September 4, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Hi Mac.

    Just wondering what book store you got a copy of this from. I live in Japan, myself and have looked at a few around my area and can’t seem to find it. I could be looking in the wrong place entirely and that’s why I haven’t been able to find it yet. Just keen to get myself an issue so I can practise more reading.

    • Clayton MacKnight September 4, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Mmm, I actually can’t remember the name of it at the moment, but a regular sized shop. I’m surprised you haven’t been able to pick up a copy. They are usually in the magazine section and have a special rack because they are smaller. For example, my store has the regular PHP plus I think one about raising a family or something like that. Aera is also a good magazine to pick up as well. It tends to have trendier articles in it as well. I’ve seen them at some convenience stores even.

      • Mitchell September 6, 2013, 3:50 pm

        Thanks for your reply. That may be the reason I wasn’t able to find a copy because I didn’t realise it was smaller than the other magazines. I was just looking for a standard-sized magazine, but now I know what to look for. I’ll also take a look at Aera.

        Having failed N1 this past July by a whole 5 points, I made the decision to try again in December. I wasn’t sure if I would because I was fairly disappointed by missing out by such a small margin, but seeing people such as yourself and another friend of mine who have taken it multiple times and don’t give up, I decided I should give it another attempt.

        My biggest problem was not doing enough general reading before the July test. I stuck mainly with the N1 Dokkai books such as SKM and So-matome. This time I’m not going to make the same mistake: I want to do more generalised reading to get better exposure to vocab, and also enjoy what I’m reading by picking up some extra magazines/books/articles on topics I’m actually interested in. I need to also improve my speed/comprehension ratio. I can read these longer passages fairly quickly, but I would say I don’t quite comprehend it enough to then answer the questions so that needs some improving.

        Hopefully this time I’ll be able to get those few extra points I need to pass by expanding my vocab, and fine tuning my reading skills.

        • Clayton MacKnight September 8, 2013, 11:22 pm

          I use the test as a metric these days. I knew when I started going for the N1 that it might take 2 years or more with my current schedule, so I’m not too depressed seeing fails as long as I keep moving up, I’m okay with it. That’s really the most important, keep improving.

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