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Is my studying taking too long?

emsnu

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こんにちは皆さん、

I've been studying Japanese for 3 years and my level is only N3, while a lot of people I know managed to get a(n) N2 in just 1 or 2 years. During the last 3 years I've finished the Minna no Nihongo (shokyuu) and more than half of the Tema Betsu (chuukyuu). Am I taking to much time for my Japanese? If I follow the course of my current language center it will take 6 months more to finish the current Tema Betsu, and that's only half of the required vocabulary and structures for the N2 test :(. Could you suggest me of some other way to speed this up, since I wanna get an N2 before my graduation which is due in one more year?

Thank you!
 

Mike Cash

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The only solution I see is studying more on your own. Do you find the pace at your language center easy to keep up with? If so, then you are probably capable of working at a faster pace. If that means your independent studies get you ahead of what others are doing in class, so be it. Don't let school interfere with your education.
 
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I agree with Mike-san. I don't know anybody that has passed the JLPTN1 in just a couple of years by following a classroom curriculum, people that pass quickly do it with a lot of independent study. (They may also take classes or having tutoring sessions, but mostly, they put the hours in on their own.)

Once you have the basics down, I think it's quite important to do a lot of reading and listening to actual native materials. Simply reading all of the material in the time the test allows becomes difficult at the higher levels. Essays are the best practice material because the majority of the reading selections are essays. (There is always at least one reading that looks like a notice of some kind - an advertisement or a train schedule change, something along those lines where you have to pull out practical information.)
The spoken dialogues are usually some kind of school or workplace discussion about some decision that needs to be made for an upcoming event (what to buy a co-worker for their birthday; getting advice from a teacher about how to organize a group presentation; that sort of thing.)

Useful places to practice for free are,
Japanese travel - Learn Japanese Online - JOI Teachers blog
WEB版 エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。|Global Home
NEWS WEB EASY (and of course the regular news too when you can).
NHK高校講座 (reading the pdf before listening to or watching a lesson makes it much easier to understand what's going on, and provides good reading practice. Reading the pdf after makes more challenging listening practice followed by a check of your comprehension. ベーシック国語 was pretty good practice for me, 世界史、日本史 and 社会情報 should be good too. The science and math classes are probably not as good for practicing for the JLPT, but if you feel like you need to review a particular subject to do well in school then you could double-up on practicing Japanese and studying for school by choosing one of those.)

I never used them, but many people do get the Kanzen Master books to prepare for the JLPT. There would be a lot of duplication with your current course so maybe you wouldn't want 文法、語彙 or 漢字, but the 読解 and 聴解 books will provide very precisely targeted reading and listening practice. You can probably find used copies if price is an issue, it's a very popular series.
http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Japanese-Language-Proficiency-Noryokushiken/dp/4883195724/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=61nG3-5cvoL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR113,160_&refRID=0TCMY51T9FJT476HXTKC
 

emsnu

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Indeed, I always find the classroom pace really slow and not challenging enough. So it all comes down to self-study, it seems. And thank you, I'll definitely try the sites that you recommended :)

One more question, though: how do you learn vocabularies? I mean for kanji compounds (家族、独立) it's pretty easy for me to learn, since the Vietnamese language utilises Chinese characters as well; however when it comes to stand-alone Kanji with Kun-yomi (for example 慰める) it's a bit hard to remember how it is pronounced :(
 
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One more question, though: how do you learn vocabularies? I mean for kanji compounds (家族、独立) it's pretty easy for me to learn, since the Vietnamese language utilises Chinese characters as well; however when it comes to stand-alone Kanji with Kun-yomi (for example 慰める) it's a bit hard to remember how it is pronounced :(
Personally, I use Anki Anki - powerful, intelligent flashcards as my vocabulary study aid. My configuration has it so that when I enter a new item it creates 2 cards (or sometimes more).

The first card has an example sentence on the front with the kana spelling of the vocabulary term highlighted. Furigana appears if I mouse over words in the sentence. On the back side is a repetition of the front side as well as the English translation of the sentence and definition of the word. I rate these cards 'pass' if I can correctly identify the meaning of the word.

The second card has an example sentence on the front with the vocabulary term in its kanji spelling, and all the same information on the back. I'm required to type in the kana for the vocabulary term, and I pass if I both correctly type the term and correctly identify the meaning of the word. Third and fourth cards are sometimes created when one word has multiple kanji spellings.

SRS ('spaced repetition system') software is different from conventional flashcards in that you review cards that you don't know well much more often than cards that you have successfully passed many times, making your study time more efficient. The same idea can be done with physical cards - the original SRS involved moving index cards from one box to another during reviews, but it's easier and more precise with software.

There are many SRS programs - Anki, Memrise, and surusu are the best known names. Anki is by far the most popular, but then again, Anki is free while Memrise costs money so that's not the same as saying it's the best.

In any case, I strongly recommend the use of SRS for vocabulary building, whether you use the software or index cards in boxes.
 

emsnu

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Hey that sounds brilliant I'll try it thanks :D
 

Mike Cash

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I'll put in a recommendation for Sticky Study if you have an iPhone or iPad.

SS :: Kanji

I never used flash cards for vocabulary study. (When I started learning Japanese that meant writing your own physical cards on paper and I'm too lazy for that). But I have made very extensive use of the app preparing for the Kanji Kentei. It comes with JLPT vocabulary decks included.

For things you find difficult, the simple answer is exposure, exposure, exposure and repetition, repetition, repetition.

The part already mentioned about the importance of building your reading skills can't be emphasized strongly enough. This is probably the area where the most people have the most trouble, and needlessly so. People seem to take it as an accepted fact that there isn't time to actually read all the texts in the reading section and that they must skim the texts instead of reading them. The truth is, there is plenty of time to read the texts IF you build your reading skills and speed through diligent and extensive practice.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Memrise is free, or at least I haven't paid anything. I prefer it over Anki because it feels a bit more fun.

I'm working my way through the decks for Minna No Nihongo and Basic Kanji Book vol. 1, but I know there are decks for all levels.

For reading I bought some very simple books from Amazon, and it's slow going but since I love reading in English I'm really looking forward to transferring that love to Japanese.
 

emsnu

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Totally! When I was taught English in my country a lot of my teachers said that "don't read the whole paragraph" or "focus only on key words" or "look carefully at the beginning and ending sentences of the paragraphs" blah blah blah. These are only tricks to pass the tests, not to really become better at a language, not mention it sounds like you don't know enough about the language to do the test.

I understand that reading makes perfect but now I'm kinda stuck here. I'm at the level where articles from "easy japanese" sites (pretty good sites, though) are too easy and ordinary articles are too difficult. Guess I'll have to build my vocabulary first.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Totally! When I was taught English in my country a lot of my teachers said that "don't read the whole paragraph" or "focus only on key words" or "look carefully at the beginning and ending sentences of the paragraphs" blah blah blah. These are only tricks to pass the tests, not to really become better at a language, not mention it sounds like you don't know enough about the language to do the test.

I understand that reading makes perfect but now I'm kinda stuck here. I'm at the level where articles from "easy japanese" sites (pretty good sites, though) are too easy and ordinary articles are too difficult. Guess I'll have to build my vocabulary first.
The graded readers from White Rabbit press are easily within your abilities. Find the level which corresponds to your abilities.
 
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Memrise is free? Hmm, I must've misread or misremembered something.

For what it's worth, this book was tremendously valuable to me in bridging the gap between reading 'easy' materials and reading real books,
http://www.amazon.com/Read-Real-Japanese-Fiction-Contemporary/dp/1568365292

I never used the companion volume, but I would expect it to be equally good, and of course, essays are much more relevant to the test contents than novels.
Amazon.com: Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included (9781568364148): Janet Ashby: Books

Of course, the translation notes are all in English, I have no idea if there's a Vietnamese version. However, your English seems quite good so I wouldn't expect it to be a problem.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Memrise is free? Hmm, I must've misread or misremembered something.

For what it's worth, this book was tremendously valuable to me in bridging the gap between reading 'easy' materials and reading real books,
Amazon.com: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (9781568365299): Michael Emmerich: Books

I never used the companion volume, but I would expect it to be equally good, and of course, essays are much more relevant to the test contents than novels.
Amazon.com: Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included (9781568364148): Janet Ashby: Books

Of course, the translation notes are all in English, I have no idea if there's a Vietnamese version. However, your English seems quite good so I wouldn't expect it to be a problem.
I read the same one... Well, I'm halfway through it and taking a break while I read some easier materials. Tough book for me, but probably much more reasonable for OP's level since I'm not as high. I find that I get the gist of many sentences but miss nuances which become clear in the translation notes.

Great recommendation!
 

emsnu

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Thanks a bunch for your recommendations :D I'll try my best to get a N2 next year as planned. Thanks again for your helps :)
 
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