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Study for the JLPT
Manga-assisted Japanese Study
First time JLPT-er! 
11th-Oct-2010 11:46 pm
uruha passion

I have been on and off studying Japanese for 4-5years now but at a very slow rate, sometimes going months not learning anything new.
Recently I decided to make something of this, so I have signed up for the new bottom level JLPT N5.
I am taking it this December in London.
Please give me some advice for a first timer, anything is useful!

Before signing up for it, I kinda presumed I would know about 90% of it and just revising a bit and I would be away.

I started looking at old JLPT4 papers and some books and am panicking!

I know the meaning and reading of the majority of the 100 or so Kanji, and find the grammar to be really simple, however the vocab I know and the vocab in the JLPT guides do not align well at all.

I have always been slow at picking up new vocab, and some sites seem to try teach you it all as the Kanji, others as the hiragana and I am confused how it will appear in the exam and which is best to know. I am talking about the 800or so words listed as vocabulary for this level.
The only vocab I know that seems to stick, is that which I learn in a random way or "accidentally" hear a lot in music or anime or use randomly around friends who only speak English because I like the word. I often try to reconstruct something I have just said in English into baby Japanese, but because I don't often check it with anyone better than myself I tend to just presume the random sentence I made up is fine. When I use lang 8 or similar I always get so many corrections it makes me think I really suck!

Any tips on what to expect for a firs timer, how to stop panicking and how to cram all the random words that might show up?

Also why is the listening so very difficult? I can't explain how I just hear it, but understand it far too slow to answer the questions so need to listen to it back about 4times, but I know I only get one shot.

Scared I am going to fail and waste a lot of money on a stay in London now =(

I use random Japanese study books, try immerse myself with bits of Japanese tv/drama/anime/music quite often, do onlien past tests, use anki, mykikitori.com, smart.fm etc a little, but after so much I just get frustrated and more and more want to do non Japanese related things, as it is I have done no proper study in over a week!

Thanks =)
11th-Oct-2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
Scared I am going to fail and waste a lot of money>

So save your money and study until you feel like taking it.

I crammed for it for half a year after 3 years of Japanese in College in the US and passed JLPT1.
11th-Oct-2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
PS, you may want to look into the kanzen master question book series and a program called Anki
12th-Oct-2010 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks I have seen the kanzen master about but couldn't find any for N5, also I use anki sometimes but find it very dry so my mind wanders, I use it more on my mobile when out and about.
12th-Oct-2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
You may want to go with paper cards then... I was also not a fan of anki at first. Therefore I made cards to carry around with me to review (such as when I'm standing in line for groceries or waiting for food to cook).

JLPT 4Q: http://skimlines.deviantart.com/art/JLPT-level-4-Vocabulary-Cards-129859134
JLPT 3Q: http://skimlines.deviantart.com/art/JLPT-Level-3-Vocabulary-Cards-132460903?q=gallery%3Askimlines%2F4315088&qo=23
12th-Oct-2010 12:23 am (UTC)
I have already paid for the test and travel arrangements..

(Deleted comment)
12th-Oct-2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
They were your run of the mill classes, pretty much. We mostly used the genki books.

I was mostly home during the six months. Every day I crammed for 4-8 hours (writing and reading vocab over and over, reading and watching news, taking practice tests 1-2 times a week, totally obsessing over the contents of the kanzen books for 1 and 2.)

Growing up I had watched a lot of subbed anime, so my listening was very good. The vocab (read: kanji) destroyed me though. I only passed with a 75%.
11th-Oct-2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
I second the recommendation for kanzen master (the unicom books are also very good -- maybe better for N5/old 4kyuu, as I don't think kanzen master has many books for that level). You may want to take another look at your flashcards and isolate the ones that will actually be useful to you on the test -- you can catch up with any others afterward.

Words will generally not appear spelled with kanji unless the kanji is required for the level, so you can mostly study your words with hiragana unless the kanji are L5.

Anki should work if you do it regularly (skipping for a week is not a good idea, but of course you knew that!). If you are repeatedly missing words in anki, try to decide why those words are hard for you. Do you repeatedly confuse two words that look/sound alike? Does the definition not make any sense to you? Have you ever heard the word used in a sentence? Check to see if you can add more context or an example to make the word clearer.

Listening is just plain tough. I suck at it, personally. Besides listening to whatever Japanese is handy, it can help to try to develop an ear for the way they ask questions -- some of the patterns are highly predictable.

Good luck!
12th-Oct-2010 12:27 am (UTC)
Thanks I have got the Unicom book for N5, it is one I find the most difficult/scary so I guess this is a good sign in that it will over prepare me.

I will try adding context or example sentences to words I keep failing to recognise, that seems a good idea :)

Glad to hear I am not alone with finding listening difficult. I did a few example questions in a row and did notice rapid improvement as I noticed the pattern, so hoping a few more and I will feel more confident.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Oct-2010 12:29 am (UTC)
Have you got a reference link for the 60% to pass mark? Or are you otherwise very sure it is this low?
I read somewhere they have made the test easier, the listening worth more % and the pass barrier higher. The official n5 test on the Japanese JLPT site is about 10x easier than any past 4kyuu papers I have ever seen, but I cannot find solid information on what the pass % is for this year.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Oct-2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot for that, sounds like you really know your stuff =)
12th-Oct-2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh man, if I'd known that, I might have signed up to take N1 under the new system! (I passed 1kyuu last year, but I'm curious about the new format.) I decided against it b/c I figured there was no way in hell I could hit 70% passing on the listening section (I generally get 40-50% in that area, and made up for it by doing well in the other parts).

Ah well, there's always next year.
15th-Oct-2010 03:04 am (UTC) - wasting a lot of money
Taking the n5 is a waste of money whether you pass or fail. The n5 tests only the most remedial level of Japanese so it really proves nothing except that you are a total beginner at the language. I wouldn't recommend spending any money on taking this level. You would be far better off just continuing to study until you are ready for either the n3 or n2.

Many forums won't allow it to be said that the n4 and n5 are a waste of money. But that is because those forums are owned by someone who is making money off of selling jlpt materials to beginners. (jlpt study page for example will ban anyone who makes a strong argument against the lower levels...Not coincidentally, the jlpt study page also has many links to white rabbit and any other place where they can get a commission from a sale generated by a user linking from their page.)

I don't think you should use the jlpt as inspiration to study. Find a way to be inspired to study and then when you are at an intermediate level, take the jlpt if you want to get employment that is contingent on proving an intermediate level of competence.

At your level, learning Japanese shouldn't be work. It should be fun. When I was at your stage, I didn't "study." I did things I liked and suddenly one day realized that I could understand a lot of Japanese. At that point, I wanted to study certain things more directly like grammar and kanji. Now it seems like some work instead of all fun but I am so far in that the work doesn't discourage me. But I think that for a beginner, to have learning be work is a little discouraging.

Do activities that are fun for you whatever that is. If it is fun you will do it more. As a beginner, advancing is really more about time on task or the hours that you put in than anything else. When you get to be more intermediate, you really need formal or more directed study to specifically learn the readings for kanji and certain grammar points. But as a beginner, you just need to spend many hours hearing Japanese or playing games or whatever. It doesn't matter what you do as a beginner. It just matters that you do a lot of it. By a lot, I mean hours a day. You won't do that if it is work probably. Who wants to spend hours a day working voluntarily? But hours a day playing is a different matter. Find something fun that you love to do that allows you contact with Japanese and then do it a lot. You will find you are a high beginner in no time.

Sorry this was so long. In summary, I think it is a big mistake for beginners to take the jlpt or to let the jlpt drive your learning. You have absolutely nothing to gain by taking the lower levels. And using it as a goal gives you a mind set that Japanese is something that you study and memorize. It shouldn't be at your level. It should be something that you do as a lifestyle because you love it or enjoy it. Later, once you have a fair degree of competence, you can add studying as part of your Japanese approach.

When you think of learning Japanese as work or time you have to set aside to study so you can pass a test, of course you are going to limit how much you do it. If it is play and fun, then it will be hard not to spend time on it. Having a test mindset is automatically going to doom you to not achieve as much as you could unless of course you are someone who absolutely loves taking tests and considers them fun. There are people like that. But if you aren't one of them then don't hang that over your head as motivation.
15th-Oct-2010 09:28 pm (UTC) - Re: wasting a lot of money
I answered a question similar to this on a forum the other day.
It was pretty mean as it was a retaliation to someone expressing similar ideas to your own but in a much harsher, more insulting way.
So I don't want to repost it here but I will summarise.

I want to take it and pass it, and as with anyone else it is my money and the worth is what I get from it, even if to those ahead of me it seems insignificant. I compare it to people who take a once a week night class in French or Spanish so they can say pleasantries on holiday and have a nice certificate not recognised by any authority, but have no desire to make it a full time study project, or attain any level of true proficiency.

I am not sure I ever want to take the higher levels, but I do want something to show for the more-than-nothing I do know.

For this reason it is not worthless to me.

I don't think it is going to proove anything to anyone else, nor help me get any kind of job or placement, I am not naiive, I just want a certificate to show something for all my years of half-baked study of the language.

I do not want to spend a lot of time learning it at a higher level, the amount of effort I put in at the moment is perfect for me and makes me happy, and I may keep on at this pace and in 2years try to N4, but who know's I am certainly not planning that far ahead.

Not everyone who is a beginner wants to one day become intermediate or advanced, or plans to know if they do or not, it usually is just a bit of fun for me, it is only stressy at the moment because now I have paid for the test I want to pass it and collating the bits I have randomly picked up over the years into a formal structure is a bit more work like. This is very short time though, and I see it as a worthwhile project.

Normally I advance, as you said by playing,but now because I want for myself to have that certification, I need to put something formal down as study time and concentrate on what it takes to pass the test in terms of specific points and vocab. Surrounding myself with random things will not equip me with the random words I need for the exam in time now, after the n5 I will go back to this.

I think there is space for people of all levels, however they want to motivate themselves, however they want to learn, what they want to spend their money on and however much or little they want to achieve.

If someone wants to learn seriously and one day get that N2 or N1 or live and work in Japan, then yeah the lower levels won't help, some beginners are happy always being a beginner with no qualification just knowing the odd word and it making them smile. Some of us want to be a beginner, with only casual time put to it but still have something to show for it.

It shouldn't be a struggle between the groups telling each other what has a point and what doesn't. I understand you are trying to help and don't want others to waste money and want to tell them the best way to learn in general, but everyone is different try looking at it from a slightly different perspective you may not have considered?
22nd-Oct-2010 09:10 am (UTC)
2 years ago, I did the JLPT 4 for the first time and I remember I also panicked a lot. *lol*

As the others members suggested, try to use flash cards or books focused on vocabulary. Oh, and making lots of past test also helps a lot, I swear! Try to do the exercises over and over again until you learn them well.

The listening is sometimes a bit tricky, so you'll have to be alert. If you listen to the audio files of the previous exams as much as possible. Maybe you'll need to listen to it 4 times, but you ear and your mind will eventually get used to it. My weak point was the listening part but in the end I scored 67%, which isn't great but it made me pass XD

And last but not least, don't worry too much, you'll probably do fine. JLPT4/N5 is more simple that it seems. I was very scared back then when I did it, but in the end I passed and the overall score was good. You still have time to learn all the vocabulary you need for this level and to practise your listening skills, so, go for it! ^^
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