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Japanese Language Study for people living in Japan:
Did You Say Your New Year Resolution Was To Study Japanese?

by Robert L. Seltman

Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Kinki Times January 1995

The longer you live in Japan the more people assume you speak the language. After all, who ever heard of a university lecturer teaching in the USA for several years without ever learning to speak English? How embarrassing to be a language teacher without any real grasp of the native tongue in the land in which you live!

The truth is, unless you make an effort otherwise, not only will you not learn Japanese while living in Japan, you very well might forget the little you studied when you first arrived. If you haven't noticed already, one can survive quite comfortably with "Domo" "Dozo" and "Ii desu." If you are lucky enough not to 'feel stupid' about 'sounding stupid' then you have nothing to really worry about. If like me, you’d like to confirm your stupidity once and for all, try studying Japanese.

My favorite source of "Japanese Pop Culture & Language Learning" was MangaJin a magazine, published in the US until 1999, which used comics and pop insights to study Japan. Not only fun, there was lots to learn, and the ads gave an excellent overview of what is available for people interested in Japan. There is more material now than ever before, a tidal wave of study aides that keeps improving, pedagogically speaking, as the market grows but some of MangaJin's back issues were real gems. Issue #39 for example had a comprehensive guide to Computer Assisted Language Learning; #40 Making your computer Bilingual; #41 X-Guide to Japan Info on Internet. These back issues are still avaiable as are more recent material. In Japan all one needs to do is visit the Japanese Language Section of any large bookstore with an English section, Kinokunia and Marazen perhaps the most famous. Hiragana Times comes a close second to Mangajin for fun study. On the web visit Purdue's site or Larry Stockton's Japan Links.Or better still see the links at the bottom of this article and knock yourself out. With all this interesting reading and computer study software we now have some very tasty carrots to inspire us to study. . . but what about the stick?

For those of us who need deadlines, and other forms of discipline to get us going, may I suggest some tests. Each year in December a 4 tear test is held throughout Japan (you’ll shed many tears before reaching the first). Level 4 is the easiest, though not a give away as I recently found out, requiring only 80 kanji, Hiragana/Katagana, 600 words vocabulary and all them damn little grammar words like, de, to, e, ya, mo, and all the other Stooges. Level 3 increases the ante up to a good foundation in the language, with about triple the kanji and vocabulary. Level 2 is a big jump approaching what you need to study at a Japanese university.

Level 1 suggests you’ve been studying for the test full time for 3 to 9 months, are bright, and can now read the newspaper (though it would probably take you a week from cover to cover). When people tell me they have taken one of these tests I know they are serious. When they tell me they have passed, I am jealous and begin to see the ox tail of my own stupidity. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (Nihongo-No-Ryoku-Shi-Ken) can be tried via practice exams made up of past tests sold at bookstores complete with cassette, where you can also find the test applications (¥4-6000 registration fee).

Another test focusing on Kanji, put out by Nippon Kanji Kyoiku Shinkokai, has 10 levels starting from a child’s basic (or new Gaijin) 80 kanji level 10. Costing only ¥900 for the lower levels, they are given every few months. A friend tried level 5, recommended for Junior High students, and found it much too hard without preparation, though he had passed Level 1 of the Japanese Proficiency Exam.

The Level 1 Kanji test, of which there are two kinds, is for hard core Kanji lovers, who are probably interested in teaching Kanji in Japan. Stroke order, unique readings, trick questions, etc. are all fair game at the higher levels 1-5, but the lower levels 6-10 might be fun, if you don’t mind competing with 7 year old kids. As these Kanji tests are designed primarily for the Japanese you can easily find study books (all in Japanese) and applications at any good bookstore. Level descriptions are on the application. Good luck and lot’s of night oil should confirm quickly what level you were meant to rise toward. Domo. Dozo. Ii deshoo.

A few links up-dated from the Japan web resources of http://www.pendragon.org/mangajin/links.html
About Japan -- Extensive site with answers to any questions you might have about Japan.
Asian Mall -- Links related to Asian pop culture, media, news, services, etc.
Exploring Old Tokyo -- Plan your trip by exploring the shrines, museums, and historical sites.
Japan National Tourism Organization -- Extensive database of travel tips and useful information, including maps.
Japan Youth Hostel Association -- Japan has the most youth hostels per square mile than any other country--try one! Youth Hostels in Japan
Kids Web Japan -- Intended for schoolchildren aged 10 to 14 living outside Japan. Contains basic facts about country, summarizes major
current topics, and links to other kids' sites. There is also a gallery of submitted artwork and games.
Larry Stockton: Japan Links -- A comprehensive list of on-line Japan-related resources. Links to sites on language, culture, arts, media
and more.
Schauwecker's Guide to Japan -- An online guide in English or German for anyone looking for information about Japan. Includes info pages,
pen pals, etc.
Tokyo English Life Line --TELL runs a free English language telephone advice/crisis/information line and provides other service to the foreign community in Tokyo (03) 3968-4099.
http://www.issho.gol.coma non-profit organization formed by Tokyo-based foreign nationals which uses performing arts projects, symposia and computer networking to facilitate the internationalization process in Japan.
Univ. of Oregon Library Index -- Helpful site offering currency conversion, a Japanese telephone directory, etc.-- plus a searchable database of
materials in the library. Compiled by the Committee on East Asian Libraries (Univ. of Oregon).
A Guide to Japanese Visas Information about types of visas and how to apply for them.
Japan Foreigner Housing Processing Center This site is for foreigners currently in Japan and/or for those who plans to move to Japan in the near future. The purpose is to help foreigners to locate rental property for housing, office and investment in Japan, and to provide language support in the process of relocating to Japan.

Language Learning--Japanese

Defense Language Institute -- Linguists' Network. Provides a variety of study aids.
Hiragana Times -- A monthly magazine written by and for Tokyo's international community.
Haiku Homepage -- A tribute to haiku poetry, plus links to more haiku sites.
Japan Foundation Language Center -- Sponsor of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test; also offers assistance, training courses, and
grants to language teachers, researchers, post-grads, etc.
Japanese Classical Literature -- Classic lit presented and explained; a joint initiative of the University of Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh.
Japanese Online -- Introductory language lessons with dialogues, vocabulary, grammar, and culture modules. Sound files help with pronunciation. Use their English to Japanese/Japanese to English Dictionary
Japanese-English Dictionary Interface (JEDI)


Kyodo News Service -- Continuously updated reports and news releases.
Neo-Tokyo -- The Japanese pop culture 'zine that covers all aspects of Japanese popular culture, from Aikido to Zen, every month.

Asahi Shimbun
Japan Times
Mainichi Shinbun
Yomiuri Shinbun

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