I really can’t tell where September has gone… In France, September has that particular taste of going back to work, going back to school, theatres and concert hall launch their new season, bookshops are filled with new publications… I would say that September is the beginning of the new “cultural” year, and I usually feel empowered by the general atmosphere.
In South Korea where I am living now, I couldn’t tell the difference between August and September. September’s afternoons were still incredibly hot, and I missed this “going back to work” feeling. I wish that we could have a chilly weather and even a grey sky, that I could use my autumn clothes, take a warm cup of tea and feel that now it’s time to study.
Anyway, I have to face it, September is over, and it was my second month of studying for JLPT N2 with the Shin Kanzen series. Let’s make a little recap of this month, with a focus on grammar.
Concerning the Listening and Reading books, I have no problem doing my exercises thoroughly and regularly. These books are challenging but not as intimidating than the grammar or the vocabulary books, and it is more about practising than memorising new things, so it doesn’t add too much burden on my weekly study.
Concerning the kanji book and despite my good resolutions to study kanji seriously, I must admit that I have wholeheartedly fallen behind schedule. I find some dubious pleasure in sabotaging my study plan by skipping days and days of kanji study (to be honest, I think that I don’t enjoy studying kanji at all).
As for the vocabulary book, I was extremely relieved when I finished the first part! The first part is divided into chapters that each contains an insane number of exceedingly difficult words to memorize. As I rely on Anki, it is possible to remember a lot of words, but still, I was tired at the end!
The second part of the vocabulary book is much more appealing! It does not focus on learning new words, but on mastering the ones we already know. For verbs, for example, it will give the different context in which a certain verb can be used. All the chapters of part 2 are useful in the extreme, not only to pass the JLPT but for Japanese in general. What is more, the second part of the book has a different structure than the first part and I am almost under the impression that I am studying a new book. I am glad that I got out of the somewhat repetitive circle of the previous lessons.
Last, the terrifying grammar book. Grammar is definitively the most difficult part for me. Each lesson brings 5 to 6 new grammar points, and even if the book is well structured with great exercises, I feel that I am mixing all the similar grammars and can’t remember how most of them are formed. I had to define some strategy to feel at ease (well, at least, to not feel desperate) with the grammar I have to learn for N2.
How to remember JLPT N2 grammar?
This is a question that I constantly ask myself. Most of the JLPT N2 grammar would not be used in daily conversation, so the strategy to use the grammar to remember it is harder to put into practice.
So far, what worked for me is to create artificial confrontations with the grammar points. There is no doubt that the N4 or N3 grammar will appear regularly in everyday life Japanese. If you watch anime, or if you read books, you will necessarily come across all sorts of grammar points, and you will be able to memorise them almost without efforts.
As for the N2 grammar, you can’t just wait for it to turn up in your daily life. You have to go and look for it. I am doing it in two ways:
- First, I regularly read the example sentences of the Shin Kanzen book. I don’t bother to remember all the explanations given with each grammar point, I read them once and translate them into French in a notebook in case I need to revise them quickly. But what I try to do often is to read again and again the example sentences. It gives a better idea of what the grammar is used for than any complementary explanations. Also, I hate to have to memorise if a grammar is used with -masu form or dictionary form or any other form and I hope that by reading out loud, many times, the same sentences, I will get a feeling of what is correct and what is not.
- Secondly, and that is a little more fun, I try to be particularly attentive to grammar when I read a book. Not every single N2 grammar point appears in a novel, but I can find some of them. When I come across one, I always read the sentence out loud and make sure that I understand it completely.
By applying this second strategy, I realised that one of the reasons why I had difficulties remembering N2 grammar points is because I tend to see them as pure grammar things that have to be remembered as such, for themselves and out of context. To me, it is a little like remembering random numbers.
What I try to do, is to desacralize the grammar, if it makes any sense. By focusing too much on grammar points and how difficult they are, I almost make them inaccessible. In reality, there is nothing much complicated in learning a language’s grammar. I will give a concrete example:
The other day, I realised that one of the characters of 「私が彼を殺した」, the novel I am currently reading, often said “あたしとしては”, which I never considered as difficult. In fact, I never really reflected upon this particular grammar, because it is easily understandable. Had I not been paying extra attention to grammar points while reading, I would not have realised that this was actually an N2 grammar. It was just a way of saying “as for me.”
I need to keep in mind that the grammar is just a way to express something and that there is nothing really difficult in it.
Mastering the grammar is vital for N2 because “vocabulary”, “grammar” and “reading” are all packed in the same amount of time. The reading part requires a lot of time because the texts are long and difficult. The only way to finish the reading is to rush on vocabulary and grammar. I would say that there is no need to lose time on vocabulary: either one knows or not. But the grammar part is the tricky one. If you don’t master it, you could be tempted to spend too much time reflecting on the good answer and I am sure that it does help, that with some thinking, it is possible to pick the right answer. But in this case, I doubt that one can go through the entire reading part before the end of the time… That is why I need to feel more confident with the grammar before December!
Good resolutions for October:
- Obviously, working on this kanji book!
- Regularly read the example sentences of the grammar book
- Put special efforts on adverbs and kun lecture of words containing only one kanji like 予め or 承る…
- At some point, I will have to redefine my study plan because I might have lost sight of it in the course of September… I want to be sure that I can finish the books before December!