JLPT BC 145 | The Only Constant is Change

JLPT BC 145 | The Only Constant is Change post image

I used to be a huge Garfield fan growing up. I read all his comics and thought that they were the best. For my 8th birthday, my parents even made me a Garfield shaped cake and decorated it perfectly. I had a stuffed Garfield toy that I dragged with everywhere I went. It was my friend and companion on many adventures.

But eventually I grew out of that stage. I stopped taking Garfield on car trips. And he ended up getting thrown under a pile of stuff in a closet somewhere. I grew up and moved on.

Old study habits are kind of like those trusty stuffed animals you had. They were great. They were safe, but you have to grow up and start playing big kids’ games or you’ll end up like that one guy.

I’ve kind of held on to some old study habits even after they stopped really being all that effective. For example, I had been going back through my reading textbooks and grammar books. Trying to milk out every last drop of effectiveness I could. But last week’s test results showed that that was not a very effective strategy. As matter of fact, talking to most people that passed the N1, it didn’t seem like drill books played that big of a part.

Don’t get me wrong, New Kanzen Master and So-Matome did serve their purposes, but they were not the end all be all of prepping for the test.

Doing a lot of Reading

My main focus over the next few months will be just reading as much as I can as frequently as I can. I can get through a lot of different kinds of content from the letters I get in the mail to your average magazine article, but I need to focus more on speed and understanding the abstract points that some articles are trying to make. Overall, I just want to make reading something automatic, not something I have to concentrate on in order to understand, but something that just comes naturally. I know that could possibly be a pretty difficult feat to accomplish, but I feel like I am almost there and just need to concentrate on it a little more.

I have really gotten into Aera. I liked the weekly news magazine format in English (Newsweek, etc…). I just feel like you get better information when someone sits down and takes a little time to write an article instead of trying to churn out the latest news before somebody else does. And Aera seems to have a little something for everyone from tourist, food related articles, to human interest pieces to a somewhat depressing article about having a happy separated life (getting divorced easily).

Instead of pulling out any words I don’t know and shoving them into a course on Memrise, I’m going to simply reread the magazine once I’ve finished it. I feel like I’ll have forgotten enough as well as missed enough details the first time that it’ll still be pretty interesting. And I get a little more in context vocab practice.

I also got hooked on NHK’s Web Easy News. Although the articles are pretty easy to understand (for N1 level), they link to the real article that the simplified news article is based on. What this means is that I can listen to the Web Easy article to get an idea of the main idea of the story and then move on to the real news article armed with a good chunk of background information to help me understand it.

The real news story has a nice short video (usually under 3 minutes) that accompanies it, so you can get a visual reference, too. The written text comes close to what is being said on the TV, so you can get a pretty good idea of what they are talking about.

Overall, I think it is an invaluable resource that anyone studying for N2 or N1 would find pretty useful.

Doing a lot of Listening

I have a sometimes love, sometimes hate relationship with jMusic. For some reason, I’ve just never been able to get fully into it. I don’t want to say that American pop is that much better, but for some reason I’ve never been able to get unhooked from the classics that I have circling around in my iPhone.

But, I tried to get back into it once again. This time I’ve taken advantage of some help from iTunes radio. Apparently, a lot of Japanese music is available in the US store as long as you search for the romaji name of the band. I started a Greeen radio station and set it to give me a variety of music so that I could try to discover some new stuff.

It hasn’t really disappointed actually. I’ve been finding some good tunes hear and there. It still needs some fine tuning to my preferences and at times I get funky techno English songs mixed in, but with a little tuning it seems to offer up digestible music.

I’m still listening to Jane Su’s Podcast, which has been a pretty big help to me. The topics are fairly easy to understand and get a grasp of. I do miss a few things while I’m listening but I get enough to understand the main idea. And then I re-listen to it a few more times to understand what is being said. If there are parts that just get too hard, I throw them into VLC player to slow them down to listen to that one point over and over again. But, more often than not, I tend to just let it slide because I’m too busy to sit down at a computer long enough to sort through the audio.

To Test or Not to Test

I’m still mulling over my decision to sign up for the test. I think it is going to be a no go for me this time, but I still haven’t really made the final decision. There is two sides of the coin as I see it:

If I sign up, I might be motivated to study harder so I can push my score up. It could keep me chugging through books and practice tests refining my skills and getting everything absolutely automatic. I’ve had lulls in my studying before where I really didn’t do much of anything other than chat with a few people every day. I would like to avoid that because I don’t want to go backwards.

but taking a break will allow me to setup some new habits without feeling pressured to show some results with my next test. I’ll have a little more time to test some longer range strategies. I also won’t have that feeling that I have to stick with some strategy just because it is too late to switch.

Overall, I’m not giving up of course, just changing gears to try something different for awhile.

How about you?

What you going to do with your results? Are you going to change it up? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Matt Brown

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Lukas Frank September 24, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Hello Mac, 🙂
    as you probably remember I barely passed N2 in December, which I could accomplish by concentrating on studying with the So-matome series. I bought the N1 books of the same series and I have almost finished kanji by now. I’m aware that it’ll take some time to be able to pass N1, but on the other hand I don’t think I’m “forced” to do so in the next one or two years, which allows me to take my time.
    That’s why I’m not concentrating on So-matome at the moment. I’m doing the following things:
    – reading some essays/books about a specific part of Japanese history, about which I want to write a thesis (pretty had, but I understand most of it after I looked up unknown words).
    – listening to podcasts once in a while which helped me pass N2 (for example NOeSIS podcast)
    – watching Japanese Let’s plays or anime without subs on Youtube.
    I don’t know when I’ll sign up again for the test.

  • Elizabeth September 25, 2014, 2:19 am

    I think you should give it a go. How many times have you taken N1? My friend took it sixth times and passed it on her seventh try. She told me she had a whole stack of textbooks that she studied from.
    I use the paper Kodomo Journal for news because I can write in the margins and also bring it to Japanese class for questions and conversation starters. Do you take a Japanese class?

    • Clayton MacKnight September 26, 2014, 12:10 am

      I’ve taken the test 4 times I think. I know I will pass it eventually, but the problem I have know is that I have been putting off so many things because I’ve made this a priority that now I have way way too many things on my to-do list. I need to take a break from hard core studying and get all my to-dos done. And do other things that I need to have balance in my life like spend more time with my family and friends.

      No, I don’t have time for class, my schedule is way to erratic to have anything regular. I’ve thought about getting a tutor again, but maybe after things blow over.

  • Jude September 27, 2014, 4:31 pm

    Based solely on my own experience, taking a break from test preparation sounds like a good idea. When I was translating, the focus was always on completing the current job – it felt like permanent cramming for finals, and there was never time to solidify any new vocabulary or constructions or work on active control. (Considering the terminology a technical translator comes across, probably not much need for the first, either, but even so …) Now the pressure is off, I’m really enjoying learning Japanese (and Danish). I’ve decided not to put off listening practice this time, and News Web Easy is great. If I were living in Japan, I’d appreciate being able to turn the conversation to something interesting like the blue-fin tuna catch or the effort to have the churches in Nagasaki declared a World Heritage Site. Although the extent of my contribution to the conversation would be “I read that ….” and “What do you think?” Or maybe “what does the expression … mean here?”

    In Prague I learned to be very careful doing this, since my first instinct was to compare what I’d read about a subject with how we did something in the US, usually politely pointing out where Czech practice was either superior, or more to my preference. Bad idea – any comparison was invariably taken as a subtle denigration of the Czech way, not a simple compare-and-contrast exercise. How would it work in Japan, do you think? The Czechs said America is always telling other countries how to do things while having big problems of its own, and I have the feeling the sentiment isn’t confined to the Czech Republic.

  • EskimoJo September 28, 2014, 8:55 am

    Ah good! The advice I gave in the comments after the results article was to do pretty much what you’ve declared you’re going to do.
    So 9 months to go for the next re-take, rather than just over 2. I’m sure it feels great to say that out loud! All the best with your new methods Mac.

  • waxonwaxoff November 21, 2014, 9:12 am

    I like your site. I think I am in a similar position to you. Not old, but no longer a spring chicken and trying to pass N1. This will be my second attempt, and I have been studying everyday for an hour and taking a prep class on sunday mornings over in otemachi at the Japanese language academy. the classes there are good. They give you 模擬試験’s to do weekly and i’m finding that I’m passing most of those. I was a little concerned though about what you said about the listening last time.
    I find this so easy, but maybe if they have adjusted the level, I shouldn’t be too cocky about this section? Anyway, I have about 17 days left so i’ll let you know how I go.
    The test site is rather inconvenient over at 流通大 . anyone there as well?
    happy n1ing everyone!

    • Clayton MacKnight November 21, 2014, 2:53 pm

      From what I’ve heard, the Japanese language schools do a pretty good job of prepping you for the JLPT. Basically, they give you lots and lots of 模擬試験 to go through, which obviously refines your skills a lot.

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