This is my final post this year. I hope you all have a great New Year’s celebration and see you in 2022! 🥳🎉
A couple of days ago I pondered about the negative aspects of the passing year so this time I tried to find a few good things I can say about 2021. Because it wasn’t entirely as bad as I’d thought.
1. BACK TO POOL
The pandemic, but not only that (I hadn’t had an exercise routine for years even before that) really took a toll on my physical fitness. Being on the heavier side and having turned 30 didn’t ease my worries at all, despite daily walks with my dogs which has given me at least SOME regular exercise. But I had enough panting when climbing the stairs and cutting the walks short because I couldn’t keep up the pace. I knew hitting the gym wouldn’t work – I have never liked it.
‘What sports do I like doing then?’ I asked myself. ‘Swimming, cyclingandstepaeorobics’ was what I answered.
The last one wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. The second would be hard to stick to because as much as I like cycling, I hate climbing while doing so. And living in the mountains doesn’t help. So swimming it was. I bought a new costume (WITH. A. SKIRT! It was the best purchase ever that gave me the best of two worlds: more coverage of my private areas – the exposure of which has always made me very self-conscious – but also better leg movement at the same time). So on August 28th, I went for my first dip. I swam 30 pool lengths back then (each is 25 m). Now, 4 months of regular 2 times a week workouts later, I swim 60 lengths per training session in under 45 mins. And I know that because…
2. FITNESS WATCH
I have bought myself a fitness watch! This is thanks to a lovely community of fellow English teacher friends. We also discuss and motivate each other in our workouts, diets and other things! One of those things they basically made me buy is a fitness watch. And I couldn’t have been happier with it! It tracks my step count, which encourages me to walk that extra distance with my dog so it could be registered. It’s waterproof so I can use it for my swims. Hence I am proud to say that since the end of September (that’s when I got it) I have swum over 25000 metres (in other words, over 1000 pool lengths)!
3. HOBONICHI WRITING JOURNAL
Hobonichi this, #hobonichi that – WHAT. IS. THE. FUSS. ABOUT? – I needed to know. I liked the idea of having a Japanese calendar, with Japanese quotes and dates. Yet I am not a daily calendar user. I used to keep a bullet journal but dropped it after the pandemic hit. So, at first, I got a #hobonichiweeks for my work and life schedule and it WORKED FANTASTIC. Still does! But I really wanted to give that #hobonichioriginal a try. So I decided to put down my writing notes and ideas in it. And it also turned out great, keeping me focused on my work. Most days I might not be doing much novel writing in itself, but I’m definitely letting my imagination run wild and moulding all those plot twists and characters.
4. NEW JAPANESE PROJECT
I honestly wish I could tip my hand but they’re tied here 😀 I will give you a hint, though: remember that PDF file I shared with you yesterday? It might not be the last one I have in store… 😉
5. HEALTH ISSUES RESOLVED
This mostly concerns other family members but me, yet I did visit a doctor and had my blood drawn for a yearly check-up and all things were fine on paper. I’m actually expecting them to be even better next year since they were done BEFORE I started exercising and cutting down on junk food more.
I am SO excited! I literally cannot wait to dig into my textbooks.
In fact, I already did – I completed a chapter of one of my textbooks which is going to give me a head start in 2022. I have also (barely) scratched the surface of new kanji I need to acquire if I want to sit that N2 exam and rock it.
But how exactly am I going to get ready for next December?
Buckle up because I have crafted a plan. And a surprise for you, too – available at the very end of this post if you cannot wait to find out.
Anyway, here is what my road map looks like: * means I will be wrapping up a textbook in that month.
As I was drafting my plan, I had three of my past prep experiences resurface:
Focusing on 1-2 textbooks tops at a time worked best for me,
I will lose steam the further I go, especially during reviews,
Instead of a fixed weekly schedule, I should aim for monthly goals.
Taking those facts into consideration, I decided to put the majority of work in the first half of the year, meaning that past July I will be mostly reviewing and polishing rather than acquiring new material. It also considers that I might fall behind at some point and will have to play a little game of catch-up. My job will hit me hard in June, as the summer begins, so in case I need to shift my focus onto my work more, I can do that as long as I work hard in winter and spring. In January and February, I will be equally overloaded with work BUT here I am betting on the fact that it is just the beginning so my motivation will be at its highest.
What will keep my motivation steady is setting a MONTHLY goal instead of adhering to a set weekly goal or schedule. I hate working on a timetable. My job also allows for flexibility so I am used to that kind of freedom in my studies, too. I am also well aware that I will have better and worse weeks: both weeks with lots of free time and busy, exhausting weeks. For these reasons, instead of punching myself for not fulfilling my weekly standards, I am going with a monthly workload. It will give me more room for manoeuvre as well as allow me to progress further when I finish the set assignments earlier (or when I will feel like doing a certain textbook more than the other).
And this is also why I will be working with two textbooks, for two different skills, in a given month. First, it will provide me with a choice: I can pick what to study on a particular day. Don’t feel like learning grammar? Alright, let’s memorise new vocabulary then. Secondly, it won’t overwhelm me with too much material to cover per month.
Using my N3 experience in self-studying, I already know which books I am fond of and of which I am definitely not. Thus the list of textbooks I will be using include:
So-matome N2 goi (vocabulary),
So-matome N2 kanji,
Shin Kanzen Master N2 goi (vocabulary),
Shin Kanzen Master N2 kanji.
Those are 5 basic textbooks I will base my studies on. I also have both Shin Kanzen Master’s as well as So-matome’s dokkai (reading) and choukai (listening) books ready, but I am not going to go over them in full like I want to with the 5 above. To tell the truth, in the case of Shin Kanzen Master I will allow myself to not finish both vocabulary and kanji books if I run out of time as they will serve as reinforcement. The initial studying will be done with So-matome series as well as Try!
As for how I divided the materials I will use, I did some heavy math when coming up with HOW MUCH I should cover each month. In case you are not familiar with the above textbooks, here is how they are structured:
Try! N2 has 14 chapters. Each chapter ends with a mock test. Some chapters are divided into two parts if they cover broader or more difficult grammar points. Each chapter/part starts with a reading passage that contains all grammar points which will be introduced in the chapter/part, an explanation of the grammar points plus 1 exercise for each point and all these spreads over around 8-10 pages.
So–matome series works in a weekly cycle, meaning, theoretically, that you should study 1 chapter per day (I honestly never do that). For this reason, each unit consists of 7 two-page chapters (6 of them introducing new material and the 7th being a mock test). The N2 level books have 8 units, 7 chapters each which mean 56 chapters in total.
Shin Kanzen Master series divides its books just into chapters. Each chapter contains two parts, spread over 2-4 pages: the explanation and the exercises (or just exercises themselves, in case of kanji, dokkai and choukai). After several chapters, there’s a review section with a mock test. The N2 level has around 54-56 chapters per book. The difficulty of this series is a bit higher which is why I prefer So-matome for my first contact with new material and reviewing with Kanzen later, especially since it has more exercises per chapter which means I am getting a more productive review.
After I noted down how many chapters there are, I checked how much time I spent on their N3 equivalents and decided that I need around 6 months to complete a So-matome book, around 3 months for Try! and around 2-3 months for Shin Kanzen Master since I do not necessarily need to finish them before the exam. That gave me 10 chapters of So-matome, 7 chapters of Try! and 13-15 chapters of Kanzen (depending on the book) per month. By now, you have probably noticed that I am breaking the rule I have just established if you studied the road map closely. Clearly, So-matome has more chapters scheduled per month!
This is because of that series’ structure: instead of pushing chapter 7 of each unit (remember, this is a review chapter), I added it to the batch. So-matome’s reviews are ABCD questions mostly. They take me around 15-20 minutes to complete. I can dedicate that much extra time. Plus it makes more sense educationally – why postpone the review till next month instead of doing it right after I learned the material?
HOW DOES THAT ADD UP?
Bear with me for a little. I am going to TALK. MATH. AGAIN.
Let’s look at January: I have scheduled 7 chapters of Try! and 10 chapters of vocabulary for myself. How does that translate into… time?
On average, I go over 1 chapter of Try! or 1-2 chapters of So-matome per study session. Let’s say I do only one session per day. I might fancy more on some days but let’s not be too optimistic. I am going to be lazy for sure. I know myself that much.
Here comes the math: worst case scenario I do 7 sessions of Try! and 10 sessions of So-matome in a month. That equals 17 days, a little over half a month. The other half? I do as I please, I take care of my family, my job, my pets, other hobbies, exercise, my Youtube addiction and so on. Best case scenario? I am done within 10 days. TEN days. A THIRD of a month!
THE AUTHENTIC MATERIALS
Textbooks are not the only books I will be reading in 2022. I have a long to-read list I wish to plough through in the next 365 days. Plus it’s the N2 level we are talking about – the advanced level! I need to absorb more authentic materials, both in reading and in audio format to be able to understand the reading and listening section. As for what titles exactly I am aiming for, check out my next post where I cover my new year’s resolutions! Expect its arrival after the year turns.
As much as I would love to quote James Doakes here, I am just going to shout “SURPRISE!”. If you would like to draw up your own JLPT prep journey, I have prepared a blank version of the road map above for each JLPT level! You can download it here: JLPT 2022 ROAD MAP (all JLPT levels are included in a single PDF file). There’s also a more ‘printer friendly’ white background version: JLPT 2022 ROAD MAP WHITE.
If you want to share this road map on social media, please do remember to link my website. 🙂 Thanks in advance!
Let’s start it the cliche way: another year has almost gone and went and here I am, reflecting on what 2021 has brought. It was a tough year, to be honest. As you have probably noticed, I haven’t even written a single post apart from the resolutions one. Yet I kept faith that I would come back to blogging. So here I enter with the big announcement I am sure some of you have been waiting for: I will be taking JLPT N2 next December! Yes, you heard that right. The time has come for yet another JLPT trip! I am not entirely certain, however, if I manage to prepare in time but I will do my best to make things work!
Honestly, my biggest worry is whether the exam will take place at all since the December session has been cancelled for the past 2 years here. The July session happened but I cannot afford to take a day off work in summers. My work thrives when people take holidays. That’s the con of working in tourism. But, fortunately, December is usually slow thus I can take an entire weekend off, hop on a train to the capital and sit down with yet another JLPT paper in hand. Maybe that’s also the concept that spoke to me: the last time the December session took place was when I wrote N3 level, back in 2019. After all, wouldn’t it be fun to tackle N2 when JLPT winter examination resumes?
I am currently working on a study plan for 2022 and will cover it in the next post. For today, however, I have decided to take a look and reflect on 2021’s resolutions. Which ones have I fulfilled? Which ones have I utterly failed? Time to find out!
“残念ですが…” – to put it in Japanese (meaning: “too bad, but…”), I have not taken part in NaNoWriMo this year. At least not in the traditional sense, as I have not written even a single page of a novel. I did, however, make considerable progress on my ongoing work project (which has nothing to do with novels yet it is connected with Japanese language learning itself). I cannot disclose any more details, unfortunately, as I keep this project completely confidential. I do plan to publish its results in the future, though, and I believe you might be interested in it if you are studying Japanese, too.
THE FIRST NOVEL
As I have mentioned, this year was difficult on me – both in terms of the health of my close ones as well as mourning. A fox slaughtered all my chickens in June. In September I had to put down one of my dogs when his illness went beyond curable. So I helped him the only way I could – by stopping the suffering. But I couldn’t stop my own suffering after his passing. Then, only a month later, my mother got her lab results back and they qualified her for a prompt surgery – yes, they were awful. Despite all this, I continued to make progress on my first book. However, tackling a series (a 9-volume one, to boot!) for your first is not as simple as it would seem. Planning all volumes (more or less at least, especially when it comes to the later ones) as well as the character arcs, overall story arc and each book’s arcs, especially in a way that they all hold water when you look at the story as a whole, is not an easy feat. But the good news is that I AM making progress! I am just taking my time since I am in no rush. This is my lifelong dream but it doesn’t need to happen right this moment. I am patient and prefer to educate myself on novel writing, structure, character arcs and also glance at what the others are writing in my genre before I jump into that bottomless ocean of publications.
And that’s it. To quote myself, I didn’t “make any grandiose plans” so there is not much to contemplate about. I do have ones for 2022, though. If you want to find out about those as well as about my outlined road map to N2, stay tuned! The next post is coming around New Year’s!