Thursday, November 27, 2008

Remedial Japanese

Yesterday Gboy and I went to the YMCA where I took an assessment test in order to determine where I best fit in their Japanese language classes. The program has six levels. Step 1 is for beginners with zero Japanese language skills while step 6 is supposed to be advanced enough that after completion one could attain a Level 1 or 2 on the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. I'm not looking for that kind of proficiency - just some day-to-day survival skills!

We walked in and inquired at the front desk or I should say, my husband inquired. The nice lady asked me if I had studied Japanese before, and although I was pretty sure I knew what she was asking of me, I suddenly started to panic. I think the testing anxiety had already started to affect me. As much as I would have liked to think my skills were still fairly close to an intermediate level, the inquiry at the front desk should have been a red flag.

Nevertheless, onward we went. The administrator gave me my test materials along with several pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener. How thorough! She asked if I could read hiragana and katakana since the test is written in a combination of both. I confidently assured her I could. She escorted me to a testing room and explained the test to me. I had one hour to work on the test. After she left I started reading the first question.

I was stumped right from the start. The farther into the test I went the more comical it became. Do they have remedial Japanese? I struggled through the test for an hour. At the end of the hour I had finished only half of the exam; I began to think we had wasted an hour and I could simply have told them to start me at Step 1 as I clearly need a LOT of help! And as I looked at the test I realized THIS is why I'm struggling - everyone around me is speaking THIS Japanese and I have something else entirely worked out in my brain!! I walked out laughing and thinking I could slink away while they scored my test. Maybe they'd just call me on the phone to tell me how pathetic I am.

I wasn't to get off that easy though. The administrator planned to score my test right away. Gboy and I went to the lobby and sat down to wait. I laughed as I explained to him how difficult the exam had been. After the administrator scored my test she told me that I'm actually somewhere around a Step 2. Since they're in the middle of a term right now. I'm all set up to attend next week's Step 2 class to see if that is a good fit for me; if it's not I can always enter the Step 1 class and ramp up more gradually. And if that doesn't work, I'm sure there's remedial help somewhere right?


  1. Good luck in your Japanese classes! I live in Israel, and my Hebrew is only so-so. I really, really, REALLY wish I had time to take Ulpan -- that is this sort of intensive Hebrew class, meets 5 days a week, for 5 hours, and there are different levels. But with my two boys at home, and husband at work... unlikely.

    Like you, my husband talks for me quite a lot. But I can speak! Just... slowly...

    Anyway... I can relate!

    RYC, thanks for saying my being human helped you feel, well, more human and normal too. :) That's the best part of blogging. When people relate and feel less alone, eh?


  2. I actually took the JLPT level 1 a number of years back. Being a college student taking Japanese at the time, I didn't think much of it when registering, but I remember the feeling of getting the test booklet and suddenly realizing, "omg...this is hard!" haha. Good luck in your class!

  3. There's usually lots of wiggle room in how they determine levels; I know there is where I teach English to international students. But they wouldn't put you someplace inappropriate.

    When we move to Sweden I'll be going through a similar process to you so it's interesting to read how it's going.