I believe no introduction about the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (“JLPT”) is necessary as most who live in Japan pretty much know about it. As most of you are aware, the last test of 2016 had been held recently. Now, all of us who took the test just need to sit tight and wait for around 2 months for the result to come out. For those who pass, congratulations, you no longer have to deal with the same drills and textbooks all over again next year. For those who do not, well, look at the bright side, it is not the end of the world and you have the chance to re-polish your Japanese skills and improve even more.
Those who I have asked about the JLPT pretty much has the same answers, it is troublesome, it takes a lot of money and time, and some even say it is scary. I can agree with it being troublesome, and that it takes a lot of money and time to prepare. But, even if I get why, I don’t think you should be scared of it.
Other than JLPT, I also had experiences with other language tests as I took the TOEFL and IELTS before. From those experiences, I can tell that JLPT is quite different from the other tests on several aspects, which in turn can make it feel scary. First, JLPT is divided into pre-determined levels that you have to choose. Second, it is held only twice a year on a specific date which you cannot change. And lastly there are only two results that you can get, “Pass” or “Fail”.
Since JLPT is divided into levels, it requires you to first assess your current abilities, and make prediction of how far you can get until the exam date. The problem with this is, as human being, most of us tend to over-assess ourselves because we want to receive the title of “fluent” ASAP. Then, making prediction leads to unconsciously making expectation. When what you expect does not turn into reality, well, we all know it does not feel good. Coupled with the fact that it is only held twice a year means that your chances are limited, so if you make the wrong prediction and fail, it means waiting for another 6 months repeating what you have prepared for the past 6 months all over again. After that, normally none of us would like to see “Fail” on our score card right?
Instead of treating JLPT as certification, which it ultimately is, just treat it as a source of motivation instead. The goal of learning Japanese is not the N1. Japanese is much larger than what the JLPT tells you as important, and it should be much more interesting. So see the bright side, it is not scary, it simply tells you how far you have achieved. As long as you are being realistic about yourself, there should be no fear towards whichever result you got.
The good thing about JLPT is it tells you the direction of how you can learn Japanese. It provides a guideline on which grammar, words and other knowledges that can be treated as priority and which can be treated as not priority for your current state. Imagine you are building a skyscraper; you need to build strong foundation and continue building one floor at a time to get to the top. Obviously, it will be much faster to build the foundation and the floors if someone can give you a guideline and direction, and much slower if you have to figure things out from the beginning. JLPT is that someone. Just be friend with it, and as any good friend would do, sometimes they can be harsh in giving their criticism. You may also fear of breaking or even losing your relationship with it, especially knowing that you can only see him or her twice a year for one day. But at the end of the day, you will realize that what that friend said helped us grow better. It is not the time we meet him or her that matters; it is what we prepare for the long-awaited meeting that matters.
So yeah, long story short, JLPT is your ally and there is no need to fear it.
I. M. (ICC Student Staff)