We are going to start this month off with a little check up on how you are doing. Before you can really set that many more habits, you need to know if the habits you set or tried to set last month are still in place and working for you.
First, vocabulary. Did you start studying a deck of vocabulary words that matches your level? Are you doing it on a regular basis? Preferably you should be studying every day, but let’s be honest, we all need a break now and then. So, taking a break on the weekend might be something to consider so that you can completely unwind.
How about your pace? Did you cover enough words so that you can cover them all before the exam? Or are you dropping behind a little?
Another thing to consider is if you are getting regular somewhat every day practice in. Are you studying every day or in one big massive block of time? A little bit of review daily will help things stick a lot more than sporadic giant blocks of time.
Don’t get me wrong though, if you have a whole day to just veg out and do pure Japanese, that can be really helpful as well. Mostly it will build up your focus in Japanese which in turn will help you get through the test pretty quickly. However, quantity is usually better than length of the time you study.
If you aren’t getting in as much time as you would like, then now is a good time to look at what is holding you back from studying more. In my experience, there are usually 3 things that prevent you from doing the studying you’d like to do – passion, time, and energy.
Passion for what you are studying can not and should not be overlooked. It’s okay to sometimes ‘eat your potatoes and vegetables’ to achieve your overall goal. But when you start to get tired of eating all that tasteless drilling, and you start to feel your motivation wane, it’s time to let off a little. Change it up, do something you really enjoy. Find a blog in Japanese about your hobby or play a Japanese video game or just take more breaks from it. No one says you have to soldier through no matter what. Life is short, enjoy your hobby.
If time is holding you back, it’s time to take a look at what is eating up your time. Is there some TV watching that you could cut down on or that you could replace with Japanese TV? Do you spend a lot of time waiting around for things like the bus or train? Maybe you could use that time to study vocabulary with a mobile app.
And finally energy, often times you’ll find the only time you have free time is at the end of the day when you would much rather veg out and kick back. For example, on my commute home I’m often times about ready to pass out in my seat. All I want to do is sleep.
If that’s the case it might be better to do your studying in the morning. There is a lot of research out there that has proven that those that start a habit in the morning tend to stick with it more often than those that started a habit in the afternoon. The theory is that we only have so much willpower at our disposal each day and that by the end of the day we have often burnt through it all.
The other tactic you can try is to do more systematic study in the evening and more creative and freer type studying in the morning or on weekends. For example, you could do SRS or dictation in the evening and free writing in the morning. Try out a few combinations to see what works best for you.
What about the grammar you have been working through? Has it been sticking? Take some time now to look back through what you have studied so far. Are you confident you can make a sentence with the given grammar point?
If you are at the N5 and N4 level, you can use most of the grammar points you learn in everyday conversation, which is why it is a huge help to have a conversation partner that you can practice the grammar points with in natural conversation. Your misunderstandings of how and when a grammar point is used will usually surface in conversation.
For N3+, the grammar is rarer and more literary, as in, it is used in books and not spoken. So, although having an exchange partner can help, you might want to turn to doing some more writing using the grammar points from your drill books.
How is your reading going? Did you get the habit started? Hopefully by now you have made your way through a couple of pages and are reading on a somewhat regular basis.
For N5 and N4, reading speed is not that critical, but it doesn’t hurt to start early so that it is easier to get up to speed later. At this stage, you might want to take a look at old tests or practice tests so that you can get an idea of what the reading sections will be like.
If you are at the N3 level, reading about 50 pages (of an appropriate level book) this first month is a great pace. Don’t fret too much if you fall below that. It’s just a good rule of thumb.
N2, it should be more like 100 or more pages for this first month. Again, you can pass and ‘survive’ the test reading less than that, but if you are looking to be really comfortable with the language, 100 a month is a good pace.
N1, 150 or more pages for this first month is a good pace, but realistically you should try to get in as much reading as you can. It always seems like they throw a lot of different words at you for this level and having more exposure to them will really help.
If you are N3+, how is your reading speed coming along? It’s time to take a short test to check on your speed. It only takes a few minutes to check and then you can get a better picture of how much faster you need to be.
After you have gotten an initial measurement of your reading speed, be sure to keep track of it somewhere. We’ll be checking in on it once a month from now on to see how well you are doing and what you can do to improve your score.
If you are having trouble getting through some reading in a reasonable amount of time, you may want to go back and re-read the material once or twice. Re-reading the same material, even if you understood it the first time, has been shown to increase your reading speed and comprehension. Also, because it is a little bit easier to concentrate on, this is something you can do when you have less energy but still want to get some Japanese practice in.
What will you do this second month?
How is your study plan coming along? Is it similar? What would you change? Let me know in the comments.
This is just an excerpt from the JLPT Study Kit. Inside the kit, you’ll also find:
- complete details on how to carve out time to study
- step by step on how to increase your reading speed
- how to build super strong mnemonics to keep you from forgetting words
- a PDF checklist of what to do your second month
- and more…
If you haven’t picked up the kit, why not give it a try? It has a 90 day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose!
One thing I’ve learned to like more than I used to is pattern and substitution drills, and I was planning on downloading the free FSI course to get some for Japanese, but Japanese – it turns out – is one of the few languages the developers kept the rights to, so the government can’t give the course away for free. Do you know of any sources for similar drills? (Japanese 101 level.) You can make a game out of them, first trying to get through a tape (oops, file) without making any mistakes, then using Audacity to keeping cutting down the intervals allowed for repetition (using the Truncate Silence function) and working for a time record. (It helps of course if you’re easily amused.)
I guess I’m not familiar with the kinds of drills that FSI has. Can you be more specific?
Here’s a description – thanks to Google – with examples: https://bocahsuwung.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/types-of-pattern-drills/.
Basically, you hear a phrase or sentence in the language being studied (“He is holding a can of soda”) then a series of replacements to be made: “is drinking” or a “bottle of beer” with a pause where you produce complete sentences, one after the other – “He is holding a bottle of beer/hand grenade/his passport and ticket… He held a bottle of beer/….”
Especially in languages with a case system (where the equivalent of wo for the direct object varies with number, gender, animateness, declension – and there are maybe half-a-dozen cases where this occurs) drilling seems to be absolutely necessary as a way of automating the speaking process to at least some extent. The types of changes for Japanese would differ, I imagine – different politeness levels, tense (for adjectives) … ?
Oh yeah, I’ve taught these in English classes, and seen them in plenty of English textbooks, but haven’t really found anything like that in Japanese.
I suppose something that would come close is the Minna no Nihongo workbooks. If you don’t know them, they are highly recommended set of books for those that are just starting out in Japanese. They are kind of designed more for people living in Japan, that need to use the language, as opposed to hobbyists or business folk, so they are very nuts and bolts and less phrases and expressions. Although they do have little mini sections for those.
Thanks – I found a pdf of the Translation and Grammatical Notes via Google, and this looks like what I need/want. It may be worth ordering the set just to get decent audio. I look at drills like scales – not exciting to practice, especially when you’re a kid, but you really can’t do much with an instrument without having made them automatic.