You Passed the JLPT, Now What?

When I finally passed the N1, on my third try, I felt like I had defied the laws of nature. I really felt super-human.

A few years ago, I moved back to Japan. Because I had taken the old 2-kyuu years before, retaking it was an exercise to get to the same level I had been. I studied like a maniac and squeaked by.

Then a year later, my teacher (and yours if you’re a Patreon subscriber) said, “What about the N1?”

I am not young. I worried that my brain was done learning at the level I needed to pass.

Well, that was a year and a half of a rabbit hole. Before I took this final test, I was taking full practice tests every Saturday and Sunday for a month. I did them at a capsule hotel near me that had a lounge and “one-coin onsen,” so I could finish the test and soak my tired brain in the hot bath for 500 yen. I studied every night, and did flash cards daily.

So finally I passed. There are few times in my life when I felt a greater sense of accomplishment. But what did that mean for my Japanese? Well, this may be different for others, but I feel like my “post-N1 Japanese” is optimistically 25% of where I need to be. The preparation for the test was so very helpful, but there is still such a long way to go. For example:

I work in tech, but here was no technical JLPT vocabulary. So I am desperately cramming business and technical vocab.

There are hundreds of expressions I don’t know.

I can’t freaking remember most 擬音語 for the life of me.

Japanese Twitter? Good grief.

There are words I studied that I can recognize, but only when I read them, not when I hear them.

There are words I hear in conversation, but miss the next 20 seconds because I am trying to recall what that damn word meant.

Maybe you relate? I hope?

The point is, the JLPT may get you into a university or into a job interview. But if you really want to communicate, it’s but a first step. A hard-won first step you should be very proud of, no matter what the level.

What about you? What role did the JLPT play in your Japanese learning?

2 thoughts on “You Passed the JLPT, Now What?”

  1. I can relate. I did the N2 test this December, pretty sure I passed. Considering it’s intermediate-advanced level, I’m supposed to understand pretty much any daily Japanese at this point. But I don’t! Some animes or podcasts give me a hard time, let alone news. I think it’s the diversity of Japanese which makes it so difficult, almost as if it was not a single language, but a set of them.

    1. Let’s not forget there are dialects, slang, and unfamiliar vocabulary– depending on the resources you are using to learn.

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