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