Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Plan for Studying for Level N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test

It's been a while since I last made a blog post.  A lot has been going on, both in the world and also in my personal life, but I thought I'd share my plans for studying for Level N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which will be held on Sunday, December 4, 2022 provided that the pandemic won't worsen around that time.

I've been studying Japanese on-and-off for over 22 years, ever since I was a fifth grader.  In high school I attended a Saturday Japanese language school called Sakura Gakuen in Sacramento, and after graduating from Cal Poly with my bachelor's degree, I moved to Japan for eight months to intern at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. in Kawasaki.  Living in Japan was one of the greatest experiences in my life.  My Japanese skills improved dramatically while I was in Japan.  Unfortunately my Japanese skills laid stagnant since returning to America due to the demands of graduate school and other things happening in my personal life.  While my Japanese didn't worsen thanks to subsequent vacations to Japan as well as watching Japanese dramas and listening to Japanese music, my Japanese didn't dramatically improve.  I attempted Level N4 of the JLPT back in December 2012.  While I did very well on the vocabulary section (I credit that to spending over a year studying the Core 6000 Japanese vocabulary deck via Anki), and while I passed each individual section, I did not meet the overall passing bar for the exam; it was the listening section that was the most difficult for me and where I scored the lowest.

Recently I've been getting serious about studying Japanese again for personal and career reasons.  I've dreamed of becoming fluent in Japanese for over 20 years, and I want to put in the hard work to fulfill this dream.  Back in October I started taking a free Japanese course hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church.  The church offers Japanese classes at various levels and are taught by skilled Japanese teachers who are also native speakers.  I am currently taking the highest level offered, which uses Genki II as the textbook and meets every other week (due to the COVID-19 pandemic our courses were held online via Zoom).  The classes are at a gentle pace; there are no homework assignments or exams.  This fit well with my lifestyle, since at the time I started the class I was teaching a course on programming languages at San Jose State University.  The teacher is very friendly, and I enjoy interacting with her and the other students; since there are less than ten of us we're able to get individual attention during each biweekly lesson.

Since the school year at Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church is ending and there's no summer instruction, I've thought about my next steps.  I want to take Level N3 of the JLPT.  My goal is to become fluent in Japanese, and part of this goal includes taking Level N1, the most advanced level, of the JLPT, which I want to take in either 2024 or 2025.  Since I have until December 4 to prepare for the N3 exam, and since my current textbook (Genki II) only covers JLPT N4 material, I'm going to need to increase the intensity of my studies.  However, I have more free time this year; I don't plan to teach during the rest of 2022.  Therefore I will be using some of my free time to prepare for level N3 of the JLPT.

Below is my plan:

  1. Finish Genki II, which covers the material needed to pass JLPT N4.  I should be able to finish this textbook no later than mid-July.
  2. Complete the entirety of Tobira, an intermediate-level textbook that is said to cover JLPT N3 material according to various online forums.  I plan to finish this textbook no later than the end of October.
  3. Beginning in September, begin taking practice JLPT N3 exams, making sure to brush up on weak points after each attempt.
  4. Throughout the next eight months I will be spending more time building my listening comprehension skills in Japanese.  I plan to do so by watching more Japanese dramas and movies, as well as using Japanese in conversation more.
  5. I am also studying the Mangajin series, which can be found here.  I recently saw a Hacker News post recommending the series.

I'm looking forward to making more progress with my Japanese studies and climbing each JLPT step until I make it to Level N1.  I'm glad I finally have the time again to take my Japanese studies seriously.

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