Betterish Manifesto

How We’re Better(ish)

Endless row of JLPT prep books

Warning: Total suckage not to scale.

It’s no secret: JLPT prep books are tomes of obscure vocabulary, grammar, and sample passages that no one wants to read, let alone study from. “Boring” is an understatement. Boring means you aren’t going to study. Ever. And even if you do manage to study by forcing yourself, it is less likely to stick with you.

None of us actually *want* to take the JLPT (because we all have better things to do with $50 and two hours of our time, right?). However, it’s a necessary evil step towards “real” careers in Japan, and the money that goes along with them (since who wants to be on a teaching salary forever, eating rice in order to pay rent?). But there’s no need to martyr your free time in the name of test preparation.

We started this blog because we’ve found that there seem to be only two schools of thought on Internet Japanese learning – immerse and have fun and never study ever, or bombard yourself with hardcore grammar – with no realistic middle ground.

Here at Betterish, we’re convinced that you don’t have to immerse yourself in the events of Sumisu-san and Tanaka-san’s tedious textbook lives, so long as you’re careful to incorporate the right sources in an appropriate mix. So no, you don’t get to watch 300 episodes of Naruto and consider your studying done, but there’s no reason why anime, manga, drama, variety shows, and other fun stuff needs to be put away until after your studying is done. In fact, studying with the fun stuff even makes incomprehensible quirks in communication easier to understand, making the media you love more fulfilling and understandable. Win-win.

Not convinced? Krystal passed the N2 by studying the first Japanese Harry Potter book and a few Bleach and Death Note episodes!

It might sound like a juggling act between fun and work, and it is: you’ll still have to work. The work doesn’t have to be dreaded though. We’ll show you how to make it as painless as possible. Vocabulary, reading, listening – all of these skills can be leveled up by simply reading and watching the things you love in a smarter way

For example, all of us are proponents of spaced repetition, and are daily users of SRS.
And because we both do our best to spend as much time as possible with our decks, we make sure the material we learn from comes from books, manga, and TV shows that we all know and love.

But the giant pachyderm taking up residence in the proverbial room is grammar. You’ll be expected to know obscure grammar points on the JLPT. And the best place to gain exposure to them is with a good ole’ JLPT grammar prep book. And yes, it will probably be a little painful. But with our Anki hacks, you can learn more in a shorter amount of time so you can get back to what you love – whatever game, book, or TV show binge that’s calling your name.

One thing that we stress here at Betterish is to approach your learning with an open mind. Hell, we disagree all the time about the best way to go about test preparation and our studies, and we think that this is really for the best. But since our voices can’t represent all of the opinions about studying, we will have guest bloggers from different language levels to help us (and you!) out. Not every tip and resource we recommend will work for everyone, but at least give it a try before you decide it’s not for you.

At this point, we’re using this blog to document our processes, source materials, and progress as Krystal prepares for the N1 and Jessica prepares for the N4. We don’t expect to be experts on our first try, but hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and have a less traumatic testing experience, because there is nothing like watching another person’s painful missteps to know where not to tread.

Remember, our ultimate goal is not to get you to pass the test. To us, the JLPT is simply a formal recognition of the new skills that you’ve gained. What we want is for you to be able to use the language effectively. We’ve both learned what it means to have a college degree in Japanese and not be able to buy lunch without breaking out into a cold sweat just as much as we have someone on board with limited Japanese skills get by ordering food just fine. Because of this, even if you’re not taking the JLPT, our methods will be applicable for your own crusade for fluency.

So please enjoy the site, and feel free to chat with us anytime.

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