I took the JLPT Today!

About 2 hours ago, I completed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

I had a completely different impression of the environment than what I actually experienced, as I thought the exam would be given in an auditorium setting. In actuality, it was broken down into groups based on the exam level one was taking, and each group assigned to a classroom.

Each test taker is sent a test voucher in the mail weeks prior to the exam, which must be brought to the testing location along with another valid form of ID, i.e., drivers license, passport, or student ID.

The level 2 group was assigned two classrooms because of the large number of test takers in that group.

For each exam level there were the following number of test takers scheduled:

Level 1 - 90
Level 2 - 133
Level 3 - 110
Level 4 - 69

I took the level 4 exam. At first I was surprised at the low number of test takers at my level, but I remembered throughout my language training being advised to skip level 4. I’m still glad I didn’t take that advice.

I was earlier advised that the level 4 exam would be 3 hours, however, it was actually 2 hours and 50 minutes, as the level 4 exam began at 1:00pm and ended at 3:50pm.

There are three parts of the exam, Vocab (approx. 45 minutes), Reading (approx. 90 minutes), and Listening (approx 45 minutes), with Listening being the most difficult, at least it was for me.

My advice for those considering taking level 4?

  1. Learn the first 103 kanji, and all their usages, backwards and forwards. White Rabbit Press has a great product called ‘Japanese Kanji Flashcards 1’ , containing all the kanji covered in the level 3 and level 4 JLPT, that I found to be indispensable in my studies.

  2. Do as much listening practice as you possibly can. There are many JLPT test prep products that contain CDs of the listening parts of past years’ exams. I used 4級日本語能力試験。試験問題と正解。*, published by the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES) and The Japan Foundation. にほんごのうりょくしけん。しけんもんだいとせいかい。
    Yon kyuu nihongo nou ryoku shiken. Shiken mondai to seikai.
    Level 4 Japanese Proficiency Test. Exam Questions and Answers.
    3. Study, study, study. I found the reading part of the exam to be quite easy, but that didn’t stop me from second guessing my answers, especially on the trick questions. Please be clear that there ARE questions that are designed to trip you up, so pay close attention to what you’re reading.

Did I pass? I believe I did pretty well, but I won’t get my official score until late February - early March.

Time to get started on my level 3 studies.

じゃまた。Jya mata.
See ya.

So, level 4 is the first test and level 1 is the last one? What happens when you pass the last one? Do you have to pass the last test to be a translator or something?

How long have you been studying Japanese?

Yes, level 4 is the first (lowest) level of the JLPT, and level 1 is the last (highest).

If you want to translate for a Japanese company, many will not consider employing a non native Japanese speaker without proof of language fluency, and the level 1 certification definitely helps there, as does a degree in TESOL. Some entities will accept varying levels of language proficiency. However, the lower one’s proficiency level, the more limited employment or contract prospects will be.

If I wanted to, I could become a teacher in the JET program. However, I didn’t need to pass the JLPT for that. My options may be a little broader than those who speak no Japanese or haven’t taken and passed at least one level of the JLPT though.

I’ve been studying Japanese for approximately 18 months, but became really serious about it January of this year and hired a tutor. It will take a few years for me to become fluent in Japanese, but I’ve committed to it. My only regret is not doing it sooner.

Pretty cool. I wish I had another language - but I don’t really have the drive to learn one.

Why Japanese in particular? Do you just really love the language or is it a love of the country?

Do you speak other languages? If you do, do you find Japanese harder to learn?

I’ve often wanted to learn another language but the idea of learning a language that doesn’t use the same letters as English is very daunting to me.

Can you write (paint? draw?) the language too? Or, do you just speak it?

Do you have a Japanese keyboard? Do you type the words out phonetically or something to get the character?

Both, actually. I went to Japan a few years ago as simply another place I wanted to visit before I die and fell in love. The culture, the people, the music, the spirituality, and yes, the language, fascinated me and spurred my interest.

I speak Spanish and some French. I’d say my fluency level with Japanese is somewhere on the lower end between my Spanish and French. Japanese, for me, is more difficult to learn than Spanish (which came very naturally to me) or French because the structure of the language is so different, as well as the alphabets (or syllabaries).

It was for me as well, at first, but you’d be surprised at how easy that comes as you progress through your language study. The Japanese language has two syllabaries: hiragana and katakana, and a pictographic written form called kanji. There’s also a written form called romaji, which uses roman characters to spell out Japanese words.

Unlike most languages, the best and most efficient way is to learn to read, write, and speak Japanese at the same time. There is no separation. You do all three together as they are equally important to really understand and use what you’re learning.

I have my keyboard on my Mac defaulted to hiragana, the main syllabary. I type the characters in romaji and it converts on the fly as I type.

That was very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions.

Congratulations! I hope you pass. I took a look at the test on the York University JLPT site and it seems quite intimidating. Perhaps next year after many more Japanese lessons I will take it.

At the rate you’re going in your studies, Sunspace, I’m sure you’ll pass the JLPT with flying colors.

No problem. Also bear in mind that there’s tons of work at very good pay rates for a fluent Japanese live interpreters, with simultaneous interpreters able to charge higher rates than consecutive interpreters, and technical interpreters charging higher than non technical.

I met someone who does simultaneous, technical Japanese - English interpreting. A few of the companies he’s contracted with are Sony, IBM, Microsoft, and Bandai. He makes between $80 and $150 per hour, depending on client and project, including travel, meals, and accomodations, so interpreting can be a lucrative career path.

I’ve taken the JLPT three times (level 2 in 2002, level 1 in 2003 and 2007), always at Osaka University.

The breakdown is much different here, with a significant majority taking the level 1 test. On test days the university becomes flooded with Chinese, and both times I took the level 1 test I was the only non-Asian in my classroom. The lower levels are apparently dominated by non-Asians, though. I think this is because most Asians have very practical reasons for taking the test; Level 1 proficiency is something you can write on your resume and is also a requirement for admission to a number of university programs. Sadly, speaking as someone who’s had level 1 proficiency for 6 years, there’s still a lot to learn even at that point.

It’s interesting that you found Listening to be the most difficult part. Even my lower-level friends who have only lived here briefly usually say that’s the easiest of the three. A little native exposure makes all the difference.

I’ve heard that they’re going to be making changes to the test next year, adding a 5th level, but don’t know the details.

Listening’s a pain for me too. I dunno why, it was the same when I studied French. I’m just a very visual person, I guess.

As far as I know, the gap between 2 and 3 was very wide, so starting next year, lv 4 will be called 5, lv 3 will be called 4, and half of lv 2 will be called 3. Why the hell they just couldn’t call it 2.5 (in reality pre-2) like they do with the English tests here is beyond me.

Yep, they’ve created another level between 2 and 3 because of the wide difference in requirements to pass each.

As for listening, I think I felt an increased level of pressure because time was limited and I couldn’t go back to listen to a passage I wasn’t clear about in the first place.

面白い*. Why did you take level 1 twice?Omoshiroi.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many opportunities for native exposure in New Jersey.

I’m a little surprised by that, since it strikes me that the gap is even larger between lvl 2 and lvl 1.

A number of my friends were taking the test, so I decided to take it with them. I was also a little curious to see whether I could pass the test without spending months preparing for it first and how spending a few years back in the US had affected my abilities.

Yeah, I think they should have both. Japanese speakers get a pre-1 and pre-2.

How did you do in 2007 compared to the first time you took it?