The JLPT and JPop

June 9th, 2008 by Steph

Let’s face it, posts have been few and far between these last few months. The cause of this silence? I blame the Japanese… not the people, mind you, who have been exceedingly fun and kind and friendly, but the language, which has not yet exhibited any of these qualities to me.

Ever since passing level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) last December, I’ve been preparing for the next level up. A passing grade on level 2 declares you competent enough in Japanese to pursue employment at a Japanese company. The intimidating truth of the matter is that it’s a huge leap up from where I was last December. Passing this test is going to take some serious study mojo.

I started with the fun bit and learned the additional 700 kanji necessary for level 2. When I finished at the beginning of April, I had to face the ugly truth that kanji alone wouldn’t do the job. I was going to have to start seriously digging in to vocabulary and grammar as well.

I’ll try and spare you the nitty-gritty details of my day-to-day studies, how I’m mining the WWWJDIC for sentences to put into my SRS, and slogging through gobi and particles and keigo. An extra 3+ hours of this kind of work every day leaves my brain in a mush-like state which is inconducive to writing. However, it’s not all grunt-work. I took some advice from folks who’ve achieved fluency, and they testify that the best study technique is the one that’s fun, the one that incorporates Japanese into your life sneakily, on a daily basis. To this end, I’ve been reading children’s stories and manga and… here’s the kicker… listening almost exclusively to Japanese music.

When I came to Japan, lots of people told me that they first gained their enthusiasm for English by listening to Beatles songs. I was kind of skeptical about the Beatles School of ESL… I mean how far is “Let it be” going to get you in every-day conversation? But ever since I started studying J-Pop a few months ago, I no longer doubt. I have been, in-fact, completely converted.

Learning Japanese through music is such an obvious method for me I can’t believe I didn’t try this sooner. I spent a good chunk of the 4 years preceding my life in Akita poring over sheet music and memorizing songs in Italian, French, German, Hebrew, and Russian. Granted, those classical songs I studied were mostly in romance languages, and I only had to learn the gist of what I was singing, but the groundwork is still there. Sitting down to learn a Japanese song now seems like second-nature.

The beautiful thing about karaoke is that it’s waaaaaay less stressful than any voice recital. Ample performance opportunities and a forgiving audience both make for excellent incentive. And I can’t argue with the results: things seem to be gelling, albeit slowly.

If only they’d let me take the test this December with a microphone in my hand instead of a pencil.

One Response to “The JLPT and JPop”

  1. Nathan Says:

    WWWJDIC is a great resource. I also highly recommend alc. Its a service used by translators. I often use WWWJDIC and alc interchangeably. http://www.alc.co.jp/index.html. Often many times what doesn’t come up in WWWJDIC will come up in alc and vice versa. They focus on completely different aspects of the language but both are essential. As far as Japanese Music is concerned, I’d also highly recommend HearJapan. http://www.hearjapan.com. It’s an online music store for japanese music that you can download the music from anywhere. I’ve found that some of the albums have lyrics in Japanese come with them if you buy the full release which is a plus.

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