JLPT N2 + Exchange

Hey guys, I’m signing up to take the JLPT N2 exam and it’ll happen 3 months from now (on July 2nd, 2017). I’m also going to be an exchange student in Japan for autumn semester (or for a full year if I’m really lucky) so I wanted to ramp up my studying for that as well. I thought I’d write my study plan here and see if you guys can help me improve it.

I’ve already finished: Genki 1, Genki 2, Tobira. I’m taking Japanese classes and they’re going through Tobira right now so class is like a review / clarification for me.

Now I’m:
— Grabbing words from manga for class (the first volumes of Doraemon, Rantarou, Chibi Maruko-chan, and Gegege) and doing them on Memrise. I learn the kanji forms even if the manga uses hiragana. I’m learning 50-100 words a day, kanji and hiragana included.

— Reading Yotsubato (after that I don’t know what to pick) and listening to movies on YouTube as immersion practice. So when I do Memrise or read manga I have a Japanese movie playing in the background, I mean. I can understand about 90-95% of Yotsuba without looking anything up and I think that’s the best comprehension amount for learning by context, so I wanted to find other not-super-boring manga where I understand a similar amount.

— Whenever I’m reading a manga that has furigana, I read everything ALOUD.

— I just started Remembering the Kanji for kanji meanings/handwriting practice only (not caring about pronunciations as I’ll learn them via vocabulary eventually), and I’m trying to do 50-100 a day. On the JLPT knowing meanings seems to matter way more than pronunciations. After I finish I might learn all the pronunciations specially…

I’m studying 3-4 hours a day every day but I’m trying to find ways to be able to study more. When I have free time in-between needing to study that manga vocabulary for class, I’m studying words and grammar from “A Dictionary of Intermmediate Japanese”, and if I can finish that I’ll move on to the “Advanced” one.

I’m also thinking more and more about doing memory practice so all this memorization goes a lot faster, but I don’t know what I can do that would end up working so fast / not end up sucking up too much time from studying. Like if I sit and try to think of a good mem for EVERY SINGLE WORD I’m going to end up memorizing a lot less words, I think… Maybe not? What do you guys suggest?

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I actually don’t bother too much about mem’s.

Well, unless you already do the “mems” in your head constantly automatically, they really help a lot. I dunno, I guess I have my answer right there…

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You got into the program in S—?! Congrats! Hope you get to stay for the year.

Based on observations from my friends, you really need to have reading down pat. Be quick and efficient. Much of their preparation consisted of reading some recent Akutugawa winners: 蛇にピアス, 蹴りたい背中, 犬婿入り, plus a handful of Murakami H and R in English, then reading them all in Japanese, noting down any unknown vocabulary and adding them to memrise/anki. I mentioned Terrace House to you, too. If you can find that with subs (already provided when broadcast), you’ll have a great listening resource.

Yeah, but unfortunately too many people applied to go to Japan so we’re all restricted to only going for 1 semester in order to let the most amount of people go, unless we’re really lucky and enough people drop out (or I find a job there and can continue living there on a work permit — which is why I’m taking the JLPT now, maybe it’ll help me find a job) >.<

Thanks, I’m going to try and read as much manga as I can and then if I’m really lucky, ramp up to real novels by June. I’ve read short stories for class before but haven’t ever read full novels. I’m almost blind and my eyes don’t focus well so reading is generally difficult, in particular reading “real books” (not scanned or online text) is REALLY difficult because the fonts are so small, but I’ll bring a magnifying glass to the JLPT and I think I’ll try to learn speed-reading or something… Ah, you know what’s a good idea? If I can find e-books where I can copy the text, then I edit in definitions for words I don’t know and stuff. I’ve done it before but forgot about that method.

I have a stupid question: I don’t know where to begin.
Is N1 the most basic level?
There are also other types of classes used, but I never know what’
s the most basic level and what’s the most advanced level.

The most basic is N5, then it goes downward to N1. (the most advanced)
So it’s pretty much: N5 -> N4 -> N3 -> N2 -> N1.

Hope that helps!

Edit: Just wanna add something to @risgrynsgrot. Don’t rush anything. Focusing on a slightly smaller amount of information might have a higher percentage to stick in your head than a bigger pile. Now I don’t know what is your capability nor what is your limit. But the speed you are already moving in is astounding.

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N1 is the hardest, and it’s the same as C1 level in Europe. So if you pass it you’re definitely still not at the same level as a native Japanese person, but it means you can do pretty much anything without “difficulty” anyway. N2 is like B1-B2 level, you still can’t read most things “easily” but you can get the gist of most things and getting to N1/C1 from N2/B isn’t hard at all if you just actually READ BOOKS… or so I think. I mean, once you’ve really mastered the grammar and all you have left to learn is vocabulary/phrases/nuances I think things get a lot easier…

Haha thanks, I only have 3 months to cram all this info in my brain so even though I know I can make it I feel a bit rushed since I have full-time Japanese classes going on at the same time… I know I can learn much faster than I am right now (even if just because of stuff like that my house is always insanely loud so I usually can’t concentrate or do homework unless I’m up past midnight) and I really just have to figure out “HOW”.

I took a look at a (light?) novel I bought the other day (Cyber City OEDO 808 volume 1), when I first looked at it a couple weeks ago I felt overwhelmed but now looking again I felt like I can read it without TOO much difficulty — it even has a lot of furigana, and I completely don’t understand when they put furigana and when they don’t because if the book is anything like the OVAs then it’s definitely meant for adults. Now I picked up Souseki’s “Kokoro” and it doesn’t seem all that difficult either, I think they’re probably both about the same as the stuff I’ve been having to read for class (which would make sense as we’re getting “stuff by natives for natives”), so I think I’ll be moving on to novels a lot sooner than I thought! I’m also going to try to make it a habit to play videogames (in Japanese) a bit every day… I probably ought to make a set schedule and see how many hours of “studying” I can cram into one day by just rotating all the activities (and figuring out how I can escape my house).

Here’s Kokoro:
http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000148/files/773_14560.html

As examples, we’ve already read these in class, but it was with the teacher’s help of course (the last one in particular couldn’t be done one bit without her help):

  1. 海 by 太宰治 (easy once you look up the words)
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000035/files/42363_15873.html

  2. 絵本 by 林芙美子
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000291/files/24368_15542.html

  3. トロッコ by 芥川龍之介 (a bit too difficult)
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000879/files/43016_16836.html

  4. 蛙 by 林芙美子
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000291/files/3047_19540.html

  5. 愛よ愛 by 岡本かの子 (too difficult)
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000076/files/4554_15427.html

Of course, this is just understanding things on a basic level. There’s no way I can get stuff like nuances or special phrases at my level. But I think that after looking up that N2 is only B level and N1 is only C1 level I’m a bit relieved, I reached C1 in Swedish (the first foreign language I ever became decent in) in something like two years so I’m certain I can get there in two years for Japanese too, and if we’re only counting “school time” then after this semester I’ll have been learning Japanese for 1,5 years, so…

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Haha that’s quite the formidable dedication you got there!
Good luck!

This is probably too easy, but the マジック・ツリーハウス series has a ton of books and because each centers on a certain theme (ghosts, space, ice age, etc), you can glean useful vocabulary. Check out the look inside for the first book:

Hey, thanks! They do seem pretty easy but I imagine there’s still quite a few words I don’t know in there (for example, I just saw “constellation” for the first time the other day from Yotsubato), I’ll find some copies! I seem to remember seeing a blog page where someone else recommended them too…

UPDATE:
— I bought a ($5 a month) subscription and am using “readthekanji” for at least 2 hours every day now. After 18 study hours with it I’ve finished the N4 vocabulary, am 1/2 through N3 and 1/3rd through N2. I think you can finish all 3 in 2 weeks easily if you have enough free time. It seems like you should use it 2-3 hours a day minimum and taking as few breaks as possible (ex. break once every hour instead of every 5 minutes), otherwise you forget too much in-between sessions.

— I found this list of Aozora Bunko stories rated from easiest to hardest based on how many different kanji are used, and I’m reading 1+ story each day. I’m skipping the nonfiction ones.

https://pastebin.com/7JPrM5zu

— Because I can’t be bothered to use PDFs and stuff I downloaded a bunch of apps to do N2 practice with, for example one has listening questions + transcriptions of the audio. So theoretically even if I were to do no other kind of practice, I could just memorize all the unknown words in all the listening questions and listen to them a bunch and the real thing probably wouldn’t be a problem…

— I bought LARGE-PRINT Japanese books off Amazon, the keywords are 大活字 (22pt font) and デカ文字 (13-14pt). Almost the only one selling these = Aozora Bunko print-on-demand, meaning you can just print the stories out at home and bind them yourself if you really want to, but there were some used ones that only cost like 50 yen before shipping and I felt like having “real books”. I tried getting some Japanese books at the library and realized while I can technically read the kanji, I can’t actually read the books because the font’s too small and it makes me tired/frustrated.

With about one month left to go until the JLPT, here’s another update.

— I’ve “finished” learning the N3 and N2 vocabulary on readthekanji and am slowly working on N1. So far I’m getting 50-70% correct on kanji and vocabulary practice tests so I’m safe with that part I think.

— I started playing a mobile phone online game and joined a Japanese guild there, so I’ve been reading/writing Japanese every day to those guys. Playing the actual game in Japanese is too much for me right now (you have to know all these words like “infantry” “alliance”) so I’m playing in Swedish instead but I’m slowly learning the terminology from these guys chatting about in-game stuff. It suddenly made me realize that if you need to learn boring words like government vocabulary, you should play stuff like city-building games.

— I have a new goal to read, hopefully, one manga volume a day. I’m reading over at matome.manga-free-online.com and bzland, right now I’ve started on Inuyasha which is actually pretty easy (they don’t talk much and they constantly repeat themselves).

— In connection with reading a manga volume a day I’m making my own Japanese dictionary full of words taken from manga. So every single word that appears in the manga I just put in my dictionary, and hopefully this will motivate me to keep reading tons and keep looking up all unknown words. Then when I’m done with the dictionary, hopefully other people can use it to read manga without having to know so much grammar or anything like that (because I’ll have ex both てめー and 手前, しる and した. Only for the most common words though.)

— I joined a site called Satori Reader, where you just read texts they’ve prepared and there’s a pop-up dictionary built-in. The problem is the texts are too low-level (and boring) for me, BUT they have audio files for every text which means I can listen to everything and get more JLPT-like listening practice. The conversations are exactly like what’s on the JLPT, or so it seems to me.

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Find out if there is a Japanese conversation Meet-up group near you.

There definitely isn’t. I live in the Swedish countryside.

2 weeks left until JLPT N2, and I’ve changed how I study again. Now I’ve unintentionally stopped using readthekanji (I simply can’t concentrate on it in my noisy house) and am watching 2+ hours of anime over at animelon every day. So far I’ve finished 30 eps of Hunter x Hunter and 10 eps of Parasyte (both of which are at around N2 level), and 5 eps of Chobits (N3 level). This is probably the most useful practice I can do right now, since I’m both seeing and hearing the words in context I’m also learning the nuances of when to use them, and the grammar points get repeated an awful lot. Watching anime with Japanese subtitles is a lot faster for me than reading manga, but I get the same vocabulary practice out of it. A lot of the words I just can’t seem to memorize from N2/N1 via SRS are used too. In general since I started this stuff at animelon, my reading speed has really increased and now I can read a full manga volume a lot faster.

I’ve also discovered that fanfiction over on pixiv is a lot lower in reading level (=way easier to understand) than the same over on syosetu, so I’ve decided to start reading those instead of Aozora Bunko stories. I’m only 1/4th of the way through memorizing the N2 grammar pieces (which has a total of about 150 words/phrases) but I hope to finish that up in the next few days. Probably the next time I post here will be after I’ve taken the exam!

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@risgrynsgrot ~ Like many here in the forum, I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming exam. We know you WILL do well, and will come back to the forum with nothing but good news. You seem to be preparing for this well, with a strong determination and committed work ethic. I am not sure how to say this in Japanese, but “Good luck with the exam !”. :smiley: :writing_hand::thumbsup:

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Thanks a lot for your kind words! I really don’t know if I can pass, but I’m hoping. I’m going to try and get the rest of the grammar memorized tomorrow and then just keep watching over at animelon I guess.

Since I read a few threads discussing it when I was looking for stuff, I might as well write it here too — can’t remember if I already did. Anime (with Japanese subtitles; not with sound-only, because you won’t catch everything) is AMAZING for learning/practicing even N1 grammar. Grammar that people claim is “nuanced and never shows up in real life” shows up constantly in anime, and fiction in general; a specific example someone complained about never seeing was のみ, which made me laugh because it showed up a billion times in Hunter x Hunter alone. When people say “Anime will teach you to speak weirdly”, what they’re thinking is that you’re not literally going to say the full sentence “I’m totally gonna kill you!” in real life. What they don’t realize is, you actually ARE going to say the words “I’m”, “totally”, “gonna”, “kill”, “you” on their own, as well as the sentence structure “I’m (totally) gonna (verb)”, etc.

Here’s where I’m grabbing grammar from (though I’m changing the definitions in my own Memrise course, because these guys wrote a lot of redundant / slightly wrong ones):
http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt2/grammar/usage/
http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt1/grammar/usage/

Out of the around 250 JLPT N2 grammar points, almost half of them were completely redundant or obvious & not actually separate meanings (ex. 上は、上で、上 are obviously all the same; から見る and ことなく are obvious if you already know the individual word meanings). Out of those, some of the grammar I can say without even thinking about it are really common in anime are:

N2: almost all of them.
N1: いかん, かぎり, 極まる, すら, おかない, のみ, やまない, 至る, etc are super common. in general, 1/3rd are super common and the rest are still used often enough that you need to know them.

yesterday i took the JLPT (N2 level). my advice:

• study so that you could clearly pass N1 if you’re taking N2. in particular, make sure you can understand formal nonfiction (newspaper articles, modern-history texts, business-anything) in both spoken and written form EASILY. you want to be at the point where you can VERY EASILY read all kinds of NONFICTION, adult books in japanese. you should use an app like “mazii dict” (dictionary where you can easily read news blurbs inside it) or “mondo” (purely intended for reading news) to read some news articles every day.

• instead of (panicking and) re-reading the long reading pieces, read and answer each question SLOWLY. once slowly saves time and comprehension, versus thrice fast.

• work on memorization techniques for when listening to conversations. just youtube “memory champion” etc and you’ll see what i mean. you can reread text, you can’t replay audio.

• if watching anime to learn, i’d say watch it once with japanese subs (looking everything up) and then once without subs. i didn’t realize how much i was still relying on subs for comprehension of high-level stuff until the long listening came. (vlogs, “let’s learn japanese grammar!” and other everyday stuff i’m understanding just fine without subs).

• it’s very important to remember, on the JLPT there’s basically NO CONTEXT for anything. obviously this makes things a lot harder than normal reading/listening.
———

by the time i took it, i’d studied all the N2 and half the N1 grammar on this site:
http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt2/grammar/usage/
http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt1/grammar/usage/

all the N2 and some hundreds of the N1 vocabulary/kanji on this site:
https://www.readthekanji.com/

i had had 3 months to prepare (i didn’t know the JLPT was even held in Sweden before then). i had just finished my 3rd semester of Japanese in uni, finished the “Tobira” textbook, watched (Japanese dub, Japanese subs on animelon) around 30 eps of Hunter x Hunter, 24 of Parasyte, 10 of Chobits & Baccano, 8 of Shiki and a few random episodes from random series. from time to time i watched random vlogs/instructional videos on youtube, bits of movies and dramas, played videogames and listened to radio. no attempts to watch the news or documentaries.

i’d read maybe 15 short stories for adults, 2 for kids, 10-15 manga volumes (gegege, rantarou, doraemon, maruko-chan, inuyasha, hunter x hunter, parasyte, stuff by harada, doujinshi and other things chosen completely at random), visited a Japanese chatroom (for an MMO) every day and regularly glanced at various kinds of tweets (political, shop announcements, anime publication announcements, everyday chatting). i had made no real attempts to read newspapers or japanese websites (i did read some but it was like five times throughout those 3 months of study).

i took quite a few mock JLPT tests via apps and passed them all, also passed the official practice test on the JLPT website, with around 50% in all categories except vocabulary / kanji which was 70%+.

the test is broken into sections: 1. single-word reading, 2. single-sentence reading, 3. paragraph reading, 4. page reading, 5. single-sentence audio, 6. paragraph-audio, 7. page-worth of audio, and there was one “chart/poster-reading” question (“can you read the fine details about ex. opening hours”).

within those, there was only around 3 questions to do with keigo/polite language (1 of these was so basic it was laughable, geared towards people who’ve never seen something like “お 願い します”), 15 or so with casual language (mostly audio ones - and still not as casual as the manga i read), 0 with dialects or kid-speech etc, 2 to do with telling apart synonyms or verb pairs (開く vs 開ける etc), 1 to do with conjugation (stuff like “can you say 欲しましてです or not”), maybe 5 to do with choosing the right particle or kanji. the whole test was really entirely dependant upon you knowing TONS AND TONS of vocabulary.

0 things to do with fiction-like situations. the whole test was very much focused on “you are an adult living in japan as a businessperson, only hearing standard ます and maybe literary である, readings business Emails, signing up for apartments etc”. even the casual-language audio questions were like, you’re listening to Keiko’s life problems or someone’s asking about the due-date for a project at work. DEAD BORING, not what they teach in my class and not what i’m personally seeing/hearing when i use japanese.

as for my test experience:

i’m almost blind so i had “special testing conditions”, meaning i was in a separate room from everyone else, i got enlarged paper, i got to write my answers directly on the test paper instead of filling in circles, and i could use a magnifying glass. first off, the enlarged paper was HUGE, it was the size of a newspaper and its height covered almost the whole height of the desk, so i couldn’t actually read the text at the top of the page without folding/bending the test booklet (which made noise). i had to constantly move not only the paper but also myself for every question in order to read.

my eyes died 1/3rd of the way through and so suddenly i felt like i couldn’t even read the QUESTIONS anymore, let alone the long reading sections, nor could i focus on the audio when it came time for that. there were tons of words i didn’t know, even in the questions, and they were usually key words (like the whole reading is about “x” and i don’t know what that x is) which made me lose focus really fast once it came to the long reading/audio. if i actually knew all the words my focus snapped right back, but those times were rare.

during the audio part, the “memo” section was actually useless - theoretically you could jot down notes but if you’re writing then you’re not concentrating on the listening / you can’t hear the listening as well over your pencil scratching. the audio was at a normal speed for native speakers, as far as i remember, which surprized me because a lot of the practice audio seemed slower. i got pretty panicked when it came time for the long questions where they only said what they were looking for AFTERWARDS, because by that time i couldn’t remember anything from the dialogues and there’s not exactly enough time to sit and reflect on all the bits you do remember.

there were 2 parts in the listening section where instead of having answers to choose from (“pick 1-4”) written in the test booklet like normal, no numbers were listed and i had to write “1. 3; 2. 1” etc as “question 1, answer 3…” directly onto the paper. i assume this was fine for those of you who are filling in bubbles on the answer sheet, but i had NO IDEA how many questions were part of this category and thus no idea when to move on to the next question that actually had answers written, and for all those questions i kept panicking because of it. like, is “#4” actually “question 4”? no, no it wasn’t. remember, i couldn’t read the text at the top of the page when i was writing in the middle of the page either so i couldn’t just glance up and read the instructions again.

so i got pretty panicked and pre-occupied and spaced out for various reasons. also since i was taking it in a university building, i could hear the muffled audio from the other rooms when i was taking mine and it was pretty distracting. if they had made my audio any louder to drown it out, it would’ve hurt my ears.

i felt that basically all the vocabulary i had studied was useless. thanks to anime and games i had even been learning random extra high-level words like “heart attack”, “epidemic”, “unqualified”, lots of random keigo etc. and out of all those the only thing that actually was useful was the word “robbed” and still there were tons of words i didn’t know. this felt pretty unfair, especially considering during the break time i picked up japanese linguistics research paper (one of the university teachers had written it) and read a little, and there felt like hardly any words i didn’t know.

i felt like i had nowhere near enough preparation in listening and vocabulary, and i vastly overestimated my ability to read on PAPER for long amounts of time (since oh, around 10 years ago, i’ve basically only ever been reading digitally).

on top of all that, i had slept horribly the few days before the test (ate something bad, and travelled to the test-town the day before and slept at a relative’s place - i always sleep badly at other people’s houses) but i’m not sure a full night’s rest would’ve really helped me much anyway.

EDIT: i took the test July 2nd, the results came online August 23rd. See a later post for the results.

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@risgrynsgrot ~ Thank you for sharing this personal insight. It will probably be very helpful to others preparing for similar exams. Your honesty is commendable. I can’t speak for others, but I feel confident you did well, and will pass with a higher score(s) than you imagine.

Waiting for test results can be excruciating at times (been there, done that myself) but just make the most of the coming days/weeks, and take consolation in knowing that you prepared for something monumental and you gave it your best. Sadly, many will never even do either of those things.

Please do share your results once they are known. Congratulations on this linguistic milestone in your life !

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