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Mike Cash

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I went and took the KK for the first time ever yesterday. I took level 5 and level 4. Level 5 is aimed at kids who have finished elementary school and level 5 is for kids who are in the second year of junior high. I was fully expecting to be the only adult taking the tests at those levels but it turned out I wasn't. Nobody batted an eye at there being a fifty year old gaijin seated amongst the young'uns. About 1/4 of the people in the level 5 group were adults. I think we were all foreigners but I couldn't swear to it. The proportion of adults in the level 4 group was smaller, but I still wasn't alone.

The weirdest thing was that the kids taking the level 5 test all seemed to be right at the age I would expect them to be while the kids in the level 4 test seemed to all be younger than those I had just sat level 5 with. They all looked to be from about 10~12 and many had the air of being hard-pushed young overachievers who through diligent independent study were working at least two or three grade levels ahead.

It was sort of interesting how all the kids' parents walked them up to the classroom (only a few helicopter moms came into the classroom) and then all lined up in the corridor watching through the windows, apparently intent on standing there staring for the entire hour of the test. Thankfully, just before the test started the proctor shooed them all away.

Our friend @nekojita has mentioned in the past making use of the extensive and widely available KK study materials for simply learning Japanese, whether one intends ever taking the tests or not. I downloaded a couple or apps which contain compilations of past exam questions and some practice exams, which I used to help me decide which levels to try. (One I was sure I could pass by the exam date and one I felt confident a bit of review and work would give me a good chance of passing). One very strong impression I got from doing loads of past questions was that my vocabulary sucks. Normally this doesn't bother me so much, but due to the way the KK is structured I knew this wasn't a bunch of obscure high-level stuff I didn't know....it was stuff that most children twelve or thirteen years old know! This was enough to convince me that I needed to work through the material and that it does a hell of a lot more than just seeing if you "know" kanji. I would wholeheartedly join nekojita in recommending some of the various texts, apps, and other materials for the use of the foreign learner of Japanese. Tons of stuff available in Japanese bookstores or via Amazon (good deals on used books from Amazon as well).

Currently working on level 3, which I am seriously going to have to do some learning and studying for. I took a level 3 practice exam this morning and just barely failed it.
 

Mike Cash

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Yesterday I received in the mail copies of the tests I took together with the answer sheets. That was very nice of them, and so totally unlike the uptight JLPT organization.

Results will be mailed March 15 and available online March 4.
 

Mike Cash

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Finishing up the account of my first time trying the Kanji Kentei...

Yesterday I received in the mail the results of the tests taken February 7, just as advertised "about 40 days after the test".

While the cheapskates at JLPT sent nothing but a lousy postcard, thinly laminated on one side, the people at KK send their stuff out in a proper envelope with "DO NOT BEND" printed on it. Inside the envelope, the materials are enclosed in a nice plastic bag to protect the contents in case the mailman trips and drops the envelope in a mud puddle or something.

The tests have a maximum possible score of 200 points, with passing being 140 points. There is no requirement for a certain minimum score on each section of the test, as is the case with JLPT or Nihongo Kentei. Totally sucking on one particular section of the test won't necessarily doom the taker to failing the test overall.

On Level 5, I scored 193. The average score of everyone who took the test that day was apparently 165. On Level 4, I scored 186 and the average was about 149. I beat a bunch of 10~13 year old children who have lots more to occupy their time and minds than preparing for this stupid test. Yay, me.

In January, I was pretty sure I could polish up enough to pass Level 5 by February. I was also firmly convinced I could probably never pass Level 4, primarily because that is where the notorious 四字熟語 show up for the first time and I didn't know any of them or even how to go about learning them. A little searching for material helped alleviate that concern. Now, in the middle of March I have studied the Level 3 well enough that I do consistently well on practice tests. I'm also working on the material for Pre-2 and have hopes of making enough progress by June to pass both those levels during the June 19th exam.

Here are the things they include in the package sent out. The certificate for hanging on the wall and giving your grandmother another reason to brag about you is easily recognizable. The white paper is for sending off in support of school applications or the like and two are included. The remaining item is the score report. It shows how you did on each individual question and your performance in each section relative to the average:



 

madphysicist

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Thanks for your account, interesting to know if I ever decide to take this test. I'm giving the hard study a rest because of my thesis project, but I can already see my Japanese level dropping...

While the cheapskates at JLPT sent nothing but a lousy postcard, thinly laminated on one side, the people at KK send their stuff out in a proper envelope with "DO NOT BEND" printed on it. Inside the envelope, the materials are enclosed in a nice plastic bag to protect the contents in case the mailman trips and drops the envelope in a mud puddle or something.

But did the JLPT folks never send you a fancy certificate? I got a proper certificate and never got anything I could describe as a "postcard". I know you don't care that much about the JLPT but it may be worth checking if there's a chance the certificate got lost in the post or something.
 

Mike Cash

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But did the JLPT folks never send you a fancy certificate? I got a proper certificate and never got anything I could describe as a "postcard". I know you don't care that much about the JLPT but it may be worth checking if there's a chance the certificate got lost in the post or something.

From what I can find from googling around, the cheapo postcard is all you get, at least if you take the test in Japan. I didn't bother trying to flatten out the card for the photo, just so you see how truly and inexcusably lousy the thing is. I used this as an opportunity to explain to my wife the idiom of "the 800 pound gorilla", so it wasn't a total loss. This is just emblematic of an institutional bad attitude. The previous time I took it (1996) they were still giving out stuff your mother could hang on the wall.


 

madphysicist

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From what I can find from googling around, the cheapo postcard is all you get, at least if you take the test in Japan. I didn't bother trying to flatten out the card for the photo, just so you see how truly and inexcusably lousy the thing is. I used this as an opportunity to explain to my wife the idiom of "the 800 pound gorilla", so it wasn't a total loss. This is just emblematic of an institutional bad attitude. The previous time I took it (1996) they were still giving out stuff your mother could hang on the wall.

How bizarre. For myself I don't care that much, I just needed proof of ability, but perhaps if I ever get to taking N1 I should make sure I do it abroad so that indeed my father can hang the certificate on the wall.
 

Mike Cash

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How bizarre. For myself I don't care that much, I just needed proof of ability, but perhaps if I ever get to taking N1 I should make sure I do it abroad so that indeed my father can hang the certificate on the wall.

I know I sound terribly vain going on about tbe certificates, but as an actual matter of fact my certificates live in the envelopes they arrived in and tucked away in boxes or on a bookshelf somewhere; I've never framed or hanged a single one. It is just a matter of principle, I suppose. The attitude of the JLPT organization just overall exudes a total lack of classiness, from their over-zealous guarding of their materials to their treating test takers like criminals to their "we're the only game in town so shut-up, bend over, and take it" attitude manifested by the piece of crap postcard. By the way.... JLPT will sell you a piece of paper similar to the middle image I posted from the KK package for an extra 1000 yen. Kanji Kentei gives you two of them, as well as a copy of the exam, a copy of the answers, and a question-by-question breakdown of how you did. JLPT gives you a chintzy flimsy card and the back of their hand.

I really really really dont like them.
 
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WonkoTheSane

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It's not vain. Regardless of how you feel about the test itself, one has a right to be proud of an accomplishment, and the certificate should reflect that.

Honestly, if I ever hit N1 it will probably take more actual effort than my masters degree did, and whether I hang the certificate up or leave it in my files I think it's reasonable to expect that they give a damn about the effort I gave and exhibit that with a proper certificate suitable for framing.
 

madphysicist

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I know I sound terribly vain going on about tbe certificates, but as an actual matter of fact my certificates live in the envelopes they arrived in and tucked away in boxes or on a bookshelf somewhere; I've never framed or hanged a single one. It is just a matter of principle, I suppose.

Sorry if I sounded saractic, I didn't mean to... I would genuinely like to have a proper certificate if I take N1 for my dad's sake. He likes to tell everyone how smart his children are. I am just rather confused why they manage to give you a certificate if you're abroad but not if you're in Japan, it doesn't make any sense to me.

@WonkoTheSane Yeah, I may well have spent more time in the past year and a half trying to learn Japanese in various ways than on my masters' studies. Personally I just needed the JLPT for applications but if that's one of your main goals I can certainly see why someone would want a nice certificate to look at and feel proud of.
 

Mike Cash

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Sorry if I sounded saractic, I didn't mean to...

No, you didn't sound sarcastic. I'm just keenly aware of how shallow and petulant I sound repeatedly griping about the certificate and it seemed like a good place to elaborate on my reasons.
 

WonkoTheSane

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madphysicist said:
@WonkoTheSane Yeah, I may well have spent more time in the past year and a half trying to learn Japanese in various ways than on my masters' studies. Personally I just needed the JLPT for applications but if that's one of your main goals I can certainly see why someone would want a nice certificate to look at and feel proud of.

Frankly, there's absolutely no reason for me to take the JLPT other than curiosity. My only purposes for learning Japanese are out of respect for the country in which I live, and the expectation for myself as being a functioning adult.

To me it's more the principle.

I haven't bothered to show up at any graduation ceremony in my life, but I'd be disgusted if the school thought so little of their offerings that they didn't bother to provide an appropriate diploma. Why would I respect it if they don't?
 

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I concur with @WonkoTheSane : not vain at all, but well-deserved! And since you posted all your certificates we finally know when to congratulate you for your birthday! [smiley omitted]
 

Mike Cash

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Just finished taking Level 2. There were about 50 of us sitting the exam together. Unlike with 5 and 4, there were no elementary school children present and I was the only (obvious) gaijin in the room. There were a couple of people I guess were junior high students. The rest were a mix of high school students, young adults, and a few of us in our 50s.

Fortunately, there was only one question in the 四字熟語 section containing one I had never seen before. I only had to leave a couple of questions blank and only made a wild guess on one question.

Waiting to take the pre-2 next.
 

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I went and took the KK for the first time ever yesterday. I took level 5 and level 4. Level 5 is aimed at kids who have finished elementary school and level 5 is for kids who are in the second year of junior high. I was fully expecting to be the only adult taking the tests at those levels but it turned out I wasn't. Nobody batted an eye at there being a fifty year old gaijin seated amongst the young'uns. About 1/4 of the people in the level 5 group were adults. I think we were all foreigners but I couldn't swear to it. The proportion of adults in the level 4 group was smaller, but I still wasn't alone.

The weirdest thing was that the kids taking the level 5 test all seemed to be right at the age I would expect them to be while the kids in the level 4 test seemed to all be younger than those I had just sat level 5 with. They all looked to be from about 10~12 and many had the air of being hard-pushed young overachievers who through diligent independent study were working at least two or three grade levels ahead.

It was sort of interesting how all the kids' parents walked them up to the classroom (only a few helicopter moms came into the classroom) and then all lined up in the corridor watching through the windows, apparently intent on standing there staring for the entire hour of the test. Thankfully, just before the test started the proctor shooed them all away.

Our friend @nekojita has mentioned in the past making use of the extensive and widely available KK study materials for simply learning Japanese, whether one intends ever taking the tests or not. I downloaded a couple or apps which contain compilations of past exam questions and some practice exams, which I used to help me decide which levels to try. (One I was sure I could pass by the exam date and one I felt confident a bit of review and work would give me a good chance of passing). One very strong impression I got from doing loads of past questions was that my vocabulary sucks. Normally this doesn't bother me so much, but due to the way the KK is structured I knew this wasn't a bunch of obscure high-level stuff I didn't know....it was stuff that most children twelve or thirteen years old know! This was enough to convince me that I needed to work through the material and that it does a hell of a lot more than just seeing if you "know" kanji. I would wholeheartedly join nekojita in recommending some of the various texts, apps, and other materials for the use of the foreign learner of Japanese. Tons of stuff available in Japanese bookstores or via Amazon (good deals on used books from Amazon as well).

Currently working on level 3, which I am seriously going to have to do some learning and studying for. I took a level 3 practice exam this morning and just barely failed it.
漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深く日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1と違って漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要はなのです。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござえます。
 

Mike Cash

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漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深く日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1と違って漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要はなのです。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござえます。

Thank you very much. At the moment I am awaiting the results of Levels 2 and pre-2 which I took on June 19th.
 

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One more thing vis-à-vis JLPT vs. Kanji Kentei:

Parts of the completed Kanji Kentei need to be checked by humans, as it is necessary to confirm that characters are drawn correctly. The JLPT, on the other hand, can be fully checked by machine.
And yet, the Kanji Kentei costs less to take, and the results are provided more quickly.
#JLPTSUX
 

Starbucks

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Thank you very much. At the moment I am awaiting the results of Levels 2 and pre-2 which I took on June 19th.

Even if we were to take the test with the kids, the Japanese people would understand that we are foreigners and they would only congratulate us on our efforts. If I have a problem reading a particular kanji character or do not understand a a certain vocabulary word, I simply ask people. I have never had anyone who got upset with me asking them. They have been very kind and polite. I would even say that they have been nicer to me with my Japanese help than I have been in helping them with their English at times. Mike, are you aware of Brett Meyers? He is the first non Japanese person to actually achieve 漢検1級 . He gives us the beacon of hope that we too can do it. I will be cheering you on from the sidelines.
 

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One more thing vis-à-vis JLPT vs. Kanji Kentei:

Parts of the completed Kanji Kentei need to be checked by humans, as it is necessary to confirm that characters are drawn correctly. The JLPT, on the other hand, can be fully checked by machine.
And yet, the Kanji Kentei costs less to take, and the results are provided more quickly.
#JLPTSUX

That is unfair. I hope they are not trying to take advantage of us foreigners to make money off us.
 

Starbucks

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漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深く日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1と違って漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要はなのです。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござえます。

Here are the corrections:
漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深く日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1に合格出来るだろうが、漢検はJLPTと違って漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要があります。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござえます。
 

Mike Cash

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Even if we were to take the test with the kids, the Japanese people would understand that we are foreigners and they would only congratulate us on our efforts.

There were Japanese adults present when I sat the Level 5 and 4 exams. By no means are those kids-only tests, even for native speakers.

On the other hand, there were no children present when I sat Level 2 and only a couple of junior high kids in the pre-2 exam.

As far as encouraging or congratulating remarks from Japanese people goes....with the exception of direct family members I had nothing but negative and discouraging comments regarding my prospects on 2 and pre-2. All I got were remarks on how notoriously difficult they are, with the implication being that they didn't believe I had a chance in hell of passing either of them. Some of the remarks were from people who had taken the same level test and failed. If I pass, I particularly look forward to notifying those individuals.

Mike, are you aware of Brett Meyers? He is the first non Japanese person to actually achieve 漢検1級

i believe he is the first person from a country which doesn't use kanji to actually achieve Level 1, which while not quite the same thing by no means diminishes his accomplishment.

I've started slowly working on the pre-1 and for the first time ever have an appreciation for the massive amount of work that must have gone into kanji reform in the past and what a marvelous job they did of cleaning up and rationalizing the written language. Anyone who thinks written Japanese is a bewildering mess need only step into the stuff that falls outside 常用漢字 usage (everything post KK2) to suddenly find it very orderly and sensible by comparison.

When I worked through each of the successive earlier levels I would prior to starting learning the material for the next level do a practice exam for the upcoming level and generally come out not too terribly badly, even though it would be a failing grade. When I came home from taking Level 2 I took a practice exam for pre-1 and scored a miserable 26 (out of 200).

Pre-1 and 1 are in their own special universe where the laws of physics are different and the maps are covered in "Here There Be Dragons". Mayer (who passed 1) and a couple of his fellow foreign friends who passed pre-1) have remarked upon the fact that when you get past Level 2 the good materials dry up and you essentially have to create your own. They're not joking. Even looking up most of the vocabulary I have come across so far has been an exercise in futility. The good old EDICT dictionary which is paired with my favorite SRS app becomes of decreasing usefulness as KK level increases and peters out markedly by KK2. Amazingly, even Japanese-Japanese dictionaries are frequently completely useless for looking up vocabulary from pre-1. Even the official (and otherwise excellent)
dictionary put out by the testing organization itself is sorely lacking in pre-1 and 1 vocabulary. Googling reveals that an abundance of apparently entirely unsearchable vocabulary is a complaint or concern held by many Japanese people studying for those levels as well.
 

Toritoribe

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Here are the corrections:
漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深く日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1に合格出来るだろうが、漢検はJLPTと違って漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要があります。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござえます。
I believe what the OP meant was 文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1と違って.
Also, there are other typos and mistakes that should be corrected.
漢検5級と4級を受けに行くのに何も恥ずかしがる必要は一切ありません。漢検4級は日本語能力試験のN1よりももっと深日本語の勉強が必要です。漢字の読み方が分かって何と無く文法の使い方を理解できたら十分JLPN1と違って、漢字の読み書き、対義語、類義語、同音異義語、四字熟語、音読み、訓読み、重箱読み、湯桶読みを徹底的に勉強する必要があります。4級に合格出来て誠におめでとうござます。
 

mdchachi

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Googling reveals that an abundance of apparently entirely unsearchable vocabulary is a complaint or concern held by many Japanese people studying for those levels as well.
That shouldn't matter because if one is studying for those levels, then one is a pure masochist anyway. They are doing it for the pain not the accomplishment. :roflmao:
 

Mike Cash

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That shouldn't matter because if one is studying for those levels, then one is a pure masochist anyway. They are doing it for the pain not the accomplishment. :roflmao:

One of the things I learned by doing the KK and whipping through four levels in four months is that kanji learning isn't half as hard as we like to convince ourselves it is, nor is 2000 a particularly large number. There's nothing all that hard or painful about doing this...it just requires a little time and dedication. The best thing we as foreign learners could do regarding the learning of kanji is the same as the best thing we could do about learning the language: quit acting like it's such a big ****** deal and have better expectations of ourselves.

By the way, many of the words can be found. You just have to invest in an insanely good dictionary. (Usually out of stock and equally insanely expensive. I got a used one).
 

lincstreff

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That shouldn't matter because if one is studying for those levels, then one is a pure masochist anyway. They are doing it for the pain not the accomplishment. :roflmao:
I hate to say this, as I am such a fan of the Kanji Kentei, but with the earlier levels, I really felt that the types of questions asked were a well-designed measure of depth and breadth of kanji knowledge and understanding, but as the levels went up (particularly level 3 and later), the test became more and more of a measure of arcane knowledge and rote memorization ability. I like to learn for the joy of learning, and the joy started dissipating for me. (I acknowledge that it could also be a case of sour grapes, though, as I discovered that my memorization ability was inadequate for the task...)
 
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