Yes.. I did indeed fail the JLPT N4 in December.
I’m not going to lie, I did feel a bit gutted because I felt okay in the exam. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to get a really high grade but part of me figured I’d have a good chance. And I mean, I didn’t get a terribly low fail (my score was similar to when I took the N5 so I mean, I knew stuff..) but it wasn’t enough to pass.
With that minor blow and a new fire in my belly I have decided to start studying harder and with much more structure! So here’s my plan and may my methods be of some help. I’m going to start review what I use as I go along and I intend to re-take the N4 in July.
Let’s see if this works!
- I have a &$#%tonne of study books and I’m not afraid to use them.
A friend of my best friend, who also lives in Japan, saw my recent plea for study advice on Facebook and informed me that she was planning to get rid of her old study materials for around the level I’m aspiring for. Now more than generously, she sold and shipped this lot of books to me which has definitely given me a swift kick to my bottom!
When I arrived in 2015, I was not using any books for help with grammar. I had been given the “Basic Kanji Book Volume 1” to use by one of my neighbours (which I’ll review later) but as for kanji it was a mish-mash of websites, lists, and attempting to write stuff.
Needless to say – that wasn’t enough! However – that hasn’t been a waste of time. What I have managed to do has given me a good foundation for kicking in to the guides but it wasn’t enough to pass.
Of course, I am using Genki I. This book has a great reputation and really it is well earned, since it is well written, planned and aims to provide a variety of activities alongside the actual information it teaches.
I’m aiming to get through a couple of chapters a week and complete the activities. Following the structure of this book gives a nice natural progression, so it gives me peace of mind that I’m making some progress with content.
Alongside Genki I, I am using the にほんごチャレンジ文法 (Nihongo Challenge Grammar) textbook – a neon pink book that literally cannot be missed. This book is my review book that I’m using to supplement the grammar covered in Genki. Now I’m going to say this without hesitation – I absolutely ADORE this book.
It is broken into 32 chapters, each one with a theme and has around 3-4 grammar points per section. It introduces a small text in Japanese using the chosen grammar points, summarises their use underneath and then presents a selection of sentences with the grammar in use.
After that, it has a selection of 10 or so questions in the JLPT format on those points, and a もうちょっと page opposite with a few more activities (questions, short reading etc.) to get you practicing. All the answers are in the back of the book.
I honestly cannot recommend this book enough in particular for review and test practice.
2. I am listening to Japanese music everyday
I got my trusty old iPod out the other day and somewhat reluctantly removed all my music from it. Goodbye Depeche Mode collection that I know off by heart. Goodbye Dizzee Rascal, who kept my “East London” accent in good check.
With all the temptation of familiar music removed I have filled it with Japanese music only. Stuff I know and like, stuff I have no clue about. I’ve been popping into my local BookOff and buying albums on sale for around 108円 and popping them on.
It’s training me to listen out for words, grammar learned and so on. Also my karaoke repertoire will be quite impressive I think.
If you have any artist recommendations please let me know!
3. I am writing a journal in Japanese
Following suit from my friend who passed the N1 this year (yes, N1. So I will literally do anything she recommends), I bought a small notebook and have began to write a daily journal in Japanese.
Yes, it is simple. Yes, it is pretty boring.
BUT I am writing kanji that I know by hand. I am writing using the vocabulary and grammar I have learned.
It’ll get better over time and I’ll have a track of that.
4. I am having my writing corrected
Whatever I write, whether it is a journal entry (with certain omissions!) or example sentences from my reviews, I post on a website called lang-8. Here, native speakers have been correcting my writing.
I then correct my writing using their corrections, so I can see where I went wrong.
5. I have been, and still do, binge on kanji and vocab
One of the only things I have seemed to have done right without too much structure is kanji and vocab.
The Basic Kanji Book Vol. 1 that my friend gave to me gave me a good headstart with basic kanji. This is a pretty cool book which teaches around 500 kanji, their readings and some vocab examples with pretty cool exercises. It’s a nice book and not too intimidating for beginners.
Alongside this, I have been a religious user of Memrise, both the phone app and on the computer. I’ve signed up to N5 and N4 vocabulary lists and kanji lists. I like memrise because if you find a good course, it breaks the content down into manageable lists. It can help you practice reading, typing the kanji/vocab and with memorisation. It has to be combined with other materials to be effective, but thanks to this app I’ve been able to study daily on my commutes, in bed and so on.
Okay so that’s a kind of brief summary of what I have been doing, and what I am continuing to do at present to kick this test’s butt!