Monthly Archives: September 2013

New Challenger: Chinese

I’m not good at updating blogs. They’re too easy to ignore and I’m too good at procrastinating. And it’s not just blogs either; emails, Facebook messages, texts—you name it and I’ll be sure to read it and not reply. Oh sure, I’ll think of a brilliant reply in my head, and carefully formulate exactly what it is I want to say, but I won’t write it down. My friends who wonder why I take so long to reply sometimes hate me for it. I swear it’s a curse.

But putting that aside (after all, I’m blogging right now!), I’ve decided to blog today to talk about two things near and dear to my heart:

  • I passed the JLPT N1 (that’s the highest level)
  • I am going to start learning Chinese again more seriously, this time through self-studying.

I have always been a Japanese language focused person, but seeing that I have been able to come pretty far with Japanese gives me hope I’ll be able to something similar with Chinese. Perhaps not to the same level and not at the same rate as Japanese, simply because I actively sought out study-abroad opportunities in Japan throughout college and pursued every one of them and that’s not possible time-wise with Chinese, but I think If I worked hard enough I could get to a level I could be satisfied with. Hopefully.

But let’s start with the good news — the JLPT passing and all that jazziness.


If you’re reading this you probably have a good idea what the JLPT is, but it’s a test designed for foreign speakers of Japanese to test their proficiency in the language. The test only measures reading, grammar and listening skills, with no writing or speaking portions in the test whatsoever. As someone who believes their strongest abilities lie in speaking I think that’s a huge mistake, but it’s a widely recognized test by employers (at least while going to various career forums in Japan and abroad, required Japanese level nearly always tended to be measured in JLPT score, with N1 corresponding to “Native” in many cases, although I wouldn’t agree with that).

So I took the test in July while I was in Japan—I remember quite vividly that it was humid as balls, and that on top of this I was taking the test at a college with a giant campus, meaning even more thick layers of humidity to swim through before I made it to the thankfully air-conditioned testing room.

I also remember that after finishing the test I was 99.999% sure that I did not pass. Because even though I had purchased a few test prep books, namely the Kanzen Master Series, (which I was wary of buying at first because of the massive hype it has online, but it really does live up to it), I barely touched the books due to poor time management up until the day of the test. I had gone through about 1/3 of the Kanji book and 1/2 the grammar book, but don’t ask me if I remembered anything on test day. I simply cursed myself for not having prepared more throughly and walked away from the testing site in what I’m sure was some sort of melancholy daze.

And then I didn’t think too much about the test after that, telling everyone that “yeah, I took it, but will probably take it again because I don’t think I passed.” A total no-confidence answer, which couldn’t have prepared me for what came next:


With the applicant number edited out for security reasons (?)

Result: passed

It floored me. I didn’t check the results until the beginning of September (even though they were released on August 27th), assuming I had failed. I simply checked only because I was preparing to sign up for the December exam and I wanted to see how much more I would need to study.

I should point out one thing about my result, which is of course the ROFLOLOLMAO score of 100/180. Because it’s literally the lowest score you can get on the exam and still pass. One question more wrong and I would have failed. In fact, probably even less than that considering the exam is curved.

But I still passed, bitches.

So what do I do now? Well, as a professor at the University of Kyoto points out in a page on his website about how he passed the TOEIC exam with a perfect score:


Or in English, “people who get perfect scores on the TOEIC are a dime a dozen.” I don’t know about that, but it’s what motivated the guy to get a perfect score on the TOEFL as well. He’s certainly pretty darn badass at English. But what I’m trying to get at is that it’s the same (and probably even worse) for people who pass N1 as well:

People who pass the JLPT (N1) are a dime a dozen. And for me, I’m still not as good as I want to be. There are still so many words to know, and so many more ways in which I could get more fluent at speaking. I don’t consider being able to do Japanese some kind of parlor trick to impress Japanese people—I’m in it to actually learn it, and being at some arbitrary line in skill level as determined by a test doesn’t really mean much to me. It’s time to move on to bigger and better stuff: Novels, newspaper articles, TV shows—anything I can get my grubby foreigner paws on. I didn’t come this far to call it quits just yet.

Learning Chinese: An exercise in motivating myself… again

So I have been wanting to learn Chinese for some time now, and I even started Chinese at college two years back to get myself going. Furthermore, because my school probably offers one of the best Chinese language curriculums in the country, I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much when I say I got a fine introduction to the language at an intense pace unlikely found at many other places.

But then I studied abroad in Japan for a year and have since forgotten almost everything (at least production-wise).

Oh great.

So I find myself in a bit of a crappy position: I am currently in my last year in college and could take the next level of Chinese, but it would require me to play a huge amount of catch-up in terms of material to re-learn, all while trying to keep pace with kids who are more fresh and who have more free time to study. I feel like by not taking Chinese this year I’m turning down a super hot girlfriend who simply is too needy when I don’t have a lot of free time. Or something.

At any rate, this sucks.

So I’ve decided to study Chinese on my own and chronicle my attempts at doing so on this blog assuming I don’t run out of enthusiasm along the way. I think it will also be a good exercise for me to practice various language-learning techniques and programs,  see what really works for me, and discover if there are new ways of studying I should pay attention to. This will be all super beginner stuff, and I’ll be using a Chinese language textbook called “First Step” that I purchased from the Chinese department, as I don’t think it has actually been published yet officially. That makes me cool, by the way.


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Filed under Chinese, Japanese, Language, Self-studying