All extremely good points. I think at this point I’m wondering if I can strengthen that scaffolding and still pass the N3 within the year. I know it’s not impossible, but with the amount of time I have is it feasible? The study method you’ve outlined is really intriguing to me, how long did it take to accomplish that?
I have to disagree with this. N5/N4 is so common, you will constantly see them popping up while studying things up the ladder. They will review themselves. You can just look stuff up as you go and keep your momentum. Besides, not much advanced grammar in N3; lot of basics that you NEED to know to start consuming real Japanese (or just look those up as you go as well, I’m not really a fan of pure grammar study).
Learning new things will progress you a lot faster, and make those basics even stronger. You will keep making some same basic mistakes even at an advanced level, but that will slowly cement with just exposure. Of course you have to keep noticing and absorbing. You can’t “master” the basics. Getting stuck in basic textbooks and not starting immersion and going forward is a pretty common beginner trap. Perfect is the enemy of good.
Maybe the classroom really is different, because that just sounds so alien. That kind of student probably just hasn’t had enough time with the real language (common in classroom setting), because those kinds of things will iron out through just reading and exposure.
Source: Failed all my JLPT tests until N1
Wow this is very interesting!
I agree with a lot of this!! Dr. Krashen also says something similar, and he has research backing up his ideas, whereas mine are based solely on personal experience lol. I will still stand by what I said, though.
Totally agree. My mistake if that’s what my original post sounded like. I’m a solid intermediate and can express myself pretty well but still make lots of mistakes with は・が and basically every single particle. HOWEVER, you absolutely can be putting together grammatically accurate sentences with some frequency, even from a beginner level. If you can only use words/phrases and haven’t learned (not mastered) how to make complete sentences consistently, then you need more exposure to that structure. A textbook will give you a lot of example sentence which, to me, equals exposure.
It’s kind of a time thing, right? If you are struggling with comparisons, then you can (a) look at a textbook and get 25 example sentences using comparison, or (b) read a chapter of “Yotsuba” and hope that grammar structure comes up once or twice. I just feel like language acquisition through “immersion” takes a lot more time than some people have to devote to their target language. 2 hours a day isn’t going to cut it without focused vocab/grammar study (imo).
I more or less agree but will argue that textbook Japanese is real Japanese.
A lot of proponents for immersion seem to mean “real Japanese” as “native materials” but I am totally against that for beginners because of the amount of comprehensible input. Immersion doesn’t do anything for you if you can’t understand a certain percent of what’s said/written, and a lot of native materials are just too hard for beginners and can be demotivating.
Something that’s awesome about a good textbook is that it will provide example sentences (real Japanese) and model dialogues (real Japanese) and short stories / articles (real Japanese). If you’re reading a textbook by going over the ENGLISH explanation, then it’s probably not going to help a lot, but if you’re focusing on the Japanese, then I think it’s invaluable.
I agree that perfect is the enemy of good, and you do need to be comfortable with some level of uncertainty (aka – do NOT wait to understand 100% before moving to native materials). It’ll depend on the person when to “graduate” to native materials.
Agree that N5/N4 is super common, but I think that’s exactly why you should review them. I think having to look stuff up too often will reduce your momentum.
Very scientific personal anecdote: I tried reading Yotsuba after reading Minna no Nihongo I, and I had to look up 5 words per page and got frustrated. After studying Minna no Nihongo II, I tried to read Yotsuba and had to look up 0-2 words per page and had an awesome time.
I have no doubt that a lot of beginner mistakes iron themselves out once you reach N1 level (which, congratulations!), but if your goal is basic conversations (let’s say N3), then you’re actually going to be able to get really fluent with day-to-day Japanese even before getting to the proficiency level where you are able to pickup those things through native immersion (imo).
Obviously there are a million ways to skin this metaphorical cat. I’m glad OP is getting a lot of varied advice, because different stuff works for different people!
Might have to write this on a piece of paper and stick it above my desk
This is not really an answer to your question. Okay so, last time you barely failed N5 overall score, this time you barely failed N4 overall score. Does it really matter? Because you have clearly progressed in the language and improved, if you can score about the same in N4 now, that you previously did on N5. So does it really matter, if you failed the score, if it still shows you that you ARE progressing? in a year or two, if you managethe same on N3 test, you have greatly enhanced your Japanese language skills - regardless of passing or not. In some cases it of course might matter (some student exchange programs demand a specific N level etc), but as for measuring your progress, it still shows it, even if the overall score is “too low”.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t give up. You are clearly making progress. To share my own story. I passed the N5 on my first try after a year of study living in Japan, and then passed the N4 on my first try a year later after returning to America. But the jump from Beginner level to Intermediate level was really difficult for me. I kept up with WK but got stalled out self-studying Intermediate textbooks. N3 prep books were frustratingly difficult. I ended up taking the N3 anyways each year and failed it 3 years in a row the last year being sooo discouraging. I felt like I was completely stuck and couldn’t advance on anything in my life until I achieved this pesky goal. Well the opportunity to move back to Japan came up again and I started studying Kanzen Master N3 Grammer and reading books with a teacher there, then Covid happened and I took 2 years off from JLPT by necessity (exam didn’t occur) and my Japan assignment was cut short. I eventually got to move back to Japan 2 years later and finished preparing for the N3 and just passed it on my 4th attempt (over 6 years!) Well my progress may seem incredibly slow comparatively, each time that I moved back to Japan, life got easier, previous concepts that were difficult before clicked with simply more time and my brain sorted stuff out after a 2 year break from the exam. Long story short, if it’s important enough to you….don’t give up, you’ll get there with continued action! (Also contributing to my slow pace, was that I had 2 children in the time frame between passing the N4 and passing the N3)
As someone who’s been learning the language for over 2 years and has just finished Genki 2, this is all very useful stuff. My goal is N2 eventually, but I know I have a lot of practice ahead still. Next, I’ll go through the Quartet textbooks and then probably hone in on specific JLPT books.
Like you, I try to spread my time between writing (WK, textbooks), listening (YT, anime), speaking (taking lessons with natives) and reading (]daily news articles, games, pop culture)
If you wanna hang out at some point to chat and compare notes, I’d take you up on that. I am sure you’re doing better then me Having a study buddy would be nice!
Can you explain your test taking strategies a bit? I used to tutor test prep, so I could probably help you figure out how you are on that front.
I already wrote a test prep guide here
The “Taking the Test” section is probably the most relevant, but the rest probably won’t hurt to read either.
I have also heard it put this way “Don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect.”