Hey guys, Yannick here.
Seeing as I have a bit more free time than usual this summer, besides my job hunt, soon it will come full circle to return to studying for the Japanese N2. Now the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test/ 日本語能力試験）is a test which is used as a certificate to dictate what level of Japanese one can speak as a foreigner, so I don’t think Japanese citizens can take this test (Correct me if I am wrong). However, this test is also required for some positions to work in Japan. For some jobs the N2 level or above is required, and for the most rigorous Japanese jobs N1 would be a minimum. There are 5 levels, N5 to N1, lowest to highest respectively.
Now this test’s difficulty is extremely different dependent on the person as well as your previous background. Here, I’m going to break down the 2 sections based on my previous experience and what I can predict is most likely to be difficult.
Grammar and Reading
So if you’re anything like me this section (1 of the 2) is the WORST section in the world. It’s like trying to sing an Adele song with bronchitis and simultaneously play the drums. This is my opinion, but there are 3 main struggles which I encounter in this section.
- KANJI. WHO MADE THIS :(. Sure it is super useful once you know it, however when you’re learning them it is the most painful experience of your intellectually challenging life. Not to mention you can forget them easier then that phone call for your mom from an hour ago. Finally, they don’t even give you a list of Kanji that are going to be on the exam because you should be well-versed in Japanese.
- Syntax. It’s definitely an advantage if you’ve studied an Asian language previously, firstly you would know the previous Kanji if you know Chinese. Furthermore, if you studied Korean the grammatical components are quite similar so it soothes the learning process. So, when you think the sentence sounds grammatically correct to you in English, the expression “That’s not how a Japanese would say it,” is extremely appropriate, and YES you have to know the difference to get the question right.
- Reading. Illiteracy is a tragedy, except when it comes to Japanese language (Ironically, Japan has a 99% literacy rate – My Japanese teacher would kill me if I didn’t do that). As a foreigner, you might start to notice that the Japanese language passages have very different meanings and styles compared to your old English grade 5 tests. So that’s something that takes adjusting to, for example why Japanese people ask each other how’s the weather today? It can start to have you second guess yourself because maybe you read the sentence wrong, but hey who knows Japanese people could do that couldn’t they? Reading is hard :(.
In case you didn’t survive the first section of the test and have lost the will to carry on, PICK yourself up off the floor and get ready for the final 2nd round. Now the listening portion of the test is simpler in my opinion; but, I watched a lot of anime, dramas and ladadi ladada stuff which helped improve my listening and I took 4 years of Japanese where speaking was necessary. Nevertheless, listening to anime can only take you so far. You have to know formal language such as Keigo (no one likes this) and casual language, while knowing the difference in between the two. Though this section is not bad and easily passable.
So, as my expectations and predictions of the N2 based on the N3 have come for me to write this post I would like to say one thing to everyone. This is just another test. The JLPT is as difficult as you make it and requires practice and willpower. Sure, it’s a pain having to purchase all these study booklets once again and having to sit down and study. Though, I’ve discovered over my university career that going to Japan and perhaps working there for a while fulfills me and if that’s my goal for now. That’s where I want to be and this test is just like any other, which is a stepping stool to my happiness and future.
Good luck to everyone taking the JLPT this December or July and if you have any blogs about study tips for the N2, or useful resources such as practice books. Please let me know!