OT: Rant about JP Test/Classes

Tonight I should be starting up a new Japanese class. Should because the class I am supposed to take (intermediate 6) has been cancelled. Again. This is the second quarter in a row it’s been cancelled. Last quarter my husband and I ended up taking Reading 3 and Kanji instead. That’s the class I got 100% on the final. It was too easy for me because for the last 4 years or so I’ve practiced kanji pretty much every. single. day. And I’d already gone through the book they use for the class on my own.

The only other option I have is to retake that class. Take a lower class (where I may die of boredom), or try and test into a practical communication class that I don’t think I’m ready for. I have no idea what the test looks like or what it even tests. Part of me wants to try to test into the class just for the hell of it. I like a challenge. But I don’t know if my husband could test into it as well (he’s not quite as dedicated in his studies as I am).

With a normal couple this might not be an issue. I could drive myself and he could stay home and play LOL to his heart’s content. But I don’t have a car (though I do have a license. Come on Lottery!) and San Francisco is roughly 30 miles north of where I live. There’s no good way to get into the city from the coast without one that I know of.

But part of me doesn’t want to test into the class right now because I am completely freaking out about the JLPT. To be fair, I have completely freaked out about it around this time for the last two years. For those not in the know, the JLPT is the “Japanese Language Proficiency Test.” It’s a big test that’s only held once a year in the United States—twice a year in some other parts of the world. There are 5 levels of the test. N5 being easiest all the way down to N1 being the hardest. I’m registered for the N3 this year having passed the N4 last year and the N5 the year before. I’ve been using it as a measurable goal to shoot for each year.

The classes I’ve been taking have been helping to clarify points that are on the tests, though they’re not specifically designed for the test. The school does have one class specifically to help one study for the JLPT, but it’s designed for the N2 (one test level higher than what I’m taking). I cheat and look at people’s grades for that class. They’re never good. And almost never passing. One person was studying for the N2 in our last class. He tried that N2 class and gave up on it. So, even though I’ve dreamed of getting to the level where I could take that class (am I a nerd or what?), I’m not there yet and I’m in a bit of a pickle study-wise.

I haven’t taken a class that introduced new grammar since last March. I have all sorts of books for the N3. I have three different books for grammar alone—arguably my hardest part of the test. Which I should probably mention covers:

  • kanji – easy. not worried
  • vocabulary – I’ve mostly got the vocab down with a few hiccups
  • grammar – terrified. doom doom doooooomed!
  • reading – I should have this down, but I really suck at conjunctions.
  • listening – hit or miss. Has gotten easier since our last class was taught entirely in Japanese

So I’m trying to learn grammar from books alone without a class or someone telling me in what situations you actually use the piece of grammar and what it actually means since the Engrishy translations in books are weird with things like:

Used when an outcome arises naturally from a given set of circumstances, or to indicate acceptance of a fact in light of a certain set of circumstances.

Now maybe that would make sense if someone expounded on it. But all I have are 3-5 example sentences to go on—and did I mention that at this level of the test they don’t give you English translations of the sentences. So if what they’re getting at is a little sketchy it’s just you and google translate trying to figure out what’s going on and that’s not pretty let me tell you.

From these untranslated sentences I’m supposed to instantly understand how and where to use that piece of grammar. It doesn’t work quite like that in my experience. A) I forget it instantly. B) I get it confused. C) I cry. Not really, but I want to. So I hysterically make flashcards and study them hoping to drill these little nuggets into my brain. But I am so sick of making flash cards. I have been making flash cards for four years now. I have thousands and thousands of flash cards. And it feels a little better just to say that.

Now that I look through the grammar book that I am turning into flash cards. It looks like I’m over half way done with it. Which means there may be some very murky light at the end of the tunnel. But the test is on December 1st. That’s so not enough time for my old brain to get comfortable with new tricks.

Maybe I need a tutor? Or to just stop worrying about what I know and don’t know and keep chugging. If I don’t pass this test I can retry the following year. It really doesn’t matter if I pass or not. I take the test for “fun.” Nothing is riding on it except the $50 it costs and my incredibly fragile self esteem. I should probably also mention that another reason why I’m freaking out is that the school my husband and I attend only goes up to intermediate 6. So I’ve pretty much learned as much as they can teach me unless I really can test into the practical communication class or the reading comprehension class (which isn’t offered this quarter). Which makes my 5 year plan to N1 most likely an impossibility unless we move to Japan (would love to!) or they come out with affordable neural implants in the next couple of years.

And now I’m all ranted out. So I’m gonna go make more flashcards.

新完全マスター

Status

I officially started my JLPT N3 Kanzen Master listening book. I had hoped to do it closer to December (and the next test), but my current Japanese class has listening sections on the final exam. They’re going to be using N2 listening on the test.The previous class used N4 listening on the test. They’re jumping two levels for some ungodly reason. I have until the mid/end of March to somehow get myself up to N2 level listening proficiency. I think I’m doomed.

漢字の本が終わるところ


37 new cards and 4 new kanji until I’ve completed Basic Kanji Book Vol. 2. I was reluctant to use this book (and its counterpart Vol. 1) to learn kanji because they’re old (published in 1989!) and not very flashy (not to mention expensive and somewhat hard to find).

I’m glad I put aside my dislike of its boring cover and set to mastering its contents. With an average of four examples per kanji, the book helped me to get a firm grasp on the “on” and “kun” readings.

I find now that with new pairings, I can often read them even if I’ve never seen them before. Although I may not know what they mean I can at least look them up more easily. 😉

Last weekend I found the next book Intermediate Kanji Book 漢字1000+ Vol. 1 at Kinokuniya in San Jose for 50% off, so I snatched it up. And after having glanced through it I’m afraid to start it. It’s almost entirely in Japanese (which should be a plus, but scares me of course), and gone are the familiarities from Vol. 1 and 2 of the first books: the squares in which to write new kanji and compounds, the sentences to write in the kanji from hiragana, the cultural blurbs and street signs. This book looks like it means business.

There’s a part of me that says “bring it on!” and another part that says “am I ready for this? maybe I should wait…” I may take a week or two off in between books. I’ve earned a brief respite in adding new kanji to my repertoire. And I should be studying more for the JLPT. I’ve already learned all the kanji for it. That’s the only section I am completely confident about.

Speaking of the JLPT, I have found that the bits that confuse me the most are the weird passives “So and so #1 was made to do such and such by so and so #2”, and its counterpart “so and so #2 made so and so #1 do such and such” and any time I have to pick a conjunction. I cannot remember the differences between それで、それに、すると etc. to save my soul. And I haven’t found a good book with examples and practice either. Anyone know if one exists? 助けてくれませんか?