jona: (GKS - bigin)
JLPT

I'm just back from a weekend in Düsseldorf, which included the lovely company of [livejournal.com profile] ina, [livejournal.com profile] nightinbird, [livejournal.com profile] b_akakame and [livejournal.com profile] aya_3003, my first booze since the Great Gorilla Hangover of 2014, not a great deal of sleep, fic exchange matching at [livejournal.com profile] solo's mom's kitchen table, and the first time I was at a ramen restaurant in Düsseldorf and didn't order ramen.

That last part is probably the most shocking. ^_^

Being a cheapo, I opted for bus over train, and while that meant a long-ass trip, I had no crazy ladies sitting next to me. (I did have a hen night party and various 'travelling to Cologne to get drunk' parties on the same bus as me, but them's the breaks.) I arrived at home yesterday at 4 and had to hit the ground running as I had an English student and then politics until late, so I'm feeling kind of knackered, but I honestly had a wonderful weekend that was a proper break from work stress and current work deadlines -- much thanks to the fangirls who came out to play! <3

Now for the obligatory JLPT recap!

(1) Vocabulary & kanji
I think I did pretty well. There were three terms I'd never heard of before and three more where I was more guessing, but I'd still kind of expect a score around 80% on this part. The most interesting difference to N4 was that the 'how to use this word correctly' part (as in, you get a term like 内容 and then four sentences using this word, and only one is correct) got noticeably trickier in that all four sentences, literally translated, seemed potentially correct (in the 内容 example, they were all about some type of 'content') and you needed to know which context the word is normally used in. To me that was new, and N4 was still more 'I put the elephant in the drawer' vs. 'I see the elephant at the zoo'. At the end I had five minutes to spare.

(2) Grammar & reading
Not great. I made a strategic error, in part because I underestimated my reading comprehension -- not that that's OMG SUPER AWESOME but in relation to my grammar skillz, it was unexpectedly better. During N4, I'd done okay on the grammar and then struggled with the MASS OF READING, and I'd also struggled with understanding the answers. Meaning back then I generally understood the texts fine but didn't always know WTF the potential answers meant. So now I did the exam part in order, starting on grammar because I figured those points would still be 'easier' (more points in less time) than the reading points. But I was utterly terrible at the grammar -- I'm pretty sure I didn't get a single of the 'arrange the words into the correct order' questions right, and I spent a lot of time on those. And then I found the reading part surprisingly enjoyable. Time-consuming, yes, but I felt much less bamboozled by the answers and actually had fun with the texts. But then I did run out of time and for one text, with four questions, I ended up just making random dots on the answer sheet because the time was up. After this section, I figured I hadn't yet failed; I don't think I did so badly that I'll fall below the 'sectional minimum', and I was thinking that if I did well on the listening, the vocab & listening could still cancel out the grammar problems. I'm kind of expecting a 40-50% score on this one.

(3) Listening
Well. Let's just say that I did not to 'really well' on this one. Better than at grammar and reading, but probably not well enough to pull up my overall score to 'pass'. It was an interesting experience in that I felt exactly what the step up from N4 was (the 'near-natural speed' part of the speaking), and this was also exactly what I struggled with. No lie, I knew nearly all the words and the grammar constructions or baby keigo didn't throw me, but I could feel my brain going 'wait!!! WAIT!!! GIVE ME TWO SECONDS TO PROCESS!!' all the time. Basically, I still would have needed a two second break after each sentence just to sort it in my head, but the 'near natural speed' part was still beyond me. I'm guessing I'll score around 50-60% on this? Maybe?

If all my guesses are correct, I'm probably somewhere just around the fail/pass threshold. My gut feeling is 'failed but not totally tanked'. Exept of course all my guesses could be wrong, too! We will see come September. ^_^

Anyone else take the test this July?

I still owe some comment replies on other matters -- they will be gotten to shortly!
jona: Jin, of KAT-TUN, joyful (JE - Jin joy)
I got back from Scotland on Monday night, after an okay trip, but the worst march through bloody Frankfurt airport I'd ever had. It literally took me 50 minutes to get from the gate to the train, and there were no queues, meaning most of that was walking. And I'd packed, um, a little heavily.

See, I like to stock up on things while in Scotland. Very important things like tea and drugs and macaroni pie.

Photographic evidence )

There was a bit of frantic repacking at Solo's house when it turned out that in its original state, the suitcase weighed some 35kgs, so I ended up transporting a lot of cheddar via hand luggage. (I half expected someone to claim that 'cheeses are liquid' but was glad to find out that the air safety stuff hasn't gone that insane yet.)

I did appreciate the new development on air safety that lets you keep your electronic devices on during take-off and landing as well. My flight out was the first time I got the 'put them in flight mode, please' announcement, but nobody really dared do anything with it except one woman who kept her Kindle out. On the flight back, though, a girl across from me was working on her laptop and I was crushing candies during landing, and apparently that was fine! \o/

What I did on my vacation )

A very special and singular event! )

~~~

Totally unrelated to anything: the Japanese learners among you might know this website and I'm the only person who only recently came across it, but it's actually interesting whether you learn Japanese or not. Kanjidamage has a somewhat different approach to learning kanji, and while I didn't adopt the method (I'm set in my ways, and those ways work for me) I found the website hilarious, in a good way. I particularly recommend the Introduction, or why most kanji textbooks suck as well as Kanji Facts.
jona: a nomming panda (panda - nom)
The bento experiment continues and has so far not broken down yet!

Last weekend I made a few more different things, four varieties of veggies for the week and two more meat types for the freezer.

-- carrot kinpira, which was nice and easy though I don't think I love sesame oil as much as I should
-- sweet simmered shiitake mushrooms, which had been MISSING FROM MY LIFE #nom
-- boiled pumpkin, which is super-easy and tasty. With the type of pumpkin I could buy, though, I had to boil it a bit longer than was ideal for the inner parts for the skin to become edible.
-- sweet potato, an excellent easy addition. However, a protip from me: when you stand there and wonder 'why on earth does this recipe give me enough to go in bentos for a month, not a week?' you might want to re-check the recipe, where you will find that it asked for 80g of sweet potato, not 800g. *cough* (I ate a lot of sweet potato last week.)
-- miso chicken and teriyaki chicken for new meat types. This was a little tricky because Germany doesn't really go for de-boned chicken thighs, you just get the whole thing, bones and all. Then you can either stand there and sweat and try to peel the meat off the bone while still raw (did that once in 2003; never again), or you can cook it and then peel it off. I tried two different routes: I marinated the teriyaki chicken thighs, fried them the next day, then peeled off the meat and fried the bits in the marinade too. I microwaved two legs for the miso chicken, then peeled off the microwaved meat and marinated that in the miso marinade. Both ways produced tasty results, but were an unholy mess, never mind the time it took to do everything in two stages. Plus the bits got very bitty indeed.

The bento line-up:

Bentooooo. )

~~~

In other weeaboo news, I passed the JLPT N4. \o/

Score, because I'm too lazy to type it up. )

I was admittedly reasonably sure I'd passed, but whether I'd passed okay enough to feel like trying the N3 in July, I had no idea, and was becoming increasingly concerned about that.

When I first saw my score, I wasn't really sure what to make of it, mostly because I'd done surprisingly well on the listening (despite that exercise that asked about THE SHAPE THE CUCUMBERS AND CARROTS ARE CUT IN), but lost quite a few points on vocab/reading/grammar. On the other hand, reading was definitely the hardest, so it wouldn't surprise me too much if that's where I lost the majority of points. I also didn't think it was that good a score, but compared to at least previous years' statistics my 155 points seem to be actually pretty good!

So, anyway, I don't think this means I'll have an easy time with N3, but at least I feel like it won't be totally silly and a waste of money (apart from the general waste of money that is a test that I don't really need) to try for it in July. :D

JLPT

Aug. 1st, 2013 05:34 pm
jona: (GKS - bigin)
So, I requested the application forms for the December 2013 JLPT test. It's not the first time I've requested the forms, but it's the first time I'm pretty sure that, barring concert miracles, I'm going to take my very first JLPT test in December.

What I don't know yet is at which level. I don't know if I should go for the N4 or the N3, essentially.

What I'm currently doing in terms of Japanese study: dairly vocab and kanji drilling on Renshuu.org, daily; a few hours a week watching Japanese-subtitled drama; trying to remember the grammar I've already learned by writing to a Japanese pen pal.

I'm pretty sure that if I took a week or two for some more focused review of grammar and got a bit more familiar with practice tests, I could pass the N4 right now. I have a Renshuu schedule with the N5+N4 vocab and am feeling very confident about that already; I have a kanji schedule with the N5+N4+N3 kanji, and for mere passive recognition, I'm feeling confident about maybe 60%, and it's still four months until the test.

I've taken a few (small) mock tests online, and found the N4 mock tests relatively easy, but the N3 mock tests a serious jump up, where just the vocab makes me flail quite a bit.

I made myself a schedule for the N3 vocab**, which by itself contains about the same number of words all my previous schedules had combined, and I am finding that schedule very hard, with the traditional OMG THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME!! hair-tearing whenever new words come up. I still have 1770 words I haven't even seen in that schedule. I also know people who are way ahead of me on the Japanese comprehension front who failed the N3, and people who are way way ahead of me who passed it but not exactly with flying colours.

What I also haven't done yet is a timed mock-test, and I do recall that the time pressure tended to be an issue for people who were otherwise well-prepared.

So I'm basically torn between going for the N4, where the material wouldn't put me under too much pressure until December, and where I'd have a chance to get to know the test atmosphere and how it all works at a level I have, I think, a decent chance of passing, or going for the N3, where I'd have a fairly high chance of failing, and the question would be more how well I'd fail.

I'm really not sure. On the one hand, going for the more difficult test would be more incentive to get cracking on the vocab, and I'm not terribly afraid of 'failing' as such. So I admit I'm tempted. On the other hand, I may be completely overestimating myself and if we're not talking failing but tanking, and I take the N3 and end up completely overwhelmed for the whole three hour test, that isn't much fun either, and maybe not such a learning experience as the N4 would have been. Not so much into trauma, me! Additionally, I don't know how much info you get on where and why you failed and if that helps any.

Money and travel-wise, it probably doesn't make much difference in the long run whether I take the N4 this year, pass, and then try the N3 next year, or whether I try the N3 now, fail, and then try the N3 again next year. But I don't know, because of all these pros and cons re: motivation and studying effort.

I may also of course completely misunderestimate the N4. Argh!

Any thoughts? Experience? Anyone want to weigh in with their JLPT strategies?

**I know the N3 materials on Renshuu aren't official because there are no official materials anymore, but I'm guessing it's a decent yardstick anyway.
jona: (GKS - bigin)
I kind of have the impression that most Japanese learners on my flist are way ahead of me, with a few additional people who are still on the hiragana and katakana, so things that I (upper beginner, lower intermediate, ish) find useful might really be useful to nobody but me, but just in case, I have been meaning to mention two things I watched / have been watching recently that I found really useful (and enjoyable) for Japanese practice.

1) I watched Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo with [personal profile] solo, in Japanese with Japanese subtitles. This is a half-hour comedy about a quirky, unusual teacher (yes, really) ending up teaching the class full of weirdos (yes, yes, really) at a Japanese language school for foreigners (new!), where she tries to get them all to graduate together (YES, REALLY).

The plots are nothing special and you've heard all of the tropes before, but because it's only half an hour long, I found that didn't really matter. What I found cool on the language level was that it was fairly easy to understand; partly because, well, we know all the tropes, but also partly because the foreigners speak fairly clear and slower Japanese. It also usually opens with some actual 'history of Japanese' teaching, which I found interesting just on that level. (For example, there is a classroom scene where they talk about why all sorts of green shit is called BLUE in Japanese, and one plot revolves around the proper use of keigo.)

The foreigners are basically a bunch of Japan otakus/weeaboos, and the show pokes some fun at them, but in a benign and friendly way that I found sweet rather than cringe-worthy. It is a little bit racist but actually a lot LESS than I expected. (Don't let the first scene with the black dude mislead you, it gets much more nuanced.)

It helps if you find Naka Riisa, who plays the teacher, as charming as I do, but, really, in terms of language learning, this was one of the cooler series I've checked out recently.

2) A while ago, I downloaded the first episode of Nihongo no kurasou. I downloaded it mainly based on the title, for random curiosity, and then when I first checked out the ep, i giggled at the setup and linked the torrent to Solo, feeling sure that it was mostly something to watch-and-mock -- it's a Japanese-learning TV show from... some years ago, the look of which is extremely dated and kinda cheap, and reminded me of this 'how to deal with a mugger if you travel abroad' English-learning video that I once watched that nearly made me pee my pants. (If you have not watched this, here, let me make your life improving. Japanese is not required to appreciate this.)

Turns out, though, that I've found this a pretty cool language listening tool. The episodes are themed ('Asking questions, 'Becoming Annoyed') and you get to watch little skits that explain the usage of particular phrases. In terms of vocabulary this isn't that efficient, because it's usually two or three phrases and the eps are twenty minutes long, but the sensei and the three foreign students always discuss the skits, and I've found that pretty cool listening practice even without subs. Basically, they explain Japanese grammar and word choices in Japanese but with the help of pictures and skits, and since this is something I don't get in class, I've found it a cool addition.

Sample on Youtube, the whole thing is available on d.addicts.



~~~~

On a not-Japanese note... I'd been looking forward to reading Dan Savage's new book, American Savage. I'm a regular listener and reader of his and two of his previous books, The Commitment and The Kid: what happened after my boyfriend and I decided to go get pregnant, are books I've reread. Turns out, though, that when you're a regular reader and listener, American Savage is just kind of... boring. The political chapters just basically rehash his rants and writings from elsewhere, and even if they're very justified rants, it doesn't really make my life improving to read another fiften page explanation on why health care policy in the US is nutty and hair-raising, you know? So there's a lot of preaching to the choir in there.

However, I've found his recent essay in response to the DOMA ruling in the US... well, enjoyable is probably accurate despite how weird it sounds. Morbid, touching, funny, and in my opinion worth reading: I Can Die Now: Here's What I Don't Have to Worry About Now That the Supreme Court Overturned DOMA

I don't think this is a unique perspective or anything, but it boiled things down in a way that... speaks to me. Possibly because to some degree, I share these 'worst case scenario' and jinx ponderings. Not entirely -- I'm not Catholic, I don't have the guilt, and I don't think about it all the time -- but it's somewhat familiar. And possibly because my mind goes 'tax breaks' and 'pension entitlements' before anything else, too. :-)
jona: (GKS - bigin)
I'm fascinated (and sometimes perplexed) by what I find comparatively easy and what I find comparatively hard in learning Japanese.

People sometimes ask me, 'so how long does it take you before you can do... anything useful?' and my answer is always, 'It depends and it is weird.' I'm sure some of you have heard this anecdote before, but it's really the best illustration of how hard I find it to judge how much I can 'do' in Japanese. I have had a comprehensible, ten minute conversation with two middle-aged Japanese ladies (literally ladies; they were all dressed up in formalwear) on a train about 'the image of Japan in Germany and what this means for the Japanese tourism industry', and while I'm sure I was making a lot of mistakes, we understood each other's points, and they were moderately 'complex' points. Similarly, one night in Oosaka, at the house of an elderly Japanese couple that Solo knew, I ended up alone at the table with these two because Solo had an incident with wine and beer, and having to make conversation for a while, and I ended up talking to the guy, who didn't have any English, about how he was from Hiroshima, and about the bomb and the war.

On the other hand, I do not understand the lyrics to a single KAT-TUN song. I'm not kidding about this. I'll catch the occasional phrase ('oh, spread your wings, I got that!' \o/ 'oh, somebody wants to kiss someone!') but in general, four years after I started to learn Japanese it's basically still la-la-li-la-only-prettier sounds to me. I kept waiting for a sort of breakthrough moment when suddenly the 200 words they have on rotation for 90% of the songs would all fall into place, but it's not happening.

This runs counter to my experiences with learning languages. Not just English, but also French. Songs were always easier; songs are like a 'gateway text', where I learn vocab by maybe understanding 70% of the text and looking up the rest. But not-all-that-complex Japanese pop songs? No dice. It's really strange and occasionally makes me feel like my brain is defective.

And more weird stuff. )
jona: (GKS - bigin)
I have two gift codes for 30 days of the Pro version of Renshuu.org.

I really love this site, and I love that it is very useful and functional already in its free version. The Pro version mainly offers more fun kanji quizzes and the ability to see your quizzing statistics. (I.e. if you want to know which super-easy first grade adverb you got wrong eleven times in a row, YOU CAN!)

Comment here if you think this may be useful to you. My one condition: if you take a gift code, you have to actually do some studying that month. :D
jona: Kame with his shirt off (JE - KAME)
This post is for [livejournal.com profile] karu_chan.

Are u ready to knock?
Are u ready to knock?
Are u ready to rock?

You're on. *g*
jona: Akame looking cute and telling me to cheer up, emo pornographer (JE - cheer up pornographer (cute))
News, of varying degrees of importance:

1. Today I have cut down the time it takes me to do my Japanese homework to four hours. Go me! (Kindly disregard the fact that it was only two exercises this time. They were LONG SENTENCES. So there.)

2. I did not get elected to the mysterious quasi-unimportant thing, which is maybe a good thing given how much fretting I managed to cram into one weekend. While my defeat was crushing and glorious, I did get told by a number of people that I looked much better than the other guy, which I guess is something. (He is bald.)

I did get elected as Person To Look At Cat Pictures, by parties that shall remain nameless, so hey, not like I hold no quasi-unimportant offices at all.

3. I may really go on the really frivolous holiday. I haven't had time to do anything about the booking but... mmmmmmmm. Might even take a scuba diving option. Mmmmmmm.

4. Regarding fannish things and angst and stuff, [livejournal.com profile] solo____ and I have engaged in TheraPorn, and this time even bothered to type it up and remove third knees and -- we hope -- the majority of typos.

Lift me to the sky

Of course Jin will go.

Rated TheraPWP. (We mean it.) Other notes etc. iz over at the fic comm.

5. Is there such a thing as... summer boots? I've grown quite fond of the skirt-and-boots stuff over the winter, but what with the winter lining and all, it's getting kind of... sweaty.

6. I really need to do my laundry. Today was the second day in a row where I was already showered before I realised I had to sneak down to the laundry room in the cellar for a clean pair of panties. Whoops.

Now I must go and humiliate myself in class again.

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the paranoid android

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