Congratulations! You've just come through the grinder that is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It probably doesn't feel so bad now, but in the next few days you're probably going to have some withdrawal symptoms. Cramming for tests takes up a lot of your time and energy, and no matter how you look at it, it's not much fun. In this post we'll look at some ways to fill the time between now and test results, and hopefully put some joy back into learning Japanese.
Some of you may feel quietly confident at first but then the nagging doubt will creep in. Some of you will know that you botched parts of it, and now you're only waiting to find out by how much. I put the following question out there on Twitter yesterday because I know what some of you must be going through right now.
Thank you to everyone that responded on Twitter, I'm glad to have found a such an interesting bunch of people to follow!
1. Remember the reason you started studying.When you started studying Japanese did you have a clear idea why? For some people its because they want to learn enough Japanese to read manga or understand anime, for others because they have work or travel plans that involve extended periods of time in Japan. For some, its just for fun and to keep their minds nimble.
Studying for a test usually has the unwanted side effect of destroying your internal motivation. The constant repetition may be good for boosting your vocabulary, or aiding your kanji recall, but how well does it prepare you for interactions with people? My guess is not very well.
If you rely on an external motivator to achieve your goals, when that external motivator changes or disappears, you risk losing focus on why it is you started studying in the first place. Kevin's advice is simple, rediscover your motivation for learning Japanese. What is your version of Japanese?
2. Read stuff.Preparing for a test is different to using Japanese naturally to engage in culture. Reading is one of the most direct ways to experience culture, and even more important if you can't immerse yourself in it physically.
In the lead up to the test you may have wanted to read manga, but you probably focussed on reading lots of very boring textbooks with short disconnected passages and obscure grammar. This is good in the short term, but practice tests fall well short of what I call exciting reading.
Get back to basics, find something you really enjoy reading. You'll probably find that reading something for the second time you're able to get through it much more smoothly. There are lots of good reasons why reading can be good for your Japanese. Harvey came up with a fabulous link to an almost limitless supply of reading in Japanese with the 青空文庫 (Aozora Bunko). I'm a big fan of blue sky learning too!
3. Find something fun to study.Chill out, relax, spend the evening on YouTube Japan or ニコニコ動画 (nico nico douga). Have a good laugh, so it brings you back to earth. Play games, learn like a child, do a bit of bottom grabbing on twitter.
Do something a little different, it will help you find new ways to explore your new found confidence with Japanese. Be creative with your time and remember, learning is meant to be fun. Thanks Katie!
4. Concentrate on a weakness.Having now done the test you will have an acute sense of where your weaknesses are. Use this to refocus your attention on improving these weak areas when you turn back to the books. Doing so will not only provide you with fertile ground for improvement it will help you weed out bad habits in your study technique.
Outline a plan to improve in this area, remember that hard won gains in an area of weakness unlock large gains in other areas. Tone has identified clearly her weakness, and isn't afraid to share it. Where do your weaknesses lie? What are you going to do to correct them?
5. Start studying for the next level.Have you heard the best way never to fear falling off a horse is to get right back on after you fall off? It might be painful initially, but now that you have the momentum why waste it?
Make sure you have some measurable goals, but never lose sight of why you started studying in the first place. Matigo may seem the masochist here, but I bet he makes good ground on the next JLPT level while the rest of the world is sleeping.
Update: Go on! Get away from that computer and get out of the house already!
I noticed this response from Philip a day after the original post went up. It is worth mentioning because of its sense of urgency. My sentiments precisely, get out there and use it! Its not Latin you know!
How will you spend the next few months before results are released?