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Tackling the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

It is not unusual to find non-native Japanese speakers in New York, but within this group some people wish to take their language ability to the next level.  A recent visit to Hills Learning language school revealed some students who are currently working at Japanese companies and hope to brush up their skills, and others who aspire to work at Japanese companies and want to prove their linguistic competency.  Still others are looking for a challenge or just want to assess where they stand in regard to their Japanese.

No matter what their motivation, they are all striving to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), a standardized test administered by the Japanese Ministry of Education that has five levels for certifying the language ability of non-native speakers.  These students are in a Level 2 preparation class for the JLPT, which is administered at the end of every year.  To get ready for this test, Hills Learning offers a fall course comprised of 16 bi-weekly 90 minute classes from September to November that focus on vocabulary and grammar on Monday and reading on Thursday, as well as a simulation test in October.

Their teacher Sayoko Maeshima identifies the difficulty of kanji (Chinese characters) as one of her student’s biggest issues.  “Of course if they can’t read the kanji they won’t be able to understand its meaning, but being able to read it doesn’t guarantee that they know what it means.  Without this, overall understanding is lost.  The challenging part of the JLPT is that it has answers that are very similar to one another, so it is hard to differentiate which one is correct.”

However, this is a challenge that the students gladly accept, many for reasons connected to their careers.  Iaisha Smith currently enjoys working at a Japanese company, and she believes that passing the test will improve her skills.  “I do a lot of translation such as marketing documents, so being able to read more kanji and increase my understanding of grammar would help me at work.”  Kendall Murano passed the old version of Level 2 five years ago, but she wants to attempt the new version as well.  She shares, “I worked for a Japanese company before, and now I’m thinking about going back so I want to make sure my Japanese level is where it needs to be.”  According to Maeshima, JLPT N2 features middle school level Japanese, the minimum requirement for employment at a Japanese company.

The intimacy of the class is what appeals to Smith, as it allows for plentiful one on one interaction with Maeshima.  “She can easily see what I need to focus on, and makes sure that I study the kanji I need to keep up with what’s going on in class.”  Murano appreciates the chance to expand her Japanese language foundation.  “Thanks to this class, I am able to establish a kanji base that I can then apply to new vocabulary.”  With Hills Learning in their corner, they will both surely have successful results on the JLPT this December.

Mastering kanji is the hardest part for most JLPT takers.

There are a lot of homonyms in Japanese.  Knowing which kanji is applied to the correct word is important for understanding the meaning of a sentence.

Official JLPT Speed Master textbooks are used to study N2 level reading and N3 vocabulary.


———- Reported by Stacy Smith


Hills Learning
380 Lexington Ave., (bet. 41st & 42nd Sts.), 17th Fl.
New York, NY 10168
TEL: 212-551-7903 /