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JLPT Dec 2013: Reflections and resolutions December 2, 2013

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal.
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行きましょう #JLPT

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I sat N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) yesterday. It’s the first test I’ve done in the new format. The last time I did it was passing the old 3kyu 5 years ago, back in the dark ages when there were just 4 levels and the test was just once a year.

A lot of things have changed since then – we now, thankfully, get to take the test twice a year and there is now a new intermediate test level bridging the chasm that used to sit between 3kyu and 2kyu. Still, some things never change: the whole thing still takes 5 hours – at least an hour longer than necessary – due to endless amounts of unnecessary faffing caused by Japanese bureaucracy. Why we have to rigidly be in our seats at the start only to then sit for 25 minutes staring into space is beyond me.

It was nice to get back into the swing of things though, and having a test to aim for certainly sharpened my focus over the last year of study, particularly these last 2 months.

So how did the test itself go? In all honesty, I’m disappointed at my performance. Devastated even. (more…)

Home-cooked okonomiyaki January 18, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Food, Japan.
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My very own okonomiyaki!

My very own okonomiyaki!

Okonomiyaki is my favourite Japanese food, ever since I visited the okonomiyaki tower in Hiroshima back in 2003. One of the first restaurants I ever went to in Japan was a tiny do-it-yourself place in a small alley in Kyoto’s Kawaramachi, where myself and a random German couple tried to work out what on earth we were supposed to do. And one of my favourite restaurants in London is the okonomiyaki restaurant Abeno, even though it is ridiculously expensive for what it is. >_<

Over Christmas, a couple of friends visiting from Japan gave me the gift of an okonomiyaki ingredients set: okonomiyaki flour mix, okonomiyaki sauce and katsuobushi. So today I decided to try using them. (more…)

Learning Japanese December 4, 2008

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal.
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I had my final Japanese lesson of term this evening. We’re now up to lesson 47 of Minna no Nihongo II and had a test on the kanji from lesson 34 of the blue Basic Kanji book Vol.2.

It’s been a good term overall and definitely good to get back in the saddle after six months out. I do regret somewhat the gap, though I really was flagging badly back in March. I’ve had to redo Term 2 at SOAS this term to catch up again, but that’s no bad thing considering I didn’t really take in much between January and March!

I was really surprised at how much I lost in the downtime. Simple vocabulary and, most distressingly, kanji just fell out of my head. The other week I couldn’t remember the kanji for 車 and got 車 and 東 mixed up. >_< I also forgot the word for black (黒い). It’s true, with languages you use it or lose it.

I’ve been studying nihongo for four years on and off. The last break I took was two years ago when I stopped lessons to concentrate on my MSc. However, half that year I spent cramming for the JLPT and still watching a hefty bit of anime and dorama, so I kept up some practice. I guess it got really bad in March when I was totally exhausted from other parts of my life and stopped doing all those things. I was even questioning my whole love of all things Japanese. How could I? T_T

I tend to keep up my knowledge through regular lessons, conversation clubs (at various times I try and get to three different meet ups in London), JapanesePod101 podcasts, and my daily doses of anime, dorama and Jpop ^^; I also have  bunch of kanji programmes on my iPod Touch, which are good for random practice whilst waiting for the bus/train, but I use them so rarely I wonder if I was just procrastinating by downloading when I should have been studying. ^^;

I can’t say I really apply all my newfound grammatical knowledge. For instance, I often forget to use things like 〜とか and 〜し. Tonight we learnt all about 〜そうです and 〜ようです to say when things look/seem like X to you. These are really useful grammar to know, but I tend to forget to make use of them when I’m speaking Japanese with someone and just speak in simple broken sentences >_<

Having said that, I do notice the grammar when watching anime/dorama, which I enjoy. It’s great to get that extra level of understaning, particularly of teinei, which adds to the context of the story. Moreover, when I think about it, I am amazed at how far I’ve come. Four years ago I knew nothing of Japanese. Now I can read hiragana and katakana without thinking and can easily conjugate (admittedly far from perfect) sentences in a general conversation.

I read a blog post that reminds students not to lose their reason for learning in the first place and to stop  obsessing over levels and measures of ability. Certainly I wouldn’t want to rest on my laurels, content with only a little advance, but the little progress made shouldn’t be sniffed at. It’s something to be proud of. That and the 3kyu JLPT certificate I have hanging at home. ^^

Of course, it’s a long long way from 2kyu and any kind of fluency. I doubt I’ll ever be fluent without actually living in Japan (something I may still do sometime). But when people ask me why I’m learning Japanese, I still state my original aim: to deepen my understanding and enjoyment of Japanese media — particularly watching stuff without subtitles! And it still applies today.