At the eikaiwa I work at, students always ask me why I like Japanese. I give them the usual polite load of crap about how it affords me the opportunity to better understand the Japanese culture, blah blah blah. The real answer? I’m not even sure I like it. I mean, let’s be honest. Is there a more brutally efficient self-esteem crusher out there? I don’t know about you, but Japanese can make me go from feeling like a fairly intelligent adult to feeling like an absolute moron in a matter of nanoseconds.
Hell, even the doubtful looks on my students’ faces show me they’re questioning the wisdom of learning Japanese. I mean, just bring up keigo to a college student and you’ll see a pained look cross their face. They think their language sucks, and they’re native speakers.
But let me back up a second and explain how I ended up creating this JLPT prep site.
I studied Japanese in college, and despite the hours I poured into learning the language I ultimately became one of the countless numbers of Japanese majors who graduated not being able to say anything more complex than a basic self-introduction. I even did a year abroad in Kyoto, but made little progress until I began skipping class and started hiding out in the band club room. That was my first hint that textbooks, teachers and living in country were not necessarily the keys to fluency.
After graduating, I was completely frustrated and ditched my dreams of becoming a translator and moved on to other things. Over the next 10 years, I quickly forgot the little bit of Japanese I had managed to learn in the first place.
So why am I back here in the country I swore never to come back to and studying the language I said sayonara to?
Simply put, Japanese is that asshole boyfriend that I keep running back to. No matter how many times I say I’ve had enough of the crap, I keep coming back for more.
At least this time I decided to be smarter about it. I started researching learning techniques. I tried some of the methods out there, cherry picking what worked for me, modifying what didn’t.
And now, after living in Japan for two years, I feel like I’m at the point where I have no choice but to tackle the one thing I’ve done my best to avoid – the JLPT. I know there are people working as translators who haven’t passed the JLPT, but I don’t like the idea of missing out on opportunities just because I haven’t passed some silly test. So I’m going to prepare for the JLPT, but I’m going to do it my way. I’m not simply going to memorize test prep books – my goal is to head into the N1 next December (assuming I actually remember to register this time) with an actual ability to not only understand the language, but to use it. Along the way I’ll be posting some of the resources I come across. Hopefully as I work through them I can help you guys out too. I mean, come on, I know you’re all dying to know the 20 different meanings of ‘こと’ or the 30 different meanings of ‘もの’.
Because there is no one size fits all method of language study, I’ve coerced two good friends into work on this blog with me. Though our overall philosophy towards JLTP prep is similar, you’ll notice some distinct differences in the way we create our personal study plans. And although we’re going to make this as fun as possible, we will be touching on things like grammar. Why? Because this is a test prep blog. It’s unavoidable, so please, just suck it up. If you’re easily offended, that’s ok. Just go to our resource page and check out some of the other books and websites we recommend so you can find some other tools to help you out.
We’re not making this blog because we feel like we have all of the answers. Our approach to learning is constantly evolving. After all, consistent progress should uncover brand new weaknesses and challenges, right?
So enough about me. Let’s learn about some ways to make the JLPT your bitch.
- Rachel: The Anki Whisperer
- Jessica: The Guinea Pig