Posted in Changes, JLPT, Plans, Reflection

FEBRUARY AND MARCH PROGRESS REPORT ON JLPT N2

Before I jump into how February and March went study-wise, I should explain why I decided to combine those two months in a single progress report. 

Well, work got in my way. Or, to be specific: fatigue from work got in my way.

From December onward, it’s the highest season in my industry. I’m on call 24/7, so technically I’m at work from December till March (if you’re about to call DOL, put the phone away – I’m an entrepreneur). As a result, mid-Feb, due to all the trouble and stress that had occurred at work, I was very tired. I didn’t feel like studying. All I needed was sleep, sleep and some days off (which I finally got when March started).

February 2022 study log

With the beginning of March and the high season over, I took much-needed rest. I mostly slept, gamed and focused on recovering. What has been happening just over our eastern border didn’t help either, with my family’s minds exploring the ideas of ‘what-ifs’ the invasion progresses to the west and to our country. As you can probably imagine, this added extra stress and left no room for even an inch of thought left for Japanese.

Fortunately, the situation improved around mid-March. I felt rested and ready to embrace Japanese again. And so I did. However, because I spent only half of both February and March actually studying, I thought it would make more sense to merge those two months rather than writing two separate posts for both, especially because they had a common reason for the break in my studies.

March 2022 study log

Now, without further ado, let’s see how much of a leap I took towards my passing JLPT N2.

N2 PROGRESS

February was up to a great start and I moved forward per the plan. However, due to more and more problems at work arising, as the days passed, I studied less and less N2 materials and my study plan crumbled. If you glance at my study log, I only used JLPT prep materials 5 times in the entire month, making the greatest progress in my grammar studies (2 whole chapters!). Vocabulary and kanji were studied ONCE. However, after going through vocabulary, I didn’t really review or put words into flashcards.

That changed with March – I decided to make amends with my abandoned Anki and started inputting new cards. To be honest, I’m still waaaaaay behind in creating new ones, but I’m trying hard to catch up with the chapters I’m currently studying with So-matome.

Speaking of So-matome, both vocabulary and kanji started going in tandem, me making progress on both, despite kanji being initially planned for later in 2022. In consequence, I re-made my entire JLPT N2 road map – after all, one month worth of studies was missing due to my break. I also included March, giving myself little material to cover in order not to discourage myself. As a result, I did better than I had anticipated: 4 chapters of Try! (planned 2), 6 chapters of vocabulary (planned 4), and 4 chapters of kanji (planned 2). Thanks to that, I could create a better, less-packed (more doable) plan for the upcoming months. 

AUTHENTIC MATERIALS

I honestly felt that February went better in terms of using the authentic materials, but when you glance at my study logs, they were comparatively similar: I just focused on different media. In February I tackled another novel: ホームレス中学生 (by 田村裕).

I had been very curious about this book so I began reading it right after it arrived. Level-wise, it’s perfect for N2 students. You get a lot of N2 kanji and vocabulary but it’s not overwhelming – meaning you can read it while you’ve only just begun preparing for N2. What’s more, since the protagonist is 14 years old, the author clearly took that into consideration when writing the book, since it uses first-person narrative. As a result, the way the protagonist expresses himself is quite simple: he uses shorter sentences, without too many advanced structures. In fact, I mostly met N3 structures and N2 ones were scarce. It makes sense – an average junior high student has only started to learn how to speak like an adult. The chapters are also concise – some of them just a few pages long, making it a perfect read when you’re just getting into reading authentic materials (or have little time to read).

In February, I also got into ゆびさきと恋々, a shojo romance manga about a relationship between a deaf university student and a well-travelled polyglot (who’s her fellow uni student). For a language learner, this manga was double the fun, since other languages are used in it plus you get to learn the Japanese Sign Language. The story and the romance themselves are also engaging, so I flew through this manga and couldn’t wait for vol. 6 to come out in March – resulting in me reading it the moment I received my copy. 

While in February I didn’t have much opportunity to include listening in my studies, that changed dramatically in March. I decided to get back to gaming and picked up an old favourite of mine: Prince of Stride. I played this game back in 2016, when I was still at N4 level, having finished 4 out of 6 available routes. As it’s been a while since I played this otoge (otome game), I went for a new game option, instead of using the old saves. I could immediately remember why the game felt easy those years ago – it doesn’t have narration. What characters are doing is either shown on the screen or commented on by the protagonist (in her thoughts). Thanks to that, most lines are dubbed. And, apart from sports technicalities, the lines are fairly easy to read (more on the game in my RELATIVELY EASY OTOME GAMES blog post). All in all, I spent almost 12 hours playing it that month.

As for other March resources, I got into The Real Japanese Podcast! 日本語で話すだけのラジオです!, hosted by Haruka sensei. What I love about this podcast is the fact that each episode has a topic sensei talks about. The episodes level is also displayed, making it easier to pick the right one for you. They’re relatively short, too – each varying from under 10 minutes to around 30. Haruka sensei’s voice is so pleasant to listen to and I love her life anecdotes she sneaks in. The podcast is also available on YouTube if you prefer to see the person speaking.

CONCLUSIONS

Although I spent 1 month not studying, I am quite satisfied with my results. There’s still hope I can complete all N2 preparations by August – that is when registration for the December session opens. In case the exam is cancelled this year yet again, I will have finished the preparations anyway, so I can just review the material if I had to wait one more year to tackle JLPT. The bad news is I cannot afford any more major breaks in my studies. A day or two off is perfectly fine, but taking a week off will greatly disrupt the plan I hatched. I have to keep myself in line.

What’s more, I learned my January lesson and started including more listening practice in my studies – I tried podcasts, games and anime. It’s not as much input as I’d used to have, but it’s a start. I hope to incorporate even more practice in the upcoming months. After all, I believe that you cannot limit listening to just doing mock papers a month before the real deal – that’s not nearly enough, especially on N2+ levels where the speech is more natural, its pace included.

However, there’s one more lesson I have learned in that first quarter of the year: I should’ve included kanji studies from the start. The problem isn’t their number required for this exam, but the fact that I enjoy kanji too much to wait till May. I have done a few review exercises here and there back in January, but in February and March I started going through the textbook I initially planned for May onwards – So-matome N2 kanji. I have also created a brand new kanji register, leaving my N3 and below kanji collection in the previous one. The new register is intended for N2 kanji only. There are around a thousand of them to learn (including some reviews from the N3 level), so a new notebook should suffice to fit them all. Plus fresh stationery always feels nice (and it’s red, too, like all JLPT prep books meant for N2 level!).

Since kanji joined the game plus I had a month’s break, I had to readjust my JLPT road map. As I mentioned above, I did squeeze in all the material in the 4 months leading up to August successfully. I won’t publish the new plan on the blog, however, as it will most likely change each month. I will be considering my current progress in it, meaning that if I manage to do more work than planned for the month, I will change my schedule for next month accordingly. I have already done so for April, as in March I did better than I’d expected!

One last change that occurred last month is the Anki revival. I haven’t used the program for around a year or so (the service even sent me a warning email that my account was going to be erased if I didn’t log in!), but I rebuilt my relationship with it and included daily flashcard reviews into my learning sessions – this is what I study all my studies with now.

As for April, I plan to finish 24 chapters in total. It sounds like a lot and it really is, if I think about it. However, I’m not too worried. I tend to glide through vocabulary quite smoothly (the Anki input is another thing; I have to make myself do it, otherwise it’s just not happening) and I got back to studying kanji while enjoying a nice anime in the background, like I used to during my N3 prep. Just hoping work won’t get in my way again… * sigh

Posted in Attitude, Choices and sacrifices, JLPT, Plans, Reflection

2022 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Welcome to 2022! Happy New Year! Did you spend a fun Eve? Managed to enjoy the first sunrise of the new year? It has been over a week since then, so it is high time I decided on my 2022 resolutions. As I have already published my JLPT road map for N2, I took that extra time to deeply think about my resolutions on purpose. Exam prep is one thing, but what other goals should I pursue this year? Time to find out.

N2 ROAD MAP

Before we move onto non-JLPT topics, an additional explanation on my road map should be given. Although I did elaborate on the details of my study plan, when I re-read it, I noticed that I did not pay much attention to several issues, so I will be doing that now.

One of them is why the core of my studies will be wrapped up by August and then later only reviewed. There’s a simple reason for that: JLPT registration begins mid-August. In case the December exam gets cancelled yet again, so as not to get discouraged, I want to have the entire material covered already. To my mind, it would be easier for me to resume my studies later when I can just review what I already know rather than having some leftovers to go over.

What is more, I have been observing other people’s experience with said cancellation over the last 2 years and what I have gathered is that the revelation is disheartening and could be detrimental to the studies. Being afraid I might fall victim to the very same feeling (and end up taking a break as a result), I prefer to stick to a tougher studying regime before I get to know whether the exam is organised this year at all. This is especially true because the next examination opportunity for me would be in Dec 2023 (as I have mentioned before, I cannot sit the July session due to work obligations, unfortunately), so I will have over a year for necessary drills anyway.

Don’t worry, I am sure the possible cancellation will NOT influence my enjoyment of authentic materials, just JLPT resources and that serious prep mode. After all, when I took N3, I did take a two-year-long break from textbook studying. Yet, that did not stop me from enjoying Japanese games and reading materials in the meantime (which I show on my Instagram account if you’re interested; since my preparation has already started, I post my day-to-day study sessions there, too). Those are my usual free time activities and have been since I was a child so I am unable to stay away from them for too long either way.

AUTHENTIC MATERIALS

As I have mentioned above, JLPT prep books are not the only books I will be having fun with this year. I am a firm believer of the fact that language studying not only comes from textbooks but mostly from one’s exposure to authentic materials. I myself am a product of such attitude: my English proficiency has mostly come from my indulgence in authentic materials, so I am doing the same thing for my Japanese studies, too. After all, if it had worked for me before, why not trust it again?

As for the specific titles I wish to tick off in 2022, here is the list:

  • Ore Monogatari (13 vols),
  • Btooom!! (27 vols; currently at vol 6),
  • Chihayafuru (47 vols at the moment; currently at vol 12),
  • HP3 (currently at 50% mark),
  • Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen (the otome game I played back in November; I have ⅖ routes left),
  • Error Salvation (an otome game I got for Christmas).

Those are the core items I hope to complete before the year ends. I can and most likely will (given the fact that I am pretty spontaneous when it comes to my reading/watching/listening choices) put additional publications on this list. I do not usually make plans when it comes to films or TV series to watch, however. I just follow my gut instinct and wishes I have at the time. For instance, right now I am re-watching Ao no Exorcist – simply because I stumbled upon it on Netflix and felt like watching it again after 10 years.

GOODREADS

I am pretty active on GoodReads. I follow my progress of not only the Japanese titles but also English and Polish ones. I also cover textbooks progress – honestly, if I can find something there, I add it to my account. I have been using this service for a few years now and it does motivate me to read and study more. I love updating my status.

Last year, I opted for 100 titles read and I DID achieve it! Heck, I even went overboard, having 151 titles read under my belt. Initially, it was all about the number, but for the past 2 years I have been distributing that number into 3 categories:

  • Japanese titles,
  • Books (in Polish or English),
  • Manga (in Polish or English).

As for the Japanese titles, anything goes: mangas, books, textbooks, guidebooks and so on. As for the other two, only English and Polish versions count. The reason for such division is because Polish is my mother tongue and I am a C2 speaker of English (according to the CEFR scale), meaning I am proficient and thus no longer perceive consuming English materials as ‘studying’ but as pure entertainment. I do enjoy my Japanese reads but, with exception of rare cases, I still perceive them as a ‘chore’. Of course, when I finally do make myself sit down with a book or a game, I get pulled into the contents and might forget that it’s actually Japanese. However, my brain does remind me of that fact after a varied period of time – with a headache and/or a vertigo-like sensation. With Polish and English titles such a ‘system overheat’ does not occur and that is why I treat them as a separate category.

As such, my plan this year is to read 100 books again, in the following ratio:

  • 40 Japanese titles,
  • 20 books,
  • 40 mangas.

LESS SOCIAL MEDIA

This point concerns YouTube in particular. To be honest, I waste a lot of time scrolling shorts as well as listening to Reddit reads while I could read more audiobooks or valuable podcasts instead. I mean, Reddit threads are sometimes useful in terms of research for writing ideas (e.g. r/relationships or r/maliciouscompliance threads, to name but a few) but I can listen to it for HOURS on end, especially if I am doing house chores at the same time.

Unfortunately, because of my job, I cannot escape social media for good – not that I want to, either. My work intertwines with Facebook so I need it at hand. However, I do realise that my excessive meme consumption and mindless scrolling has been eating up my free time way too often. How many times have I found myself taking my phone at 8 pm and finally checking the time 3 hours of YouTube later? I am not saying that needs to stop entirely but it definitely needs to get under control and be reduced as a result.

I honestly still have no idea how I will go about this but I do not worry much. I have already noticed that having shifted my focus to new compulsory tasks, such as sitting down with Japanese textbooks or writing in my diary makes me not grab the phone and zone out. Putting the phone away when I am preparing for bed is another issue, though… My sleep patterns have been a major issue as well since my job has no regular working hours. But as I have said, it is okay if I do not have a plan for that yet: I am working on it.

If you share similar struggles, realise this: sometimes you do not need a thorough plan beforehand. Testing things out ‘in the battlefield’, so to speak, is also a proper way of trying to find the best solution to your problems. The most important thing is the realisation that there IS a problem that needs to be dealt with.

WHAT ABOUT NANOWRIMO?

As much as I would love to do the NaNo challenge (especially since I have not really done it last year), I had to draw a line here: one major obligation at a time. This year is oriented for JLPT N2, so I will not be doing NaNoWriMo in 2022. Regardless, I will try to fit writing into my schedule: for instance, I still write daily in my Hobonichi Original (the one meant for writing ideas). I have found additional time for blogging, too – the result of which you could have noticed over the past few weeks of posting. I do know, however, that I am not very good at following several goals at once. This is why the heaviest focus will be on my N2 preparations and writing will be only a side activity.

Considering all that, I have to admit that this year I have surely set more goals than, say, last year when I was very lenient on myself. I am honestly relieved that I made that decision to move on towards the N2 level. For the past year, I felt as if I was simply spinning my wheels – even though I had spent time enjoying Japanese materials. As the need to better myself gradually got stronger and stronger, I felt more and more ready for the next challenge. I hope I will be granted the opportunity to prove myself in December. Wish me lu— no, wait. Do NOT wish me luck. Even the Japanese know it – you do not wish somebody luck before a test, you ask them to DO THEIR BEST (がんばってください). Wish me motivation. Wish me strength. Wish me SUCCESS.

Posted in Attitude, Reflection

GOOD THINGS 2021 BROUGHT

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, cycling and step aeorobics’ 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.