There’s a lot I’d like to do with this blog in the future. Something I’d like to use it for is to document my own language studies, with the eventual goals of passing certain exams. My college degree is in Spanish and Japanese, but I’d like to go far beyond what I learned in college. Someday I’d like to go to grad school if I can make it work with all my other responsibilities, but there are other things I can do to show my linguistic qualifications.
In high school, I took the AP Spanish Language exam and became the first person from my high school to earn a score of 5, which is the highest possible. As far as I know, I’m still the only person to have done that in my high school. I was pretty proud of that and I received 5 college credits for it.
Recently I’ve become interested in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR. You can find more info about it here. As with any test, you can find sample versions on the internet, and when I tried a sample for the Spanish C2 exam (the highest level), I passed it. Of course, that’s no guarantee I’d pass the real thing. So at some point in the future, I’d like to attempt this test and document my studies for it.
Maybe I’ll even attempt to improve my French skills to the point where I could try one of the tests! I think I read French pretty well and I have no problem reading French for my day job or when we visited Paris or when I see it on product packaging, but my other skills are lacking when it comes to French. I’ve come across some resources about French that I’ll blog about eventually.
The CEFR is for European languages, but the standard test for Japanese is the JLPT, the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. Years ago, when I started studying Japanese, there were four levels of this test, with N1 being the toughest and N4 the easiest. At my university, in order to be able to graduate with a Japanese minor as I did, we had to be able to pass an old sample version of the N3 test, which I did easily. This was after I did the 9-month work/study program in Japan, but before I participated in the JET Program, which requires a 4-year degree. So I’d had one year of high school Japanese, almost a year of working and studying in Japan, and several college classes to get me to that point.
During JET, I was chosen to study Japanese at the Japan Foundation near Osaka for a short time during summer break. There weren’t very many participants, but many of those in my class were planning on taking the N2 level of the JLPT. I didn’t plan on taking it because I lacked confidence in my kanji skills. Kanji are the Chinese characters used in Japan, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Japanese.
The other issue was that although I was confident I could have passed the N3 test, at the time there was a huge gulf between the N3 test and the N2 test and I didn’t want to bother with N3, only N2. You had to know a ton more kanji and vocabulary to get up to the N2 level. The difference between N4 and N3, or N2 and N1, was much more manageable. Because of this, a few years ago they renumbered the levels and added a level in between the old N3 and N2, so now there are 5 levels with more of an even spread between them.
But if I want to take the time and effort to do the real JLPT exam, I think I’d want to go all the way and go for N1. That’s pretty much the standard for foreigners who want to work in Japan in jobs that aren’t English teaching. Some employers will accept N2, but N1 is the best and it’s what I’d want to go for! Of course, that would require a lot of study and effort, and the fact that I’m not living in Japan anymore would make it that much more challenging. On the plus side, it’s never been easier to access Japanese media (and friends), so I could choose to surround myself with it as much as possible.
We (my husband, our kids, my mom, and I) have bought our plane tickets to go to Japan in April, which we’re really excited about! That makes me want to study Japanese more. But on the other hand, being there for just over a week will not get me ready to take a challenging test. I’m thinking I may study Japanese until the trip so I can enjoy it as much as possible, and then switch to Spanish. I’m much more confident in my ability to pass the C2 Spanish exam on short notice. Once I pass the C2 exam, I can set a longer-term goal of the JLPT. Then… maybe French? Someday?