This page is devoted to the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam or JLPT (日本語能力試験). It was originally inspired by Robert’s excellent JLPT level 3 Roundup page, I chronicled my efforts to pass the JLPT and what worked for me, and what didn’t. Also, I shared more general advice for mastering Japanese language, which is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world, and to help others prepare for the JLPT.
However, as of 2014, I took down the original page. I wrote a long explanation here about why I think the JLPT really isn’t worth it in the long-run. Please take a moment to read why, or if you are in a hurry, to read suggestions below about how to improve your Japanese more effectively and without the time and cost of doing the JLPT.
Without The JLPT, How Do I Get Good At Japanese?
If you’re new, or relatively new to studying Japanese language, I would strongly, strongly recommend taking Tae Kim’s online Japanese-language course. Even if you learned Japanese previously, chances are you might have learned some things wrong (like I did), and it’s always good to review the basics, since the basic grammar is (in Tae Kim’s words), very frequently used, and often the hardest to grasp. This has been my experience as a student of Japanese language for years. I developed a lot of bad habits and assumptions I started to correct only recently.
Even if you think you’re familiar with basic Japanese, I highly recommend reviewing it anyway because we can all use some improvement. :)
Seperately, when I first learned Japanese, I spent a lot of time using podcasts from JapanesePod101.com which helped me get familiar with the basic grammar in small, easy steps. It helped me get on my feet, in other words.
But my Japanese really didn’t improve beyond the basics until I followed my wife’s advice to spend more time reading Japanese comics and books, and less time studying. Once I did that, I could feel noticeable improvement. Really, all that matters for learning Japanese or any language or skill is frequent exposure. Reading, listening, learning with SRS tools like Anki is all you need. A little bit every day, something you enjoy doing anyway, just like that. You get good at driving a car because you do it all the time, and in the same way, if you keep using your foreign language, you’ll just get better and better at it.
I mention this because even if you plan to take the JLPT exams, you should have a strong foundation in the basics anyway. The exam is intended to measure Japanese competency you should already have, not something you crammed for, so you should spent time really getting the fundamentals. Don’t put the cart before the horse.
But How Do I Know If I Can Speak/Read Japanese Well?
The JLPT can serve as a benchmark for Japanese skill, but really, if you’re actively reading and using Japanese, you don’t need it. If your skills are good, it’s painfully obvious. A certification would just be an empty formality.