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How to become native? Some advice please

Erikaaahh

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Hello everyone
I've been studying Japanese for nearly 5 years now and I'm at a loss on how to improve my Japanese even further. I've already passed JLPT N1 and I'm thinking of taking kanji kentei.
I just don't know how to study to further improve my Japanese. I can read most kanji and words, however I have difficulties producing my own sentences. I also forget vocabulary and grammar patterns really easily. I've been trying to study for kanji kentei, but the problem is, even though I can write out all the kanji I've been studying, I can't remember the vocabulary when I'm doing a practice test in which you have to fill in the blanks and recall the words you have studied. I would like to know how you guys study Japanese and overcame this advanced Japanese plateau. I would really like to be closer to native when it comes to writing and speaking Japanese.

Thank-you!
 

Mike Cash

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Do you have an opportunity to use Japanese in your daily life?

Which level of KK are you studying for?
 

Erikaaahh

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Do you have an opportunity to use Japanese in your daily life?

Which level of KK are you studying for?

I live in japan so I use it ever
Do you have an opportunity to use Japanese in your daily life?

Which level of KK are you studying for?

I live in Japan so I use Japanese every day at work. I just wish I could produce more native-like sentences, using the right grammar and vocab. At the moment, my sentences lack variety I think. I have a hard time recalling everything I learned, so I would like to know if there is any way to improve this.

I'm aiming for kanji kentei level 4 atm.
 

Mike Cash

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Well, it has only been not quite five years since you didn't know any Japanese at all, so let's try to keep in mind that you have made remarkable progress that many people would envy.

You might try doing lots of reading of various materials, watching a variety of shows and movies, and....perhaps most important....expand your opportunities to interact in Japanese outside your workplace. Join some class, club, circle, or sport activity where everybody is Japanese and the only language spoken is Japanese.

Studying for the KK is mainly a matter of having good materials and then sitting down and studying, studying, and studying some more. I took four of the levels last year (like you, after having passed N1) and I used SRS flash card decks with the StickyStudy app, having to create some of them myself. I spent an average of about three hours per day drilling the materials, filling up kanji practice notebooks. Just plain old-fashioned brute repetition.

The hardest part is the 四字熟語, which first appear from KK4, which we foreigners aren't exposed to very much when learning Japanese, and which can be rather hard to find good study materials for.

If you want to pass KK, my best suggestion would be to go on Amazon and look for good study books. You can save a ton by buying used instead of new.

Also, as you may know, you can try multiple levels of the test on the same day.

This thread may be of interest if you have never taken the test before:

Kanji Kentei | Japan Forum
 

Erikaaahh

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Well, it has only been not quite five years since you didn't know any Japanese at all, so let's try to keep in mind that you have made remarkable progress that many people would envy.

You might try doing lots of reading of various materials, watching a variety of shows and movies, and....perhaps most important....expand your opportunities to interact in Japanese outside your workplace. Join some class, club, circle, or sport activity where everybody is Japanese and the only language spoken is Japanese.

Studying for the KK is mainly a matter of having good materials and then sitting down and studying, studying, and studying some more. I took four of the levels last year (like you, after having passed N1) and I used SRS flash card decks with the StickyStudy app, having to create some of them myself. I spent an average of about three hours per day drilling the materials, filling up kanji practice notebooks. Just plain old-fashioned brute repetition.

The hardest part is the 四字熟語, which first appear from KK4, which we foreigners aren't exposed to very much when learning Japanese, and which can be rather hard to find good study materials for.

If you want to pass KK, my best suggestion would be to go on Amazon and look for good study books. You can save a ton by buying used instead of new.

Also, as you may know, you can try multiple levels of the test on the same day.

This thread may be of interest if you have never taken the test before:

Kanji Kentei | Japan Forum
Thank you so much for your reply!
How long did it take you to pass kanji kentei ? And did you only drill in the kanji by writing them over and over again, or did you also use other methods?
Also, since passing the exams, do you still remember the vocab and are you able to recall them even after taking the exams?

What other things do you do in order to improve your writing skills?

Sorry for asking so many questions. I'm looking forward to your reply.
 

mdchachi

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Relatively few have reached your plateau but generally speaking beyond all the "studying" you need real immersion. Read books. Write letters. Speak & converse in many different contexts. The stuff you learn at work will differ from what you run into in your tennis club or wherever.

That reminds me, you could probably get some value out of Toastmasters. There are 183 clubs in Japan. You could join one that is run primarily in Japanese or at least half and half. I've never been to one in Japan though. If they are all trying to operate in English that wouldn't work for you.
 

Mike Cash

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I never would have thought about Toastmasters and was surprised to learn there are so many clubs here. Apparently the bulk of them are English-oriented, but there are many monolingual Japanese ones as well.

Toastmasters District76, Japan | Club Information

The only thing I would be leery of when considering an activity or group to join is that it often happens someone there will be eager to have you teach them English or want to speak English with you at the activities. That is counterproductive and can be very off-putting to the others there. I've always had the most fun and found the most acceptance from groups where there was nobody who speaks English or who is interested in learning. If someone does start speaking English in those situations I always very quickly shut it down by asking them to speak Japanese so everyone can understand. When I can get the person alone in private I sometimes explain that I don't use English in public.
 

Mike Cash

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How long did it take you to pass kanji kentei ?

I signed up for the February 2016 test on the last day of registration, so I had about a month or a little more to prepare for KK5 and KK4.

As soon as those tests were over, I started studying for KK3, planning to take it in June 2016. I was able to make enough progress that I decided to skip KK3 and instead I took KKpre2 and KK2.

From the time I started studying KK5 until I could first barely pass a KK2 practice test took me 300 hours of study. By the test day I had spent 429 hours studying.

I used the app Studyplus (学習総合サイト Studyplus(スタディプラス) to keep a record of what I studied and how long I studied. I find that keeping a detailed record is useful, as you can see what you actually studied....which is never as much as you think you studied or as much as you intended to study if you don't keep track of it. It also helps you view what you studied and maintain a balance, instead of tending to do only the things you enjoy and not doing the things you don't enjoy as much.

And did you only drill in the kanji by writing them over and over again, or did you also use other methods?

I used several apps which contain questions from previous exams. There are many free apps and many paid apps. The free apps are, in my opinion, each and every one worthless crap. The paid apps aren't all good, but none of the free ones are good.

Looking at the kanji and copying them isn't as good as being prompted and having to recall them, so I used SRS flash cards to provide the prompts. I am a big fan of SS :: Kanji and it was a vital part of my studies.

I would drill by school grade level (which mostly parallels KK levels), always being sure to heavily review the lower levels while learning the higher levels.

Also, since passing the exams, do you still remember the vocab and are you able to recall them even after taking the exams?

Actively, not much. It has increased my passive vocabulary, though, and has had an overall positive effect on listening and literacy as well.

The higher you go in the levels the more obscure and useless the new vocabulary becomes. This is especially true for the 四字熟語, which I suspect they include for the sole purpose of making the test difficult. I would say over 90% of the 四字熟語 covered are absolutely useless to you in daily life, as nobody knows or uses them.

What other things do you do in order to improve your writing skills?

Nothing. My writing skills have atrophied because I don't write much in daily life and because I haven't maintained a habit of reviewing. The listening and literary improvements remain, though.

I'll be honest and tell you that the most satisfying benefit, and one which I never expected when I started studying for KK, is the incredible amount of respect you get from Japanese people for having passed KK2. It is a notoriously difficult test, and even Japanese people who study and prepare for it have a pass rate that is usually 20% or lower. They don't know what JLPT N1 is and they don't care....but they know about the 漢検.

One of the disheartening aspects of foreign life in Japan is having people always assume you are either totally illiterate or at least can't read kanji. When people are writing things very simply for you or asking if you can read something, it is very fun to say こう見えても漢検2級持っている and watch their eyes bug out and their jaws drop. They also instantly become very self-conscious and worried they're going to mess up in front of you. It is a most delightful change from being treated like an illiterate idiot. Last year I had to see a surgeon and he was very obviously uncomfortable as he drew and labeled diagrams for me explaining my condition. He was trying to recall the English terms for some things, and other things he was writing in katakana. He was simultaneously the most surprised and most relieved man I have ever seen when I said 先生、漢検2級持っているから普通に書いていただいてもいいです。特別な配慮は入りません。 After that the consultation went much better for both of us. (Much to my surprise, he even entered it into my electronic medical records at the hospital. So it even eased things later on when I was staying in the hospital for surgery, as all the nurses also saw it).

You might also be interested in taking the 日本語検定, which like the KK is created for native speakers of Japanese but which anyone is free to try.

日本語検定-ビジネス,就活,学力アップ。日本語力を高める検定です。

Nihongo Kentei Results | Japan Forum
 

Mike Cash

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Substitute 要りません for 入りません.

I'd line to say I can't believe I did that....but I can very easily believe I did that.
 

bakaKanadajin

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You have to cover a little bit of the 4 major areas every day.

Reading - keep a novel on you at all times.
Writing - gets the Kanji Kentei game for DS, or Otona no kanji renshuu.
Speaking - hire a teacher to converse with, someone who will provide you with new phrases and correct you.
Listening - Japanese TV for an hour every night, switch it up, news and formal Japanese for a bit, and then more informal Japanese like a variety program.

Last ingredient would be to include a daily review of all the words, phrases and grammatical structures you learn and encounter through the above. I recommend creating your own flash card deck and using a program like Anki. Reviewing is very important in my opinion. Even if you live in Japan you have to remember, you learned Japanese as an adult and crammed it into a 5 year span, so it requires daily maintenance and polishing.
 

Erikaaahh

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I signed up for the February 2016 test on the last day of registration, so I had about a month or a little more to prepare for KK5 and KK4.

As soon as those tests were over, I started studying for KK3, planning to take it in June 2016. I was able to make enough progress that I decided to skip KK3 and instead I took KKpre2 and KK2.

From the time I started studying KK5 until I could first barely pass a KK2 practice test took me 300 hours of study. By the test day I had spent 429 hours studying.

I used the app Studyplus (学習総合サイト Studyplus(スタディプラス) to keep a record of what I studied and how long I studied. I find that keeping a detailed record is useful, as you can see what you actually studied....which is never as much as you think you studied or as much as you intended to study if you don't keep track of it. It also helps you view what you studied and maintain a balance, instead of tending to do only the things you enjoy and not doing the things you don't enjoy as much.

I used several apps which contain questions from previous exams. There are many free apps and many paid apps. The free apps are, in my opinion, each and every one worthless crap. The paid apps aren't all good, but none of the free ones are good.

Looking at the kanji and copying them isn't as good as being prompted and having to recall them, so I used SRS flash cards to provide the prompts. I am a big fan of SS :: Kanji and it was a vital part of my studies.

I would drill by school grade level (which mostly parallels KK levels), always being sure to heavily review the lower levels while learning the higher levels.

Actively, not much. It has increased my passive vocabulary, though, and has had an overall positive effect on listening and literacy as well.

The higher you go in the levels the more obscure and useless the new vocabulary becomes. This is especially true for the 四字熟語, which I suspect they include for the sole purpose of making the test difficult. I would say over 90% of the 四字熟語 covered are absolutely useless to you in daily life, as nobody knows or uses them.



Nothing. My writing skills have atrophied because I don't write much in daily life and because I haven't maintained a habit of reviewing. The listening and literary improvements remain, though.

I'll be honest and tell you that the most satisfying benefit, and one which I never expected when I started studying for KK, is the incredible amount of respect you get from Japanese people for having passed KK2. It is a notoriously difficult test, and even Japanese people who study and prepare for it have a pass rate that is usually 20% or lower. They don't know what JLPT N1 is and they don't care....but they know about the 漢検.

One of the disheartening aspects of foreign life in Japan is having people always assume you are either totally illiterate or at least can't read kanji. When people are writing things very simply for you or asking if you can read something, it is very fun to say こう見えても漢検2級持っている and watch their eyes bug out and their jaws drop. They also instantly become very self-conscious and worried they're going to mess up in front of you. It is a most delightful change from being treated like an illiterate idiot. Last year I had to see a surgeon and he was very obviously uncomfortable as he drew and labeled diagrams for me explaining my condition. He was trying to recall the English terms for some things, and other things he was writing in katakana. He was simultaneously the most surprised and most relieved man I have ever seen when I said 先生、漢検2級持っているから普通に書いていただいてもいいです。特別な配慮は入りません。 After that the consultation went much better for both of us. (Much to my surprise, he even entered it into my electronic medical records at the hospital. So it even eased things later on when I was staying in the hospital for surgery, as all the nurses also saw it).

You might also be interested in taking the 日本語検定, which like the KK is created for native speakers of Japanese but which anyone is free to try.

日本語検定-ビジネス,就活,学力アップ。日本語力を高める検定です。

Nihongo Kentei Results | Japan Forum
Sorry for the late reply.

Thank-you so much!
I really was so lost in Japanese and didn't know what to do anymore. I kind of gave up on the idea of ever becoming closer to native. It just seemed almost impossible.

I'm going to try for KK 4 this October and I've been using anki to study the kanji.
Hopefully I can study everything in such a short timespan, if not, then at least it would be a good experience I guess.
I also started watching some Japanese drama's, hopefully that will benefit me in someway.
 
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Mike Cash

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Simply studying kanji in the same way and with the same materials as you used to study for JLPT will NOT help you pass the Kanji Kentei.

I strongly suggest using apps which contain lots of practice questions and sample exams, and also using the STEP books put out for each level.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/漢検4級漢字学習ステ...1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1504751781&sr=8-8&keywords=漢検

Most especially you have to put time and effort into learning the 四字熟語 which are tested for each level. They make a large portion of the score and passing becomes very difficult if you do poorly on that section. That section alone can be the difference between passing and failing.

The KK is certainly doable for foreign learners, but you have to tailor your studies and materials to fit it. Simply "knowing" kanji in the way you have to "know" kanji for the JLPT won't work.
 
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