Japan is finally opening up again. I received a voucher to get my forth shot for corona, but then we realized that it’s only actually redeemable for people who are either elderly or have underlying conditions. It’s been a slow transition. While I am fairly certain many parts of the world have largely “moved on” from worrying about getting sick. My impression for Japan is that it took a big heat wave in the summer to get people to finally relent their mask usage from “almost always” to “as long as no one’s within arms reach”. It varies from place to place, but that’s been my impression from my random trips around town and seeing still most people masked up, or they have a mask readily available.

I’ve been slowly getting out and about more. I was out and hanging out with friends later than 8pm for the first time in a long time. Saw a moon that was bigger than the one in the sky. It was a good time. Catching up and checking out various shops. Going into a coffee shop 10 minutes before it closes and chatting about random coding things.

See, way bigger than the one in the sky.
See, way bigger than the one in the sky.

For my Japanese (language) study, I’ve been doing primarily doing a few things lately:

I was mostly focusing on just doing conversation practice. Focusing on getting more language mileage. Between working from home and not going out, I need the extra practice. But I recently decided to set my sights on the JLPT test again. I attempted N2 long time ago. I was taking lessons with a tutor while living in the US. But I really didn’t get enough practice actually using the language while I was living back home. Went through all the grammar and did a bit of reading comprehension practice. I took the test, and failed it. Some content stuck, but for the most part the content really didn’t sink in. After that I put my Japanese studying on the back burner. Still doing some kanji/vocab reviews occasionally. Then I moved to Japan, and even then I didn’t really ramp back up my studying until more than a year after moving here. But when I started studying it was largely conversation/speaking focused. This is doing shadowing practice, taking conversation focused classes, etc. Not really focusing on the JLPT test. Studying for the JLPT or taking JLPT focused lessons/classes are much more like school. It’s a constant feed of new grammar, vocab, listening practice. It’s a focused practice for certain types of questions that show up on the test. It’s good because there’s a lot of useful language you learn in the process. But because it’s mostly just input/raw memorization, it’s much easier for me to completely forget the content if I don’t practice it which defeats the point in the case of a foreign language you want to learn. Because of that, I’ve largely been putting off doing those types of classes. The N2 ―the second highest level of 5 JLPT levels1― has been a long term goal for me. It’s the level that you can kind of start to get jobs in Japan where you’re working primarily in Japanese2. It would be a certification of “I can understand this language more than someone who took Spanish for years in high school then forgot everything after”3. There’s some potential visa benefits as well if I get the certification which is one of the reasons I’ve reset my sights on this.

With this new direction, I’m largely doing the same things, but with a bit more focus. I switched from a conversation class to a JLPT class. Current plan is to take a N3 class through November, then start N2 next February. For my weekly private tutor lessons, we’ve switched from a shadowing/grammar focus to simply focusing on reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is a big chunk of the test that drains your soul. It’s a lot and very draining. I didn’t have time to finish it the last time I took the test which is why I am trying to be sure to get extra practice. Starting in February, the plan is to join the N2 class, take the test4 after the class, then immediately re-enroll into the class with the expectation that I failed, then retry the test in December with the hopes that this time it’s actually sunken in and I know what to expect a bit better. The second N2 class actually starts before I get the results of the first test (this is also why I’m re-enrolling immediately with the expectation that I failed). If I manage to pass the test the first time, then obviously I probably won’t take it again, but I can continue throughout the class with a bit more peace of mind. Let the content sink in rather than being concerned about trying to “cram”. Either way, next year will be a big study crunch for me. If the current N3 class is any indication of what to expect, there’s a lot of vocab and grammar to work through. Lots of kanji to review and study. I’ll get there. Lots to (re)learn.

  1. N3,N4, and N5 levels do not cover enough content and so they are near completely ignored by companies that consider the JLPT. N2 and above is where you tend to need to get to in order to work. But of course, this is just some test and not a real rating of Japanese ability. ↩︎

  2. I don’t have any particular interest to work at a “traditional” Japanese company. Work culture in those companies are usually really rough. ↩︎

  3. The Great American Foreign Language Education experience. ↩︎

  4. It’s available twice a year, once in July, once in December. In the US, it was only available once a year where I lived. ↩︎