Welcome to part two of “Tackling the JLPT” series. This article builds on ideas of the previous article. If you haven’t read part one please do so, as it sets the basis of this article.
So, you ordered all your books and made your flashcards. You have created a plan, may it be six, eight, or twelve months and are ready to get started. But… there are two major factors you probably didn’t consider: the boredom and the exhaustion factor.
It doesn’t matter how “ready” or “motivated” you are, after months of studying everyone hits that brick wall. Despite improving practice test scores, we feel like we are only getting incrementally better and become tired and frustrated. This article focuses on ways to not only break the monotony but also re-enforce the material covered in the JLPT study books.
Move on from Manga to Novels…
Many of us first come in contact with the Japanese culture through manga, Japanese comic books. For some Shonen Jump titles like Naruto, Dragonball, and One Piece have been staples in our collection for a long time. Unfortunately, manga will not help us tackle the JLPTs.
Manga are primarily aimed towards “Shonen”, or boys. The Japanese language used is very simple, barely reaching high school level. The JLPT N3 and above require a greater reading comprehension level. The JLPTs also require the ability to read and digest long passages about real world topics which are normally not found in manga. Passages found in the JLPT include: newspaper articles, reviews of fictional restaurants, notices from apartment managers, and so on.
Compared to manga, novels have complex sentences and useful grammar. I recommend the Bakemonogatari series written by Nishio Ishin. While Bakemonogatari has a science fiction plot, it is well composed and has many words and grammar points found in JLPT N2.
Bakemonogatari as well as many other books can be found on Amazon Japan. Many Japanese enjoy reading so it is easy to find a good book, and there will always be plenty of reviews online.
From Anime to Dramas
Much like manga, anime’s targeted audience is children. The situations portrayed and themes talked about in anime are not normally encountered in everyday life, thus they are not likely to appear on the JLPTs. It would be more practical to watch Japanese dramas.
Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll all have Japanese Dramas. Additionally these services give users the ability to watch videos with or without subtitles. Many services embed the text into videos so be careful, if you are someone who is used to watching subtitles, your brain will read them unconsciously. The functionality to turn on and off subtitles is also good when you want to learn further: you can rewind and turn on the subtitles, dissect the spoken phrase, figuring out what was said.
If you can understand the plots and character relationships in Japanese Dramas the listening portion of the JLPT will be easy. The listening portion is just series of small clips compared to these half-hour dramas.
Play Video Games
One of the biggest pastimes in Japan is playing video games. Arcades can be found near major train stations and there is even a street famous for the plethora of Japanese games (Akihabara). Japan has a game for every type of person, casual to hardcore.
If you are a self-study person who doesn’t have anyone to practice Japanese with, games will create an environment to use Japanese. Role-playing and story-based games are also great for reading comprehension. Games like the Persona series and the Fate series rely on the user’s interactions to tell the story. If you do not understand the choices you are given, there will be unfavorable consequences or even a game over. But remember, you are playing to understand the language. Win or lose, games make studying easier.
There are many places to purchase games online: AmiAmi is a good store as they have an English site and gives you the option to reserve games. Be aware that Sony game consoles (PS Vita, PS3, etc.) are region free but Nintendo game consoles (3DS, Wii, etc.) are region locked. In order to access online content or online play, a Japan player account is needed, but don’t fret, there are several tutorials online for creating a Japan player account.
The tricks listed above allow your brain to rest from long study sessions. Read an interesting book, watch a TV drama, or even play a video game, they will all reinforce the Japanese you learned, but remember: when kicking back with a game or book, keep your favorite Japanese dictionary app close by in case you don’t know a word. If you don’t know the word save it in your Japanese dictionary for later studying, who knows, it might appear on the JLPTs.
This concludes the Tackling the JLPTs series… for now. Take what you need from these tips and make them your own, only you know what works best for you. Most importantly have fun. Have fun learning. Have fun listening, watching, playing, and reading. If everything’s fun it doesn’t feel like studying. Sometimes what works best is an alternative method to get the brain moving.
If this has helped, or you have other methods that have worked for you and want to share, just leave a comment. Feedback is always appreciated.
Good luck and 頑張って！応援しているよ！
Software Engineer and Blogger
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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