JLPT BC 167 | Learning to take Breaks

JLPT BC 167 | Learning to take Breaks post image

This last month has been pretty rough on me to be honest. There was a lot of last minute planning for my vacation. And of course, right when you want to go on vacation, everything seems to need extra attention. More work to do at work. More fires to put out. I haven’t had as much time as I would like to sort my plan out.

My new position has a pretty hefty learning curve. I have heard that this pretty common so I’m not too worried. But it has meant that I have a lot of late nights catching up things. I think that sometime in the future I’ll be happy with my decision to take on more responsibility. Sometime.

But for now I’m getting an incredible amount of real in-your-face practice with Japanese so I’m not too worried about my skills going to waste. I’ve had to get used to a few slangy comments. My co-workers aren’t the most professional and Kansai has plenty of interesting dialects it seems like. It is making me sweat, but great practice.

Fighting back the burnout

Often times I tend to push my students like a coach would push his players. Constantly asking them about doing their homework and encouraging them non-stop to perform at the best level they can. More often than not they tend to push back, of course. No matter what the age, it seems everyone is allergic to studying hard. I have adult students that always talk about regretting not studying harder in school, but struggle to get regular practice in now.

And I think a good regular routine is good for you, but you can also go too far. I try to stop short of just mindlessly doing language practice. Because let’s be honest if you aren’t focused on the task, you are really aren’t doing yourself any benefits. Recently, I’ve been feeling that I’m starting to border on the way too much territory. Of course, having a vacation on my horizon didn’t really help me any.

But, as I have said before, motivation is pretty much the only thing you need to be successful with language learning. So, if you feel like you have reached the edges of burnout, it is good to take a step back and take a little mental vacation before you lose it completely. I think some people might think I’m pretty lazy with my studies, but I think if you purposefully use your time to take a break when you need it, you can focus a lot more and get a lot more done with your time when you are ‘on’.

I’ve been flirting with doing more and more meditation lately, and I feel like putting in the 5 minutes or so a day to refocus has started to really pay off. It’s not that there is this sudden change, but an overall better ability to get stuff down and feel good doing it. Meditation can really help stop burn out from anything I think as long as you stick with it.

Stop and look around

It’s now the beginning of September and we are about 3 months away from the December JLPT (Dec 6th). It’s a good time to look around and take stock of where you are in terms of preparing for whatever level you want to take. If you are behind, you are going to have to put your head down and hold your breath to get through to the end. If you have been burning the candle at both ends, it is a great time to take a short break before you burn yourself out in this final stretch.

I personally recommend giving yourself a little holiday before the main event. I wouldn’t recommend dropping all your studies at once, though. Keep up the habit of doing your vocabulary and your drill books, just might want to tone it down a bit and take some time out of your day to just relax a little and clear your mind. Taking the time now will definitely pay off when you start doing the serious studying.

If you haven’t started, now is when you should start drafting a plan. Lay out what you want to get it done. Set some manageable goals for yourself to hit over the next few months heading into the test. What books do you want to finish? How many more words are you going to go through in that time? Be sure to leave yourself some wiggle room for a final reviewing and reinforcing session at the end of it all.

Test or Not to Test

Every test, I tend to get a lot of questions about whether I’ll take the test or not. I definitely want to make another attempt, but there are a lot of things that are holding me back. I have a pretty clear idea of what I need to do and what I need to work on to get to the point that I need to be to pass, but I just can’t make the time commitment to do it.

I’ve bit off more than I can chew with the site to be honest. It has exploded with traffic and I love helping people with the test and just enjoying Japanese. I love hearing from my readers (sorry, I don’t reply to everyone, but I do try to reply to as many as I can). It’s great hearing from such a lively community and getting feedback on what is and is not working. I’ve learned a lot about effective studying and I’ve been trying to share it as much I can.

I’m also getting significantly more real world practice, and I have been learning about the differences between standard language and jargon and kansai-ben. That has been a great amount of practice for me and I love it.

I’ve always tried to make the point that N1 isn’t actually necessary to get a job or achieve your dreams of being a good speaker of Japanese. Getting N2 is arguably useful and should be something to strive for if you want to be a good speaker, but N1 is kind of like icing on the cake. Icing is totally awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t necessary.

I actually know a good number of translators and other people working with Japanese every day that stopped at the N2 level, and don’t seem to be bothered by it. Now, of course, being a guy that blogs about the JLPT, I get steady pressure to take the test, and that is why I started the blog in the first place – so that I would have something/someone to push me to pass. And I will pass it someday, just maybe not this time.

How about you?

How are your JLPT plans coming along? Are you right on track? If you need some advice, check out Month 9 of the JLPT study guide for some tips on what to do now to be ready for the December test. Let me know in the comments if you have questions.

Photo by Yuki Yaginuma

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • OkeyaRyu September 23, 2015, 10:45 am

    Hello there Mac,

    Thank you for the article. Indeed as of this month I have already started feeling the heaviness of the next JLPT exam in December. I’m going for N2 and my studying is pretty much on schedule. I have went through the kanzen master kanji, vocab, grammar and 150 pages of the reading book thus far. I hope I can wrap the latter up in a week, then take care of the listening book. I’m recording all the new words in Anki in a special deck as I go as I already memorised all the Tanos N5-N4-N3-N2 decks (although they don’t seem to be enough given the amount of unknown words I’ve encountered in the Kanzen Master reading book). I will hope to finish all the textbooks by the end of October so that I can spend November focusing solely on practice tests and on patching up my knowledge gaps. Nonetheless I am not very confident that I will pass N2, since I’ve only started studying Japanese a year ago, passed N4 (barely.. with 113 points) last December and N3 (just on the edge with 98 points) in July, I still don’t know how I managed to do all of these while also having a full time job, not being in Japan (I live in London) and maintaining a social and active lifestyle as well. I decided for this December’s N2 to switch my strategy up a bit and allow a full month of practice tests since I felt like for my previous exams (n4 and n3) I did not allocate enough time for actually learning how to take the test and I felt like this really impacted my score.

    • Clayton MacKnight September 24, 2015, 12:36 am

      Sounds like a great strategy. I think for N2, you need to do a lot of reading in order to naturally soak up the vocabulary and its usage. The more native material you can get a hold of the better, something that interests you. The vocabulary for N2 and N1 gets pretty funky. There are not lists that can prepare you for it. They can give you a good background, but you really need to read a lot to fill in the holes. Good luck!

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