Goals are usually held up as the cool thing to have. Like brand bags in Japan, if you go outside without one, you are just so uncool. Or are you? Goals are amazing tools that can help you stay focused and moving forward with your studies. And for some people, that can be incredibly motivating for them to hit a certain goal.
And they are great for just that, as long as you set SMART goals of course. But, goals can also add some unneeded pressure. It might also be a little hard to articulate what exactly is the reason you are studying. And some people just like explore and see how it goes, without studying lists and lists of grammar and vocabulary and everything else.
So, it is totally fine to study Japanese or to really start any hobby without a goal in mind. Some people just do it for the fun or challenge of it. For some people, language learning can be quite therapeutic actually, I mean learning a language is an excellent excuse to just start a conversation with a random stranger.
JLPT as a Natural Goal
JLPT was born to be used for goal setting. It has somewhat evenly spaced levels (except the jump between N3/N2) that you can work your way through on your quest for ultimate fluency. And it is also a great standard that can be used when you go to look for books, because I lot of books will tell you what JLPT level they are aimed at.
And let’s face it, it is pretty cool to pass a level and proudly proclaim to the world that you did it. And wave your certificate around like you just don’t care. And fellow Japanese studiers will look on with envy as you strut about in your awesomeness.
But, sticking doggedly to the test structure can also lead to frustration and unwanted stress. You find that knowing a lot of grammar rules and speaking and using perfect Japanese really isn’t something you need in your life. I mean, maybe you just want to speak Kansai-ben. Maybe you want to take a break from spending so much time studying and just enjoy the language.
JLPT as Feedback
If you are not a goal-oriented person, then you can still use the JLPT as feedback to see what is working and what isn’t or just to see if your level is going up or down. For example, I’ve taken the N1 the last few times with a pretty good idea that I wasn’t going to pass. But, I wanted to go anyway just to see if how I’m studying is effective or not.
Also, the JLPT is a great way to measure your Japanese level, but in some ways it is just as dumb as your bathroom scale when it comes to measuring things. Your bathroom scale will just give you a raw weight and won’t actually take in account things like time of day, how much excess fluid you are carrying around and so forth.
So, your weight according to the bathroom scale will fluctuate on a regular basis sometimes daily. In order to track your progress you need to see the overall trend. The same is true with the JLPT, for N2 and N1 especially, the scores can fluctuate a lot depending on what kind of topics were on the test. Don’t take it personal if come close to passing and just miss it. It was probably just bad luck.
Are you Goal-less?
Do you love to set goals or are vehemently against them? Somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below.