Anyone know if foreigners can sit the Nihongo-kentei?

Anyone know if foreigners can sit the Nihongo-kentei?

The only thing I can see that is kind of related foreigners is…


I don’t see a reason why it would not be possible (in fact that never even crossed my mind.

People are talking about it on the forum once in a while, but no one ever mentioned restrictions.


I’m thinking along the same lines. It would be a bummer if there are… I study much better with concrete goals. Thanks!


Why would they have a restriction like that?


Ah sorry. It’s not that I think that there is such a restriction. The question come from not being able to find ANYTHING on the internet, a place where anything and everything is post/ talked about, about a foreigner taking the exam. I thought it was strange, so I asked. :slight_smile:

This doesn’t help your question at all, but…
I think they should rework their test description cause it sounds mighty prescriptivist (assuming I’m reading it right). “This test is to see if you use ~correct~ Japanese, unlike the flawed Japanese you hear from native speakers every day.” Maybe it’s the linguistics nerd in me but to me it’s weird to say what native speakers produce (assuming they aren’t slip-ups) isn’t inherently grammatical/correct.


Seriously? I have the exact opposite stance. I know for a fact that whatever native speakers blabber out can contain tons of mistakes. That might have been hammered into my head from the fact that my mother is a teacher of my native language; she used to correct me when I was a kid, but since I became an adult she just shakes her head disapprovingly.


I feel that, if a native speaker says it and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what they said (i.e. no alarms going off in their head), and most native speakers would agree it sounds okay, then it’s fine to emulate. With Japanese for example, people might say お食べ下さい, which is technically incorrect, but if this is a commonly used utterance, is it not acceptable?

The usual language class setting involves a lot of overt correcting, but that is not nearly as effective as teachers tend to think they are. (Sadly language classrooms in general do a poor job of teaching languages due to a lack of application of second language acquisition research)

Language is constantly changing, so things that might be viewed as ungrammatical in a traditional sense might just be reflective of bigger shifts in the language overall.


I guess all depends on whether one considers a language as only the sum of all the things people speaking it have actually said, which could in theory be gathered and analyzed statistically, or whether one thinks it’s something independent of its speakers, and therefore there can even be a correct and incorrect uttering, as opposed to just one that will be correctly understood by more or fewer people.


There’s no point to a test like this at all if we just say that whatever natives say is correct by default because they’re natives.

If you accept the existence of a language test for natives, they have to be able to get things right or wrong on it…


I agree. Though I don’t really see the point of the test’s existence :sweat_smile:

Something like keigo is all about showing you can create arbitrarily difficult constructions as a way of expressing humility or respect. The whole point of it is that it isn’t like what people use every day, and that each category of word has its associated purpose.

“Good enough” goes against the idea altogether.

I’m sure some natives don’t see the point in keigo either though.


But even if you’re looking at a language as a fluid concept, there are scales, right? It is definitely possible to construct ungrammatical sentences, which native speakers will strongly agree are ungrammatical. There are fuzzy regions and dialectal differences, but there will definitely be sets of grammatical and ungrammatical sentences.

And although I think languages are fluid and have a lot of fun playing around with English myself, I think there is merit in learning to speak a language “well”, however that is defined. People who have a better understanding of grammar tend to speak or write more eloquently and with clearer meaning, even if they don’t use perfect grammar all the time.


I hadn’t thought of it like that before. I see the merit in that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it moved away from those principles. Only time will tell though.

Yup, yup, and yup! There are some things that would be very very hard to say are grammatical based on a language’s setup. “Ate bread I” would be likely be ungrammatical for any speaker of any variety of English, for example.

Being articulate is a great asset! There’s no denying that. If you’re very comfortable with a language it certainly makes your life easier when you need to get your point across as clearly as possible.

Perception of language production can also cross into being a sociolinguistic problem where certain varieties of a language can be associated with higher intelligence, class, etc. (though I know that’s not what you’re talking about)


It’s 3am, so I don’t expect to say anything eloquent, but as a fellow linguistics nerd and student of SLA I really enjoy your takes in this thread.

And it’s true that anything a native speaker says isn’t inherently correct, yes, and that native speech is full of slang and “incorrect” grammar, though I wouldn’t call any the latter two things mistakes. I also think there’s value in “proper” grammar, in many situations. In a casual conversation between friends, using slang or omitting particles or being flat-out ungrammatical isn’t a mistake. In a job interview, maybe? When giving a speech at a conference to hundreds of people at the top of their field, would speaking so casually be a “mistake”? Yes, I’d say so.

I’m not sure there’s any inherent value to a sophisticated grasp of grammar in any language, but there’s absolutely a considerable amount of social value. Someone who writes for a living is going to want to be good at it. There’s going to be multiple contexts where perfectly complex keigo is appreciated and valued, and probably just as many where nobody really cares. If the test has value to someone, it has value in its existence.

But to say that someone is being lazy, or that they’re making mistakes by speaking naturally, or that a language is being hurt somehow through the ‘laziness’ of a younger generation ruining the integrity of its grammar… that’s too far on the other end in my opinion. Language is never separate from its users, and it’s a living thing that changes. In a thousand years English and Japanese both are going to be completely different, but not any better as languages and not any worse.

That said…

The above thread discusses first-hand non-native experiences with the Nihongo Kentei!


Ah, I didn’t think of looking for anything written up in English. Thanks there!

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I consistently make mistakes in my native language :rofl:. And notice that other people do it too but noone corrects them. It’s kinda funny.

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Exactly! That’s part of the beauty of language : )
I’m going to be a bit off topic, but this reminded me of a couple things:
The funny thing that I also tend to find (as a fellow linguistics nerd) is that there are times when language “purists” will look down on certain terms that are in use as “newfangled” and so on, but sometimes these words have been in use for much longer than they think, or have some really old origins.
And then there are things like pronunciations, which tend to shift over time (I’m thinking mostly of vowel shifts).
There’s so much to think about and consider- fascinating!

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