Japanese, JLPT N2

miracle.

JLPTN2

I didn’t even realise scores were out until I logged on here. But yeah! It is what it is. To be honest, I wasn’t even expecting to pass because I just simply didn’t prepare for the exam, despite my best intentions. On the flipside I settled into uni life a bit better and sorted out some new jobs. But I still decided to take the December N2 to gauge where I was at ‘au naturel’.

Language knowledge has always been a weak spot, as seen in my previous N3 score. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my grammar was the better of the two – I just expected both vocab and grammar to be equally miserable. But I didn’t feel too badly about the grammar during the exam so I guess it shows.

I honestly thought I would be able to do better in reading – I previously scored 100% on the section so I expected my global comprehension to not be half bad. But I guess my lack of vocab knowledge fed into my reading skills.

I was super shocked by the listening section though! It’s practically on par with my N3! I seriously felt like I had no idea what was going on in the exam room and I had trouble staying focused during the long dialogues so either I am a very lucky person or I am not as terrible as I thought. It really was my saving grace.

So where to from here? To be frank, I think I’d like to take it again to improve on my score. There is now an impetus you see! If I could lift all sections into the 40s I would be very happy. I have gathered lots of resources, which I will probably eventually discuss here, and have been attempting a study program of sorts and making the most of my holidays. Before I went back to my part-time job I was aiming for 3 hours of work a week (4 x 45 min sessions) but now that I’m back to work 3-4 days a week, I’m lucky to get in half of that amount T.T But I have been trying to bolster my learning with some ‘quick study’ on Memrise, which I find very engaging! One of my New Years’ resolutions is to complete my three decks before December and it looks like I’m on track so far…

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So that’s it from me – I’ll keep plodding along as I always do. I hope you guys all got the JLPT results that you wanted too! See you next time ^.^

 

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Cooking, Food, Japanese, JLPT N2, Miscellaneous

twenty.

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I remember not long after starting this blog that I wrote a post celebrating my 18th birthday…how time flies! I had just gotten my exam results and I was celebrating about how my marks would get me into a good course of my choice. And now here I am, going into my third year of university next year! Why did I ever grow up T_T

We don’t really do much by way of celebrating birthdays in my family (although they really should, why would you not want to celebrate me guys pls) so I baked my own birthday cake. But I sort of wish I didn’t because I only had one cake tin and thus the three layers and frosting etc. took me the entire day >_< It tastes delicious though! It’s a matcha cake with white chocolate whipped cream frosting and I made a separate green tea ganache to go on top. The flowers I picked from the garden ^_^

I recently returned from a week-long family holiday so it’s been a lazy couple of days. I did do the N2 exam before I left though and it was a pretty…yolo experience. As in I didn’t work very hard for it and I’m pretty sure the results will reflect that. So I don’t really know where that leaves me now. I’m pretty sure that the listening was a disaster. But the vocabulary and grammar section, which I struggled with during N3 , didn’t feel as bad. So maybe with some work I can slay next time 😀 But I’ll keep working and studying my languages while I have free time these holidays.

Do any of you guys bake? If you do, please share cake recipes with me! Because birthday cake duty usually falls to me in this house 😀 And did any of you take the N2 as well? How did you find it?

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Learning Tips, Miscellaneous, Resources

rhetoric.

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Hi guys! I realised that I was due in for my monthly update on this blog, so here I am 😀 Thankfully, it’s my 1 week mid-semester break at the moment so I have a minute to bash out this post.

My 9-week Italian course finished recently. We had a little class party with lots of food and we did a fun speaking activity to cap things off – we were split into groups and we had to invent our own pub, before introducing it to the rest of the class in Italian. Somebody brought wine and needless to say, I have never cried so hard with laughter in class before – I have subsequently learned that alcohol and language learning mixes molto bene! My voucher actually covers two terms so I think I will enrol for the next 9-week session. In the meantime, the teacher has given us some ‘holiday homework’ to do so I am hoping to tackle that before lessons kick off again in mid-October.

did end up signing up for JLPT N2…but to be honest, I really wasn’t sure about it. But then Dad was just like, “yolo, it can’t hurt” so here I am, $90 poorer (after paying that damn registration fee). I haven’t started studying for it though. This is terrible! I have listening materials and kanji and vocabulary flashcards lined up…but does anybody know if there are any free reading practice materials for N2 floating around on the Net? If you do, please leave a comment and I will give you a beautiful ramen photo in my next post 😛

But in more proactive language learning land, I have recently signed up to Conversation Exchange! I decided that it was finally time to grab the bull by the horns and just open my mouth lol. I have had a Skype session with a French guy living in Paris. I am using Wechat to talk to and send Mandarin messages to somebody living in Tianjin, China. And I met up with a Japanese girl here in Sydney to have a chat in person! She likes ramen too!!1! We have started a two-person ramen club (pls join guys!). I was really hesitant about getting that first message and having these first meetings but the site is really busy (I get several messages everyday) and although you will get some weird messages, you aren’t obliged to respond to them and it’s all very safe and positive – because nearly everybody else just wants a language exchange partner too! I’d recommend the site ^^ If you’re on the site as well, just leave me a comment and I’ll happily link you my profile details 🙂

Conversation Exchange

So that’s about it from me. Just super burned out from university and super hyped up from language exchange. What a wonderful state of mind to be in. But I hope that you guys are well at least – let me know what you’ve been up to do, and happy language learning ^^

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Food, Italian, Japanese, Miscellaneous

diversify.

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Black garlic tonkotsu ramen at Yasaka Ramen

It could perhaps be ironic that I begin this post about diversification with yet another photo of ramen but I see no other way to keep any readers I may have interested in my sporadic posts! 😀 If I really have to comment on this ramen, it was expensive and the soup unfortunately lacked flavour 😦

Anyway, I’ve been going to my Italian night classes every Monday. I’m really enjoying it. It’s really jogging my memory and my teacher is very kind and knowledgeable. She speaks almost exclusively in Italian and encourages us to speak in the target language. I don’t know if I would bother paying for such classes if I didn’t have my voucher but they have been worthwhile so far. Speaking of, I need to do the homework soon in time for the coming Monday!

Japanese at uni isn’t bad. I have a kanji and grammar test in about…2 weeks? A week and a half? I have been revising my kanji regularly but the grammar…I don’t know…I find it very hard for grammar to stay in my head? Especially since some Japanese grammar points have very similar structures and/or nuances. I know that the best way to remember is to probably see the grammar in context but having time to read is another matter entirely….But I will figure it out because my marks are good so far and I would like for it to stay that way! The JLPT registration deadline is also in about a week? But I’m not sure if I should do it – I haven’t had time to study for it basically all year. Either that, or I haven’t made time for it (I don’t want to deny responsibility in my own shortfalls haha).

The reason why I am writing about branching out is that my life has gotten busier and there are new things that I am exploring. I study Law and Media & Communications at university, so I have two different jobs in those respective fields. I have learnt a lot and spending time on these things has meant less time for my original hobby of language learning. In some ways, that makes me feel sad but not as sad as it might have once done (if that makes sense?). Sometimes I feel very stretched thin between all my commitments but it’s been worthwhile and I’m enjoying myself – it’s an exciting time for me right now because I feel as if things are making sense and I could be forming some sort of an idea of where I want my life to take me. Ideally, I would learn to balance all these happenings and incorporate language learning flawlessly into my  life as I polyglot my way to world domination but that is obviously still a work in progress. But in the meantime, it doesn’t trouble me as much.

Anyway, I have recently joined a new student videojournalism group here at my university at USYD Update. We do stories on life, culture and news and I am a presenter/reporter with the Life section. I would like to share my first completed video with you guys: it’s about sleep! All too fitting 😀

So I’ll leave you guys here for the next month or so. I hope that you are all well and that you’re killing your language studies! (unlike me OTL) 頑張って!

PS I can’t believe that I used to be so dedicated and wrote my posts in my target languages =_= I should probably start that again right? 😛

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Italian, Japanese

renaissance.

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Ciao a tutti! I’m sorry that it’s been so long. I mistakenly thought that I would be able to relax and post more these holidays but I started a new internship a couple of weeks back and I’ve just joined a student journalism initiative, so on top of my regular part-time job I’ve been so flat out =_= I feel sad that I haven’t been able to work on my hobbies and self-development as much as I had originally planned, but that’s life.

I’m finally bringing it back to ITALIAN after …. a million years because I will be starting night classes!!! Well I think it’s exciting 😀 When I did Italian as an HSC subject two years ago I got a state ranking, so the Co As It here (similar to Alliance Française but just the Italian version) gave out course vouchers to us! So I’m finally deciding to use mine, before my Italian skills rust beyond further repair (which they may or may not already have). When I took the subject in high school, I’d say that my level was about a B1? But after taking the self-assessment I decided to enrol in A2 level. My passive skills (reading, listening) are still pretty solid, but my writing and speaking…well 😀 The first class is tonight so I’ll be excited to let you guys know how it goes!!

On the Japanese front, I’ll be taking Japanese at university this semester. I last took it in semester 1 of last year and I did pretty well in it, I didn’t find it too hard? And the pace and workload was enjoyable. The only problem is that we use An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese in class and…well I finished that in the summer hehe. Ah well.

I am interning at an Asian pop culture and media website, so I currently write articles about Asian music/bands/artists etc. and help out with social media and translation. I’m in charge of Japanese so I’ve been busy practising my listening skills for translation! It’s a little hard but not too bad once I slow down the video a bit. One of my favourite K-pop groups also just did a two-week promotion in Japan so I did some translation of Japanese fanaccounts and articles for the fandom and made some connections with Japanese fans on Twitter in my own spare time. So I’m feeling quite proud ^_^

Furthermore, I also went to my favourite secondhand Japanese bookstore here in Sydney – Hondarake! It’s been a long while since I’ve been but it’s still just as wonderful. My ex-otaku friend recommended me some manga series so I decided to pick up the complete series of Death Note. It’s a classic right? Even better is the fact that I bought the whole twelve volumes (plus an official guide) for…$40 AUD?! That’s about half-price (or maybe even less). And look how pristine they are?!?!?! So I’ve been reading that on the train to and from work – I’ve almost finished Volume 1! But I think I will have to go over it with a dictionary just to make sure I get the most out of it.

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So that’s it for today I guess. I don’t know when I’ll be able to update again but I really will try. I enjoy reading all of your supportive comments and updates and I do love this blog and what it stands for very much :3 It’s going to be a very, very busy semester for me and I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to get through it but I’m still excited for what is ahead. My grades last semester were pretty good and I’m determined to keep trying and to better myself. And I hope that you guys can too! But before I sign off, here’s my obligatory food photo: 1Ton noodles with slow-cooked pork belly and soy sauce egg.

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Baci ed abracci! xx

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Food, Italian, Japanese, Miscellaneous

sign here please.

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Hello everybody! As I had predicted, this blog isn’t being updated as regularly now that university has started up again 😦 But I think I will try my best to update it at least once a month (instead of the posts once a week).

So I went to Benny Lewis’ free talk and book signing at Kinokuniya here in Sydney on Thursday! To say I was excited is probably an understatement. It was just weird to see somebody that I admired so much in real life I guess. He’s a great speaker and I could see that a lot of the casual passers-by were totally feeling pumped to amp up their language learning game 😀 He did a summary of his book (so there wasn’t anything new there) and then he answered questions. Then we got our books signed! The Kinokuniya lady was very impressed that I had already made the effort to write a sticky note with my name on it before coming. I felt very organised in that respect! I was really nervous waiting my turn (I don’t know why though? There was literally no reason to be lol) and when I got to the front of the line I thanked him for finally making his way down under. He asked me what languages I was learning, so I told him the ones I know and he said he’d sign my book in French and Italian because they were his strongest languages out of the ones that we had in common. I thanked him in French and Italian and he said I have a beautiful Italian accent (“che bel accento!”) and I nearly died on the spot, I was so happy!! He said I’d be a polyglot of the future so I told him to keep a look out, and he said I should make my way to polyglot meeting someday 😀 I debated whether to ask him to drop by my blog sometime but I was too shy to do so in the end. But he’s a very friendly person and seemed genuinely happy to meet all his readers.

I’ll also drop this photo of ramen here. It’s Ramen O-San’s black garlic tonkotsu ramen with shallots and tamago. I really like shallots? Plus in a ramen context, shallots and black garlic help smooth out the richness of the tonkotsu. I had to drink a lot of water afterwards though because I was concerned that Benny might catch my garlic/shallot breath T.T Oh dear. So another ramen recommendation from me! It’s in Dixon House Food Court in Chinatown – if you’re a foodie, white food court lighting makes for excellent photos, so all the more incentive to get yourself over there.

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On the learning front, I’ve been working through Kanzen Master’s N2 Grammar. I’m on Chapter 4 now. I have resorted to studying on the train because I don’t really have much time otherwise to dedicate to it, but I feel very proud of my commitment so far. Here’s hoping I can keep it up! I think I’ll make a start on the Kanzen reading book around June/July, during the mid-year break.

That’s about it from me! Did anybody else go to the book sign? Is your language learning going okay? I’d love to know how you guys are doing ^^

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Japanese, Japanese Resources, JLPT N2, Miscellaneous, Resources

in with the new.

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Hello! This is my last post before semester starts again and I neglect the blog. Kinokuniya was having a start-of-semester sale so all Japanese textbooks were 20% off! Bless. So here are the goods! ^^

I’ve started working though the Shin Kanzen Master N2 Grammar book (on Chapter 2!) and this is the series I intend to use to hopefully help me on my way to JLPT N2. I’ve found downloads for all the books in the series except for the listening book, so I thought I may as well buy it. I also decided to buy Unicom’s listening book because I liked what I saw as I flicked through: it appears that Kanzen listening focuses more on improving your listening skills in general, whereas Unicom is more test-specific. So I think they should make a good duo a bit later down the track. I don’t know why both publishers decided to use a red/pink colour for their books though, it’s an odd coincidence! Is there some neurological study linking red and pink with err…listening? I don’t know. Perhaps somebody can shed some light on this 😀

And the third book is of course Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 Months. Because I read his blog fairly regularly, I didn’t really feel the need to buy it at the time of its release, but I have since decided to attend his meet up here in Sydney in late March, so I figured the polite thing to do would be to actually have a book for him to sign! A lot of the advice is quite familiar to me, but I’ve been reading it to and from work on the train and I’ve been enjoying it very much. The book is inexpensive and well worth a read. I’m really looking forward to meeting him! But I suspect that I will probably just end up tongue-tied T.T Ah well. We’ll see.

So that’s about it for this week. If any of you have experience with these listening books, or the Shin Kanzen Master books for N2, please let me know – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. As I mentioned before, I hope that I can keep this blog updated (I’ve been doing so well, this is unusual orz) during semester, but my priority during university is first and foremost not failing law school so we’ll have to see >.< But I’m determined to continue to have time in my life for my beloved languages!

I hope your learning is progressing well, and until next time! ^_^

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Japanese, Japanese Resources, Textbook Experiences

Textbook Experience: Tobira (Gateway to Advanced Japanese)

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Greetings everybody! I finally finished my Tobira textbook last week (more than a year after purchasing it OTL), so as promised, here is a post regarding my experience with the book. I hope that you guys will find this helpful and / or interesting in guiding your own Japanese studies. I have also written a bit about comparisons between Tobira and An Integrated Approach, in case you wish to know more about that. If you can’t be bothered to slog through all this, just head to the bottom of this post.

Contents

The book has 15 chapters. My photos of the contents page turned out a bit crappy and unclear, so I will just list the topics here instead:

  1. 日本の地理
  2. 日本語のスピーチスタイル
  3. 日本のテクノロジー
  4. 日本のスポーツ
  5. 日本の食べ物
  6. 日本人と宗教
  7. 日本のポップカルチャー
  8. 日本の伝統芸能
  9. 日本の教育
  10. 日本の便利な店
  11. 日本の歴史
  12. 日本の伝統工芸
  13. 日本人と自然
  14. 日本の政治
  15. 世界と私の国の未来

The book also has 17 sections dedicated to language notes and 10 notes on culture. You can see photos of these further on in the post. As you can see, the book covers a diverse range of topics. Some of the earlier chapters deal with pretty stock-standard ‘Japanese textbook’ subject matter (e.g. food, sports and recreation etc), but I still enjoyed these nonetheless. I thought that the chapter topics were well-chosen and engaging (except maybe for Chapter 2, that was a bit dry but hopefully you can get past that lol). I learnt a lot about aspects of Japan and Japanese culture that I hadn’t really bothered to explore, such as its traditional arts. I have even started listening to podcasts about Japanese history, it’s that bad O.O The later chapters about politics and the environment also had lots of specialist vocabulary that would be useful if you’re transitioning to more authentic and difficult texts such as newspaper articles, or the articles that often appear in the JLPT N2 reading.

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Pre-reading activities

Each chapter has a little activity that can be done before actually beginning the chapter. It gives you an idea about what you’ll be learning about, and useful context for the reading passages. As there were no similar pre-reading activities in AIATIJ, this was a first for me. Some activities link you to pages compiled on Tobira’s website (more on that later), while some just have vocabulary or discussion activities meant to be done without the Internet. I didn’t do the discussion activities because I was learning by myself but I did the other research activities. It was a good way for me to have a handle on reading vocabulary so that I didn’t have to consult the glossary later, and in some cases, especially for topics I didn’t know much about (like Japanese history), good background information. Thumbs up from me!

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Reading Passages

Here is an example of a Tobira reading passage. This is from Chapter 5 (food!) so it’s not that long, but the passages in the second half of the book definitely get longer. There is a mix of horizontal and vertical writing (but mostly horizontal) and 1-3 passages per chapter. There are kanji readings at the bottom of each page if you need, and a vocab list if you need on the next page. The book doesn’t have a CD, but all of the passage audio files can be found on the Tobira website (details on how to login are found in the book :D).

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Vocabulary

As mentioned before, a typical vocabulary list (as well as a snippet of a 言語ノート). You can download Anki decks of all the Tobira vocabulary from their website if flashcards are your thing.

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Edit147Dialogue

There are usually 1-2 dialogues per chapter. These are a mix of formal and informal language. As with the reading passages, you can listen to them if you download the tracks from the Tobira site. The book also comes with some pairwork activities and a sort of “fill in the blank, make your own conversation based on the dialogue you’ve just read” exercises, which are probably more for a classroom environment? idk.

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Comprehension Questions

Test your understanding of the dialogues and reading passages here. There are also expansion questions aka questions based on the general topic of the passages but not the exact content, so a good way to test your active skills of writing and / or speaking.

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Grammar

There are quite a lot of grammar points introduced in each lesson (10+), but some of these aren’t so much grammar points, as phrases or expressions, which makes things less strenuous. Some of the points were also already covered in AIATIJ. There are no English translations for sample sentences, but it’s good to get rid of the crutch I think. At this level, translation shouldn’t be too hard. But it is hard to think about the best way to translate some of the harder, very Japanese language-specific structures.

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Language and Cultural Notes

Each chapter has at least one language and / or cultural note. These are a nice touch, with interesting points on nuance or further cultural knowledge. The language notes are particularly important because you want to use this book to transition to a more advanced level right? So it’s getting these little mistakes and knowing the subtle differences in language usage that will help to make the difference.

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The Tobira site / Tobira’s aim of ‘multimedia’ learning

You can see on the little disclaimer on the front of the book that Tobira aims to distinguish itself from other textbooks by taking a multimedia approach to learning. In this day and age, this is pretty appropriate. So this is where the Tobira website comes in. You can download kanji practice sheets, kanji exercises, grammar exercises, watch (grainy) cultural videos (the book is from 2008 I think so no HD here guys…), Anki decks, listen to the audio of the book’s passages and find the links used in the pre-reading activities etc. The site makes for an interesting and useful companion, but I question how they will go about updating everything when a new version of the book comes out. However, the sheets that you can find online mean that you can probably do without Tobira’s companion kanji and grammar workbook I reckon.

In Conclusion:

PROS:

-engaging content with lots of cultural information

-self-learner friendly

-lots of resources available on the Tobira website

-pretty decent grammar explanations (that can be supplemented with a grammar dictionary if you want) and lots of sample sentences

CONS: 

-err…in AIATIJ they would point out when new grammar points were being introduced in the reading passages. I personally would have found it useful if they did this as well in Tobira because sometimes I couldn’t remember whether I’d learnt it already or not (lots of Japanese grammar points are so similar >.<) and I’d just get confused, and my translation would get a bit funky.

-I don’t think there are answers to the worksheets available on the website…?

So…Tobira or An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese?

I’m just going to put this out there now that I personally found Tobira more engaging and less dry than AIATIJ. I was also eternally grateful that the Tobira content was much broader in context, and not just limited to university student-centric topics (e.g. letters of recommendation, awkward homestay situations). That aspect of AIATIJ literally drove me up the wall, I wanted to tear my hair out sometimes. It seems to me that Tobira is less well-known than AIATIJ, probably because the former is newer, but I enjoyed learning from Tobira more, I’m going to say this upfront.

In terms of difficulty…I would say that Tobira is a bit harder than AIATIJ? Well, the titles do say ‘a gateway to advanced Japanese’ and ‘intermediate Japanese’ respectively so….yeah. There is overlap between the grammar points covered in the two books though, so I don’t know if it’s so much of an investment to buy both books. I had initially only bought Tobira, but then I had to buy AIATIJ to take with me to university Japanese classes. There are downloads of AIATIJ floating around on the net, so what I would perhaps recommend is get the PDF and purchase Tobira, if you indeed have language learner fear of missing out. Otherwise, just buy one and use a grammar dictionary (PDFs floating around on the net too). Learning is pretty individual after all so the choice is yours! Edit: A reader has drawn my attention to the fact that not paying for language resources hurts their creators, and by extension, the language learning community. I acknowledge that this is true, and am embarrassed that I did not think of this at time of writing. All creators should be remunerated for their works, and I apologise for the callousness of these comments. 

So here ends my textbook experience with Tobira. If you have any thoughts and questions, please feel free to leave a comment ^^

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Japanese, JLPT N3

合格した~!!!

Edit136

Checked my JLPT N3 results last week and err…yeah I passed guys! I’m really happy with how I did, and because it’s the first JLPT exam I’ve ever taken, it serves as a good diagnostic tool for N2 and N1 in future (if I indeed wish to take them T.T). Well…I’m pretty sure I’ll want to take N2 at least. Looking back to the post that I wrote straight after exam, it seems that my predictions were spot on in that reading > listening > language knowledge. The total mark is about right too because practice papers are always easier (so practice tests usually mean about 10 more marks). I’m pleasantly surprised that I got full marks for the reading section though! There was one article where I literally had no idea what was going on =.=”

I have a good feeling what caused my shortcomings in vocabulary and grammar = LACK OF REVIEWING MECHANISMS in my learning regime. I use Anki, and I know that it works for me when I do use it, but the problem is…I just can’t be bothered with it. I use the shared online decks (so I don’t have to make my own) and Anki does all the review period calculations (so I don’t have to organise that myself) BUT I STILL DON’T REVISE MY ANKI CARDS REGULARLY ENOUGH. Idk, I just find it…boring? And I think it’s a vicious cycle because then all the Anki cards pile up and that makes me feel even less willing to use it T.T Does anybody have any other suggestions for learning vocabulary and grammar? I feel this is kind of ironic though, because although my vocab and grammar is apparently not too good, I’m able to read Japanese texts well? I guess global comprehension is a bit different.

Well, that’s about it from me. I hope all you other JLPT test-takers got the results you wanted as well! You must let me know how you did ^^

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Japanese, Miscellaneous

summer studying.

Edit134

Because that’s what everybody does in summer right? いま 私は 日本語 の 勉強 を 中心に 生活 を している ことにした! 😀 I’m now up to Chapter 8 of Tobira, and am enjoying it thoroughly. I highly recommend the textbook and am looking forward to writing about my experience with it when I am finished.

In other language learning-related matters, I have finished the La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert which I think I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, all 800 pages of it! Unashamedly proud ^^ It was a very good book – despite its length, I couldn’t stop reading it (so thank god I’m on holidays right now!). But there were so many plot twists that I felt like I was watching a Christopher Nolan film =.= So if you’re into a little crime and mystery, it’s a good book to read.

Somebody has also just gifted me Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’), so I will now be making a start on it. The timing is just so right haha 🙂 I haven’t actually read any of Hugo’s books, but perhaps it’s time that I become more culturally enlightened T.T

Don’t have much else to report. But I’m happy and learning lots, and I hope you all are too ^^

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