Sunday, 2 December 2007

日本語能力試験 JLPT Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Good Day everyone!

Today after weeks of martyrdom in insane learning mode, the day of the test finally arrived and the test is written and over. *ほっと* (a word from the test, which means relieved).

To be honest, I must admit that I like the ecstasy of learning hard for a test, finally writing it and the feeling afterwards. Always searching for new challenges, tests are good means. :)

桜美林大学 Obirin Univeristy in Machida (where the JLPT was held)

The JLPT consists of three/five parts:

1. 漢字 & 語彙 / Kanji & Vocabulary
2. 聴解 & Listening Comprehension
3. 読解 & 文法 / Reading Comprehension & Grammar

Part I: 漢字 語彙 Kanji Vocabulary

The first part tests you knowledge about Kanji and Composites (Kanji combinations). You get small sentences and have to find the correct reading, e.g.

途中 1 とうちゅう とちゅう 3 とじゅう 4 とじゅ

then the task is reversed and you get the spelling and must find the correct Kanji:

ふうふ: 1 婦夫 2 妻夫 3 夫婦 4 夫妻

But the first part also contains a general vocabulary test, where you have to choose a word with the correct meaning. E.g. I remeber one from this years test:

(When fighting, how are the people on your side called?)

1 弟子 2 味方 3 X 4 同僚 (I don't remember the third one)

Of course I had no idea :/
But and here comes a very good tip for tests and life in general, concerning this question I am indeed armed with weapons of psychology. The question includes the Kanji 側 (kawa), which means side. Hmm and the Kanji 方 appearing in one of the answer possibilities can also mean side/direction. Now if I would make those tests and I try to find a description for the word which, my mind would be naturally fixed on the word and I would automatically also choose a description containing the meaning "side". :)
Turns our my reasoning was correct. However it sometimes can cost some time, so use the weapons of psychology wisely ;)

Part II: 聴解 Reading Comprehension

First I have to say that I was impressed by the sound system they had built up for the test. While they used a beat box, when I took a lower level of the test in Germany, in Japan they built up a surround system with with 10 big speakers, one central one and a professional sound mix table, with which they adjusted the sound beforehand. (Adjusted, what a wonderful word! The week before the test, one of my Japanese coworkers would help me record me speech, and she said she had to 調節 chousetsu the volume, when I asked what chousetsu means, she said adjusting. Now in the test there was a question about a chair that could be: 1 縮小 2 拡大 3 加重 4 調節 to the user. Yay!)

Alas the best sound system doesn't help if the speech is so difficult. I couldn't even follow the first example they gave you, although I had the answer. This part was really difficult this year, and I think I didn't do extraordinary well there (a lot of blind resp. deaf guessing involved).

The best you can do to prepare for this one is to learn a lot of everyday vocabulary, since the number one reason for not getting an answer right it not having understood a keyword. Apart from that, talk and listen as much as possible! If you have none talking to, you can still watch anime (try to ignore the subtitles at first or watch Japanese TV).

Part III. 読解 文法 Reading Comprehension Grammar

The last part is the most important one, since it is weighted with twice as many points as the other two (100 . 100 . 200).
I would strongly advise you to start with the grammar part. It is built up just like the first part, only this time you have to select suitable grammar expressions. E.g.

ただいま社長が不在ですので、ぞの件についてはお答えいたし(  )。
1 きれません 2 得ません 3 かねません 4 かねます

Depending on the level, these expressions can be quite difficult. For example for level 2, you have to learn 173 special grammar expressions like the four above. For that I recommend the book:

完全マスター 2級

While having the most ugly layout, the content is really good and when doing the whole book the learned expressions are constantly repeated in the example sentences for new expressions, as well as in countless good exercises. However it contains 日本語だけ (only Japanese), so you should have some Japanese teacher available somewhere to ask for expressions you didn't understand with the Japanese explanation.
Apart from that my number one advice here is to remember one example sentence per expression. Like that you can remember both the meaning, as well as how to use it grammatically :)

These Japanese Are Crazy (Die spinnen Die Japaner)

This test was again a paradigm for modern Japanese culture.
For example the repeated the same explanation about to dos and not dos before every single one of the three parts. This sounds minor, but it always took more than 30 min, and really got you down.
They made facial identifications, by going through the rows and very shyly tried to compare your face to one on a print out, if you would be really the real one. Of course they didn't look in your face, that would have been quite impolite. But sometimes they were lucky and the shoes of the testants were polishes enough to reflect their face...
And of course they would repeat this facial identification before every of the three parts, not trusting their memory, which is of course inferior to a shoe identification.
At yet another point, I asked if I could use text markers for the reading comprehension (I did the same in Germany, and it was OK of course). But this is Japan, so the girl I asked said, it is probably ok (she sees no harm in that), but she just better asks her superior. Her superior looked at me and then said, she would check the rule book. Then she read: Allowed items: pencil, eraser, wrist watch, application confirmation. She looked up again, and she can't find text markers, but she will better double check and, then she read the same passage again. And said she is sorry, I can't use them. Oh apart from that she would read the same passage before every of the three parts, of course.
While I sighed, knowing that she just read it twice out of politeness and thanked her for looking it up, like a good Japanese boy inside I shook my head. But seriously I think this is quite problematical, and I am not talking about the politeness thing, but about how modern Japanese do not dare to take responsibility / action / reasoning themselves. Looked as from as much angles as I can think of, I can't reason this to be a good thing. As a full human being, you have to take responsibility at some point and determine your own life, you can't always rely on parents, friends and rule books.

I encountered the same behaviour in other areas as well. For example while the Japanese teachers I had in Germany, where able to reproduce the square roots of the natural number between 1 and 12, I noticed todays generations up to maybe 30 years of age, using calculators/cell phones even for really simple arithmetic problems. And as far as I can tell, this does not base on a worse school education, but in less trust in one self's abilities/capabilities.

While being encountered extremely in Japan, I think this is a problem of the whole modern world. Everything is organized and every task can be done from or with machines, leaving us a zombie slaves, with no need to think or act for ourselves...

Damn it happened again! I wanted to explain to you the JLPT and in the end we ended in an apocalyptic horror scenario.

*bows* sorry sorry *bows*


Randy said...

Wow, that sounds terrible! Did it have furigana though? That would help a 'kanji-impaired' person like me a lot :D

Vilwarin said...

in the Kanji part there were of course none ^^

For the reading and grammar part, there were Furigana for really difficult Kanji.

so no excuses, you should start learning Kanji! Look at the bright side, you will be able to read all kinds of Manga! :)