Category Archives: test

How to register for the JLPT in Seoul

JLPT Korea
I’ve written the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) four times in a foreign country – two times in Germany and two times in Japan – and this December I’m going to write it in another foreign country, Korea. Although the test questions are identical worldwide, the registration progress is not and thus is vastly different from country to country.

In Japan you have to buy the registration papers which includes an explanation booklet and then pay at the post office. I believe this is done to lure foreigners into the book shops which sell JLPT training books as well. Books teaching Japanese in English, Chinese and Korean are easy to come by. I have a couple of books which include all three languages.

Seoul jlpt

In Korea, registering and paying is done entirely online. Korea is one of the most advanced countries in terms of internet usage and one of the least advanced countries when it comes to the quality and accessibility of websites. The JLPT site is no exception.

On the start page you are given the choice between three local home pages, Seoul, Busan and Jeju. There’s also a flash animation going on which seems useless since all it does is push a few white pixels over the screen. The Jeju site is the best looking one, while the Seoul one is just a big mess with way too many links, content and annoying overlays that have to be closed in order to see the website. The menu at the top is done in Flash for some reason and unless you are using a PC with a Korean Windows OS, you won’t see any of the menu items. I don’t know who’s to blame here but I remember seeing something similar on the site of Japanese cinema Wald9, where the currently running movies are presented in a slideshow. It’s probably a sign that fonts are missing, although content should degrade gracefully in such a case instead of displaying garbage.

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The most important one is the link (점수 바로가기) next to the big JLPT banner. It didn’t work on a Mac, so I started the registration using a Japanese Windows. Before you could register though, you have to create a user account. As with many Korean sites which require payment for some features, this requires entering of the Resident registration number. Fortunately, the site accepts the foreign registration number as well. Unfortunately, it had a problem with my name – you are supposed to write your name in capital letters and with no space. How difficult can it be to remove spaces on the server? That’s just one line of code! Read the rest of this entry

Tripod Wonderland and Kanji tests

One thing I’m currently working on is a HD video podcast. I think this distribution form makes much sense because most people I know aren’t registered YouTube users but have an iTunes account.

Buying a tripod for my cameras has nothing to do with this podcast. I just want to take a few good photos of the illuminations. I have already blogged about the Shinjuku Southern Lights, but there are also special illuminations in Yokohama, the area around Tokyo stations and Ebisu.

Usually I buy all things electronic in Shinjuku and not Akihabara. There are multiple Yodobashi Camera stores near the station and also one that’s dedicated to cameras. They have a floor which is reserved for lens filters and tripods. So I bought my tripod there and will probably use it on Sunday for the first time. Unsurprisingly, the first podcast episode will be about illumination.

Today was also the application deadline for the Kanji test! The Kanji Kentei is a test that verifies your knowledge of kanji and the higher levels go far beyond even the JLPT level 1. The lower level correspond to a school year. I applied for level 7 which requires the 640 kanji learned up to the fourth grade of elementary school. Unlike the JLPT you also have to write kanji and now all readings, stroke order/count and the names of the radicals! Note that most Japanese struggle with elementary school kanji (writing, reading is usually fine) since using dictionaries and word processors has become so convenient. The test is held three times a year at various test sites and is not required to enter university or apply for a job – although it can’t hurt if you can show how good you are at kanji. There are several Nintendo DS games for practising for the Kentei.

Entering Meiji University

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Todai (Tokyo university) is soooo last year! For the fourth year in a row I’m taking the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) – two times in Germany (Duesseldorf, Berlin) and two times in Tokyo. This year I applied through Naganuma so most of us were sent to the same test site: Meiji University, Ikuta Campus.

Room and seat number were given before and I sat next to the door near one of my former class mates, Maruko-san. Actually she’s not Japanese and that’s not even her real name. She chose this name to distinguish herself from another Taiwanese woman going to the same class. After practising Chinese with my DS (yes, I was bored) I could probably pronounce her name.

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This is my first go at the JLPT level 2, which is the second hardest level. The test will be changed in 2010, when you can choose between five levels. I also heard that the two highest levels will be a bit harder.
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Freezing meet-ups in shorts

Last study meet-up! And it could well be the last JLPT meet-up ever. While there are regularly new people registering for the meet-up at the Meetup.com website, it’s always the same three, four people showing up. And more than once it was just me and Wye-Khe.

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Today, we were four and met at Starbucks Omotesando. Everyone practised something else – I concentrated on grammar, while Wye-Khe studied Kanji (even the writing, although the JLPT is a multiple-choice test). After about four or five hours we left and these two young women passed by:

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Now guess who was freezing? Yes, of course the left one! The one wearing the shorts didn’t complain about the temperature (or maybe she was just good at hiding it). Just can still see girls and women in short skirts or shirts without stockings in December. But it’s always the ones who are wearing suitable winter clothes who complain about the temperature.

So if “seeing is believing” maybe “freezing is believing” is valid too? Some economists say that companies should invest during a crisis and less in good times. Maybe one should wear light clothes in winter and pants and pullover in summer? As another proof for my theory, we were all freezing – in winter clothes. 😉

Needless to say that we went to the nearby Thai restaurant to warm up…
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Grammar is fun

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Some of these blog’s titles are lies. It’s no lie however that I’m concentrating more on Kanji and grammar from now on. So today I brought the JLPT grammar book, that I had to buy for the special course at Naganuma, and the two grammar books (“A dictionary of basic/intermediate Japanese grammar”). The latter two books are quite heavy with the first one about 630 pages long and the second one 750 pages.

The JLPT training books usually give a short explanation, similar grammar structures and example sentences. The grammar books however, contain English explanations and a much larger set of example sentence. The explanations are also more extensive.

And even studying can be sweet, if you buy the right drink. Yummmmmmmmmyyyyy!

Study Hard 2.0

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Finishing level 2 is like a run on top of the hill at the Naganuma park.

Yesterday, a voice announced the beginning of the application period for the preparation courses. Naganuma, like various other Japanese language schools, offers additional courses from time to time. Imagine them like expensive seasonal side dishes.

And wow what tasty side dishes they had – JLPT, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and some others. Many use Naganuma as a starting point to later enter university. While the school is quite well known, the graduation paper alone will probably get you nowhere. Because there are always more tests to take, exams to write.

I signed up today for the JLPT preparatory classes. Although mastering level 1 could be feasible in the remaining eight months, I decided to go for the level 2 test (5000 words, 1000 kanji). While I noticed that a lot of words from the past exam vocab list also appear in the chapters of the Naganuma book, it’s probably not enough.

The prep classes will be held twice a week from 13:30 to 15:10.

A “passed” week

This week proofed to be very successful for me. First I got my results from the JLPT level 3 back (which were first send to my old adress): 301 points out of 400 isn’t bad and the Kanji/vocab plus the grammar section lifted me above the required points for passing. I have to work on the listening comprehension though, it was the part I practised less.

I was also quite lucky to get another shot at the Unit Test, the most important (and longest) test at Naganuma. This time it consisted of reading, essay, communication, grammar and listening sections. You need to pass every section with at least 60 percent to pass the whole test. I passed both the essay and the communication, but got an unexpected chance to write the other three tests again.

First was the reading section which I passed with 71 percent. So I got the chance to write the remaining tests on Thursday, starting with the listening one.

I almost doubled my score on that one (85 percent) and then it was just me, forty Kanji and a lot of grammar. Unlike the previous semester, when Kanji were my weak spot, they are now one of my strengths. Hours of training with my iPod touch at Starbucks paid off 😉

Blood thirsty court ladies practicing for the JLPT

There are 5000 words I need to know for the next Japanese Language Proficiency test. That’s a lot and if I would type them in and look up a translation for each word, I wouldn’t probably be finished before December, 7th. There are some vocabulary files on the internet and after I downloaded on, I had a huge list with about 5097 words.

The first thing I did was breaking this list into smaller lists and groups. So those nouns are in one group, verbs in another. However, those lists are almost always translated with a program using the JDIC. But what does a program do when there’s more than one entry found? Well, it chooses an entry for the list:

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I really want to do a JLPT test, where they are going to use this word! Although the translation is ok, the one they will more likely use in the JLPT is “some time ago”.

Or what about this:

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The gist is that you should always check the words that are only written in Hiragana or are very short. These are more likely to be affected by a bad machine translation. Other than that, those downloadable lists are quite useful.

2kyu training in the library

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Part test day! But not for me – because I had already passed that particular part test. Of course that didn’t mean that I could take a day off – I was given the questions for the JLPT level 2 test from 1991. Since I’m still busy building up my vocab (they expect about 5000 words) I didn’t have time to study the grammar for real, yet.

While the teacher said that it’s ok if I write in the class room, I wanted to write in the library instead. But the library opens at 10 am, so the time before I sat down in the hall of the main building. Not an ideal place to study when it’s time for the vending machine to get new drinks.

The library is small but packed with Japanese study and culture material. Most of the books are older but there were a few good reading practice books. I did have three school hours time which is more than in the real test (70 min.).

Why I may end up as a Ronin

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In ancient time, Samurai without a master were called “Ronin”. The most famous ones were the 47 Ronin who avenged their master and commited ritual suicide (seppuku) afterwards. Nowadays, this word is used for aspiring student who fail the university entrance test. Of course, they may take it again, but while they prepare to write it again in the next year, they are called “ronin”.

But I didn’t write this test – it was just the JLPT level 3. My test site (yay!) was the Todai (University of Tokyo, one of the most prestigious universities in Tokyo). Even the train ride to the Todai was an event when I and other foreigners practically occupied the train. When the train reached the station for the university, nearly everyone exited.

After the jump: me writing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test…

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