This will probably be scattered and uninteresting, but I wanted to write about a few things since it’s been a portion of my time this last year or so.

Before moving to Japan, I attempted the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The levels have changed over the years, but basically it goes from N5 as the lowest to N1 being the heighest. No idea why they prepend the N to it. Also, no idea why you’d make the hardest level “1” which means you can’t standardize a more difficult level later without the meanings of the levels changing. When it comes to job hunting in Japan only top two are meaningful on a resume. I don’t know if I really want to work for a “real Japanese company”1, but for a long while I’ve had N2 as a goal. Part of wanting to hit the goal was to try and reclaim my “sunk cost”. I had put so many hours into studying a language that I could barely use in my home town. I wanted to be able to have a stamp of: “Yay! you can kind of comprehend this foreign language”. I didn’t pass when I took it then.

Beginning of 2020, I moved to Japan. I really didn’t put any emphasis on trying to improve my Japanese for that first year. I started taking lessons again in 2021, and in 2022 I decided to focus on studying for the test again. I took the test at beginning of July. Still I don’t have the results yet. The vocab/kanji section feels like a luck based thing. You either know the answer already, or you know the other options to knock out a possibility, or you know nothing. Instead of starting the test with a question lottery, I jumped straight to the reading section of the test. I don’t read enough Japanese to be a fast reader of the language. And with the time constraint of the test, you can’t really read everything thoroughly. I think read too much when I took the test. At my speed you really need to just be scanning and skimming for the answers. If I take my time I am usually able to come up with the correct answer (at least in my practice tests lately). When I try to read Japanese too fast, I read without comprehending. There’s so many wheels spinning just to read kanji and tracking key grammar points. I’ll maybe track the important contrasting points or known patterns that I know. But what the actual article is writing about is just a vague idea. This happens a lot. Sometimes the topic is familiar enough that it sticks, but it’s a real battle.

I definitely feel I’ve improved my Japanese as I focused on studying for this test. I am able to connect with S’s family a little more. I’ve done a few board game days and that’s been fun. The test itself is more of a signpost. It’s something to study towards. It’s not a meaningful test in really measuring if you’re actually good at the language, but the “community” around studying for it has a good collection of content. I’ll keep learning and reviewing the same content even after I pass it. It’s one thing to study for the test and pass the test, and a completely different thing to actually be able to digest and use it. As much as I want to believe I am really learning, some amount of it is just capturing it for the test. And I want to have a deeper understanding than the high level “this grammar means this, you use it in x situation”. It needs to be a much deeper, I want to express this and this is how I do that. That takes practice.

Now that I’m on the other side of taking the test itself (For now… if I failed I’ll attempt again in December when it’s next available). I’ve been doing more art things again. Doing gesture drawings/gouache. Though doing art is sometimes kind of hard for me. It’s not always really relaxing because I definitely feel the gap of what I want to make and what I am able to do. I practice, but I always feel so far away from my expectation. It’s hard to be happy with the results sometimes. I am trying to also not share my art stuff as much. Try and do it more for myself and stop trying to post it online. I’m trying to deprogram these things from myself. Though the sharing thing is a bit conflicting for myself since many of my friends and family live back home. It’s a mode of a connection back home.

What a summer this year. Hot as heck. We’ve basically just been staying inside and only going out if we need to. August is typically the worst month as well. The bread shop we normally go to told us they’ve had half as many customers with the heat lately. I hope they’re able to hold out. Hope we don’t lose another breadshop.

I haven’t been writing much lately. I think some part of me feels like I don’t have much to write about, but once I get going I seem to be able to find so many threads to pull. Just need to build up my practice again.

  1. This is more about what kind of work culture they have. Most meaningful to me being not insane work hours. ↩︎