Remember the Mervyn’s commercials from (what seems like) eons ago with the woman standing in front of the sliding glass doors chanting “open open open open”? That was me this morning waiting for the clock to click over to 10am PST when registration for the JLPT began. That just seems so weird to me. I was eagerly awaiting shelling out $50 to take a test that really doesn’t get me anything. Who does that?

Obviously I do. In a few years and a few levels, the JLPT might be useful. Theoretically I could use the certificate to find gainful employment or entrance into a university. I doubt I will, but life is strange. You never know where it takes you.

I took the N5 last December. It scared the hell out of me. Even though I studied and studied, my individual efforts greatly outpaced my classroom studies and it seems like there were vast chasms in my knowledge. I was sure I failed the test, but in April—four months after taking the test—my certificate arrived and I had passed.

This year I’m registered for the N4. And I’ve been working towards it inch by inch, step by step, since December. My Japanese class seems to finally be picking up its pace and we’re actually covering some grammar points that will be on the N4. It’s sad that when on practice tests I see super polite phrases I know the exact response, casual grammar not so much.

I started taking the practice test from Fast-Track JLPT N4 Practice Exercises (Tanki Master). I did very well on the vocabulary section. Thanks to iknow! and my religious use of anki and Nihongo Challenge for JLPT N4 Preparation: Vocabulary I’m not worried about vocabulary much. I would be lying if I said I was not worried at all. I always worry a little. It’s what I’m good at. Plus words like to fly out of my head right when I need them the most!

I also did the grammar practice section, which is the language version of playing Operation. Minuscule mistakes cause that horrible buzzer to sound… I didn’t fare nearly as well on grammar. But then again, I know that’s my weak point. It wasn’t a train wreck. I actually got every single sentential (scrambled) sentence right. That surprised me. Last year when I tried to put those in the proper order eenie meenie miney mo was as good a method as any, because I didn’t have a good grasp on sentence structure. And at least having taken the practice test I get an idea of what still needs work. I still have just under three months to prepare for the test, and it takes a while for grammar bits to settle in my thick skull.

I still need to try the practice reading and listening sections. Reading section is a crap shoot. Either it’s really easy or I have no idea what’s going on. I need to finish muddling through my Nihongo Challenge for JLPT N4 Preparation: Grammar & Reading Practice. I was waiting to finish the reading practice until I had assimilated more of the grammar, but I think it’s now or never.

The Listening section scares the hell out of me. I hate it because it’s a one shot. If someone sneezes or rustles a paper and you miss one word you could be screwed. If you miss the question, you’re screwed. I have been doing the exercises in Mimi kara Oboeru: Mastering “Listening” through Auditory Learning – New JLPT N4 and it has done nothing to quell my fear of the listening section. It may have even made me more anxious! Many of the dialogues are (to me) very informal. My ears aren’t used to really casual speech and it takes me a bit to process it. And I’ve also had to add several words to my flashcard deck. I knew onomatopoeia would bite me in the ass (and there’s probably a sound for it too!).

And yet, all this anxiety about the test excites me. It motivates me. It gives me something to work for. I like having a goal regarding learning Japanese. No, I can’t read a newspaper yet (and may never be able to), but I can see where I’ve come since I took the N5 last year. And I can see the steps I need to take to get me to pass the N4 come December. And then I have a whole year to stress about what I need to do to pass the N3. I wish we did have the July test in the US because I think I might study a little more diligently and try for 6 month intervals between levels as opposed to year intervals. But tests twice a year would mean failing wouldn’t be quite as much of a setback. As it is, failure is not an option.


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