Today I took the National Japanese Proficiency Exam . . . . and . . . failed miserably.
Which is what I expected. There are 4 levels, level 1 being the hardest. Think S.A.T. type vocabulary. I took level 2 which is pretty much general vocabulary and grammar. You can read about the different levels in this funny article.
The test is split into 3 parts. The first part is specifically vocabulary meaning the questions are pick the correct kanji or the correct pronounciation or the correct word. I think I got maybe 30 to 40%. Of course for the other parts of the test if your vocabulary is not up to snuff then you won't understand them.
The second part is a listening test. I think I might have done as well as 70% here but they try to trip you up so you never know.
The last part is the hardest. It's reading comprehension and grammar. You get 70 minutes but I would need at least 30 more to be able to finish because I just can't read that fast. There is usually a one page article with 7 questions about it. Followed by a slightly shorter article with 5 questions. Then 4 or 5 more short articles, one or two paragraphs each each with 1 or 2 questions. Then there are like 40 or 50 grammar questions.
But, even if I did have that extra 30 minutes I would not pass because my Japanese is just attrocious. It's not so much that I don't understand Japanese. I can usually understand e−mail from friends or my friend's Japanese weblogs for example but these articles are more like something you'd read in a slightly harder level magazine. They are not as hard as something you would find in say Science magazine, that's probably level 1, but they are probably as hard as say an editorial in Time or Wired and so they use unusual grammar and a slightly different style than normal conversation.
Anyway, I won't know just how bad I did until like mid February which is when the results come back. I'm actually not sure why I even went. I knew I couldn't pass. It's a waste of an entire day. The test is from 10am to 4pm with long breaks between tests. In fact I had decided not to go until about 3 weeks ago when my teacher said I should at least try it. My argument was we were taking previous years tests in class and I was getting maybe 50% scores so what's the point. It's not like you actually learn anything by going. You can't take notes, you can't bring the test back so you can study what you missed. But, I went. Whatever. It's over.
It's very frustrating. Although I feel fine with close friends but, anything outside of that like even class 60% of the time, TV all the time and articles like those in the test, when I read or hear them it's just a jumble of noises. If I know the topic I might pick up a few words and therefore guess at what was said or meant. Since I'm pretty good at logic I guess right slightly more than I guess wrong but it still sucks because I know that I didn't really understand. For example if I was to take the this paragraph I might hear something like this
xxxx xxxx frustrating. xxxxxxxx I feel xxxx xxxx xxxxx friends but, xxxxxxxx outside xx xxxx like xxxx class 60% xx xxx time, TV all xxx time and articles like xxxxx in xxx test, when I read xx hear xxxx it's xxxx x xxxxxx xx noises. If x know xxx topic I xxxxx pick up x xxx words xxx xxxxxxxxx guess xx xxxx xxx xxxx xx meant. xxxxx xxx xxxxxx good xx logic I guess xxxxx xxxxxxxx more xxxx x xxxxx wrong but it xxxxl sucks xxxxxxx I xxxx xxxx I didn't xxxxxx understand. xxx example xx I xxx xx xxxx xxx xxxx paragraph I xxxxx hear xxxxxxxxx xxxx this.
That's both reading and listening. If I have a dictionary and I have time then I can translate the words I don't know and I can usually understand it then although if the grammar is hard I might guess "is" when it means "is not" or "do" when it means "do not" and stuff like that. When I'm listening though I can't look up the words. The best I can do is pick one, stop listening, write it down and ask about it later and just except that I missed the next 3 sentences the teacher said.
It's in this sense that I wonder if staying in Japan will help. It's basically almost entirely a vocabulary problem. It's extremely hard to remember words which won't come up for a while. For example our current topic on class as the following words
- shikyuu = womb
- funin = infertility
- tainai = inside the womb
- genshi = primeval
- setsuri = divine providence
- jusei = fertilization
- kaimei = elucidate
- ryouiki = domain
When is the next time I will need to use or encounter those words? And why is it easy to remember them in English? Is it because we spend 2 months studying them in Biology class? Even words that are more useful like
- shinka = evolution
- gyoushuku = condensation
- shussan = birth (as in delivery) not as in being born which is umareru or to give birth which is umu
- saibou = cell
- taiji = embryo
- nanbyou = incurable disease
- chuuzetsu = interrupt/abort
- kontei = root/foundation except that kibu = foundation, soji = foundation, oomoto = foundation, taihou = foundation, konkyo = foundation, dodai = foundation, kiso = foundation, kiban = foundation, kihon = foundation, shitaji = foundation, nemoto = foundation, konpon = foundation, kongen = foundation.
I have no idea how I'm supposed to remember those when I will see each one twice a year at best.