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 JLPT, Motivation, Plans, Study methods

JLPT N2 ROAD MAP FOR 2022

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. 

THE REASONING

As I was drafting my plan, I had three of my past prep experiences resurface:

  1. Focusing on 1-2 textbooks tops at a time worked best for me,
  2. I will lose steam the further I go, especially during reviews,
  3. 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.

THE TEXTBOOKS

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:

  • Try! N2,
  • 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. 
  • Somatome 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!

Posted in About me, Attitude, Choices and sacrifices, Motivation

WHAT SHAPED MY CURRENT ATTITUDE TOWARDS STUDYING

As I sat down to write the post about the importance of making your own choices in studying, I realised that I should start with a little history of my own studying. “Why does she want to talk about herself?!” – you may think, but what I’m going to tell you about the choices was heavily influenced by my experiences as a student. I believe that you would be more likely to make the same connections I did when you get to know and understand what shaped my current attitude toward studying.

In primary, junior high and high school I was your typical model student. Not straight As, but I never did worse than 1-2 Cs on my school certificates (funnily enough, except for English classes – I had a very strict and demanding teacher back in junior high and I had a D in his class for 2 years straight! He let me graduate with a C in the end). I’ve always liked studying, it gave me satisfaction, yet I was something I would describe as “dumb learner” – I learned everything by heart as it was. I rarely made my choices when studying. I studied what the teachers told us to. Yes, I did read extra stuff I wanted to get to know more about (e.g. I liked and still like to learn more about space, stars and planets), but when it came to the classes’ content – I studied everything we covered and what was necessary to perform well in tests. Regularity was also the key, I studied every school day, did homework right after school. I used to walk around my room with a notebook and explained to myself the material we did in class. In this regard, I was never much of a fan of typical learning by heart. I preferred (and still do) to comprehend the topic and then try to explain it in my own words, often aloud (and while doing that walk around the room thing). It worked great while at school. But I later realised that it wasn’t going to work as great in academic environment.

If you have ever entered university, you know that the amount of material is impossible to master in full. There simply isn’t enough time to learn and research everything as deeply as you would want – unless you want to become a studying robot who doesn’t do anything other than sitting at their desk with a bunch of textbooks. Obviously, that didn’t work for me – I wanted to enjoy my university years as much as possible, make friends, gain some working experience perhaps.

As far as my first year was concerned, I was able to keep my old studying routine. But when I made it into my 2nd year and heavier and more difficult subjects kicked in, I had to quickly learn to make choices and sacrifices: what to focus on or if to study at all. Here’s a confession I have to make: there were times when I postponed studying as late as possible, there were exams I passed by sheer luck when I studied for them briefly before the exam (even just a few hours before it) or didn’t study at all. Here’s another confession – I’m not making it to boast, it’s simply important that you know – I have a very good memory and over the years I learned to use it pretty effectively in my learning process. Hence I was able to memorise the crucial points for an exam while most of my peers believed I spend DAYS preparing for the exam. The truth is, I was as lazy as other students. I just could pick stuff up more easily and quite skillfully predict what was most probable to appear on the exam.

In total, I spent 9 years as a university student (half of that time I was working full time as well) at 3 different universities with 3 different majors: finance and accounting, law and English philology. I only hold a degree – both BA and MA – from the last one, I dropped out from the first two after finding out it wasn’t something I want to do for a living. What’s more, the first two were my parents’ ideas, only English was my own choice, so it had to result in finally graduating and getting a degree. It’s one of the reasons I believe that, ultimately, YOU should be the one making the choices about your studies and future. You can be inspired, you can be given advice, but it’s YOUR CHOICE to make. It’s also fine to change your mind and dump something completely if you feel that pursuing it just isn’t worth it anymore. It’s yet another experience that affected my current attitude toward studying.

The years I invested in those majors made me a very experienced university student, but on the other hand, heavily affected my drive towards studying in general: it plummeted so deep I couldn’t see the bright side of it anymore. I started to find it bothersome and frustrating – not because of poor results, but because I was so desperate for freedom in my studies and more free time to delve into my private studies (namely, Japanese). As I grew up as an adult, I discovered that I’m a very independent person – and that feature also passed onto the way I study. I could barely make any choices as a student and that fact began to suffocate me, little by little – the content to study was imposed, textbooks decided for you and you also had to take the lecturer’s favourites into consideration, which rarely lined with your own. There were tons of, what I call it, “bullsh*t studying”, that is material that you either don’t need to learn by heart, because in normal circumstances you would check it in reliable sources (e.g. as a lawyer obviously you’re going to read that legal act and check for any updates and/or changes rather than relying on your memory) or material that doesn’t correspond to your interests or future career path. Not to mention you had to take “bullsh*t subjects” shared by most university majors (at least that’s how it works in Poland) like I.T., logic, economics or history of something you don’t give a sh*t about or of something that is totally outdated (I still remember that I had to LEARN BY HEART info on FLOPPY DISCS back in my 1st year. Come on, it was already late 2000s, nobody used or cared about them anymore)!

All those experiences resulted in a very frustrated and demotivated learner who couldn’t wait to finally graduate. I’m still proud that I actually managed to accomplish it – though I know I have to be grateful for my master thesis’ promoter who acknowledged my passion for Japanese and let me incorporate it into my MA thesis. It was the only thing that pushed me forward over that last year at university, making that MA degree possible.

Now here comes a good question: leaving the university so unmotivated, so genuinely sick of studying, how come I’m able to study again and I do it with pleasure (and also every day)?!

The answer is very simple: I knew I had to wait for some time and I would finally miss studying. And I wasn’t mistaken: in January 2019, I returned to my beloved Japanese, this time on my own, with my own rules and choices. As for how that happened in that period between my graduation and last January as well as what conclusions I drew, based on the experiences I described here, I’m gonna include that in my next post, as I promised. Let’s say the topic of making your own choices in studying is a two-part discourse with this way too long introduction I’ve just written. See you in part 2!