Japanese Exam in 8 Months

Yet another one of the blog posts I wrote in those early days of excitement when I first accepted the position to go to Japan. In this blog post, I talk about the immediate steps I took to restart my Japanese learning. Unfortunately, the fervour has waned a little bit with the business of work these past few weeks. But I’m sticking by the timeline I wrote down here…

So given my recent post about moving to Japan, I guess it’s no surprise that I’m giving learning Japanese another go. What might be surprising is how much I’ve struggled over the many years I’ve been trying to get this going. before my various visits there. But this is for real for real… Like… seriously for real. I’m determined to arrive in Japan able to communicate. And so I’ll be spending much of my free time over the next 5 months (reminder: I’m writing this in March, but it’s only being published today for reasons..).

One of my greatest challenges is learning the Kana. So I probably blogged about this already… Japanese basically has 3 writing systems. The first is what is most understandable to us foreigners… Romanji. Why? Well, as the name suggest, it’s basically Japanese transliterated into Roman letters. I know serious learners of Japanese shouldn’t be using it. And I won’t be. But anyone who has ever been to Japan would know how prevalent Romanji is. So at least understanding the various transliteration systems is important.

The next is Kanji, which is the Chinese characters adapted into Japanese. There’s 2,136 General Use Kanji that any Japanese who graduated from High School should know. Now that’s 2,136 over 12 years of schooling. For me 2,136 won’t actually be necessary for several years, if I even get there… But I’m going to try. I’ve determined to at least learn the Kanji in English -as per James Heisig’s “Remembering the Kanji” System. I’m hoping to get through the system in these 5-months before I leave for Japan, too. But it’s my “drop” if I find I don’t have enough time. In which case my goal for it would be to get through by February next year. In the mean time, I do need to learn the 80 Kanji required for the exam.

Finally, there’s the Kana, which is made up of 2 syllabaries: Hiragana and Katakana. Both systems have the same number of characters, and represent the same syllables. But they have different forms. Hiragana is the more common Syllabary. But Katakana is just as important. But Hiragana is where I’ve gotten hung up over the years. There’s supposedly only 46 characters. But then there are various shifts that occur such that you really have to memorize something like 104 of them. Multiply that by two when you add the Katakana, and you’re memorizing almost 10 times as much as, for example, the Hebrew Alphabet (Aramaic script).

So this is where I’ve really been putting my focus on these past few days. I’ve got 2 work books I’m going through, as well as 2 apps. I’m hoping that I can truly have Hiragana memorized by this Friday (5 more days), and that I can have the Katakana memorized by next Monday (I’ve been told Katakana tends of be easier to memorize once you’ve got the Hiragana memorized).

At that point, I can finally move into actually learning some grammar! Phew.

Anyway, I’ve set myself a goal – writing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5 Level in Japan this December, and possibly even the N4 Level by next July. From what I’ve read these two levels are quite attainable. After that, I would probably have to spend a year plus in study before being able to do N3… Then who knows if I will go any further. Apparently, N2/N1 is basically the equivalent of having a University degree with a major in Japanese. N1 is the requirement for a Medical professional in order to practice in Japan. So I don’t really imagine myself needing to go that far. But who knows. For now, I do know that I have 8 months to whip myself into shape.

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