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Git up, Git up, Git Down, JLPT is the Joke in Yo’ Town: Why I Hate the JLPT and Why It’s a Waste of Your Time and Money

About a month ago, I got an email from a very handsome man that went a little something like this. Very handsome man:

Hi Khatz, just wondering what you think of the JLPT. Is it worth taking to measure your Japanese fluency, even if by some chance it’s not required when applying for a job in Japan? If so, how do you know when you’re ready?

Let me answer that very handsome man’s question with a rhetorical question. Would you, native user of English reading this, take the TOEFL/TOEIC, to put on your resume in order to prove your English proficiency?

Think about it.

  • You have a resume in Japanese.
  • Your name is kanjified.
  • Your cover letter is in Japanese.
  • You talk to HR on the phone in Japanese, and they have to ask your nationality to make sure, because they thought a gaijin was supposed to be calling.
  • You also write HR emails in Japanese.
  • Your interview is in Japanese. Interview: a one hour Q/A session on academic/technical subjects.
  • Not to mention the essay you submitted days before the interview, which you discuss and liberally quote from.

If this doesn’t prove Japanese proficiency, then what the billclinton does?

I hate the freaking JLPT. It’s nothing but a way for the test-givers to make money [nothing wrong with that] asking stupid 4-choice questions in which 50% of the time [fake statistic] 2 of the answers are correct Japanese in some reasonable context, but of course only one answer is “JLPT correct”. I know I’m being harsh; I understand and even share the desire for unbiased third-party evaluation of language skill. But this is not it, folks; it just friggin isn’t. This beast is a failure. The never-ending human desire to reduce everything to a number and a certificate falls flat again. And I like numbers. Dude, I love money, numbers and machines, and Progress and all that good stuff. Last week, I was wearing my sweatshop-made Nikes and washing down my McDonald’s burger with a Coca-Cola, when I accidentally ran over an entire family of hippies with my brand new Hummer; their screams were so loud I could barely hear my iPod. And this, people, is why I’ll be the first to tell you that these JLPT numbers is whack. Matt Damon and I both avidly dislike them apples.

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is just like every other standardized test in that it doesn’t measure actual ability or proficiency in the field in question; it merely measures proficiency in taking the test. Oh, don’t get me wrong — you need to know some English to understand SAT directions and some Japanese to understand JLPT instructions, but beyond that it’s all about splitting the stupidest, ugliest hairs imaginable.

For the sake of honesty, it should be renamed to something along the lines of the “Japanese Language Proficiency Test Proficiency Test” — much like how the SAT has at various times in the past respectively been called the “Scholastic Aptitude Test” and the “Scholastic Assessment Test” but ETS had to back off them lies because SATs neither measure nor assess scholastic anything. The SAT group of tests, now literally reduced to a meaningless acronym, measure SAT-taking ability. That’s why Adam Robinson had to go and write Cracking the SAT . Did you know that your score will go up each time you take an SAT or JLPT or even an IQ test? Did ya suddenly become more scholastically apt? Did ya get smarter? Do ya know more Japanese than 5 minutes ago?

And somehow the JLPT people have got the whole freaking world convinced that you need a JLPT to get a job and even be recognized as an adult in Japanese society. None of my Japanese friends, colleagues and associates have ever even heard of the JLPT. Just as most English native speakers have no idea what the TOEIC and TOEFL are. Tellingly, the author of this super-excellent book discusses the phenomenon of people with madd dope TOEIC test scores but crappy English.

Anyway, the JLPT matters far more to and among gaijin, than to and among actual Japanese people. Because guess what — Japanese is not about passing tests, it’s about listening to, reading, speaking and writing real, live, uncut, unedited, NON-MULTIPLE CHOICE Japanese. Are Japanese people going to come up to you and be like:

“私は東京に行きました” And then go,
Did I go (a) TO Tokyo (b) FROM Tokyo (c) IN Tokyo or (d) AT Tokyo?

No! For one thing, Japanese people don’t say lamo, borderline textbook-sounding things like “私は東京に行きました” any more often than English speakers say “how do you do?!” or “what is your good name?”. More importantly, there is no multiple freaking choice in real life. Real life is “harder” like that, in that you either understood fully and correctly or you didn’t. But it’s also easier in that you can actually have fun practicing and not have your Japanese “childhood” turn into a JL-motherlovin-PT preparation ritual.

Urrrggh. Did I mention I hate the JLPT?
BTW, if they buy me off, I’ll take it all back. This post? Gone! What joke? Whose town?

Focus on 日本語, not on stupid tests. Take it from someone who knows: your daily interactions in Japanese are the greatest preparation and proof of proficiency. Watching comedy shows, talking to friends, reading manga — this is the real deal; this is life; this is your test of Japanese language proficiency. You should aim to be so good at Japanese that some stupid deskmonkey circle-filling test of it would simply be an insult to your very being — a proposition as ludicrous as asking you to take the TOEIC or TOEFL.

Do. Not. Learn. Japanese. To. Take. Tests. In.

End of rant.

PS: I have reviewed resumes written by candidates who (wrote they?) had passed upper levels of this JLPT (at least level 2, and maybe some level 1)…the resumes sucked — poor usage, terrible formatting, kanji errors left and right. For all their precious test scores, do you think I recommended them? DO YOU? In cases like this, and indeed in most of the cases that I can think of that matter, language skill is — or at least freaking well should be — self-evident; it doesn’t need to be tested.

Save your time and money for that cosplay convention in a couple of months.

End of rant. Really. I’m done.

And another thing! The arrogance of those JLPT-makers. When did I die and give them the right to decide what constitutes “standard” Japanese? On what authority do they decide these levels? By what divine, Khatzumotoan power do they decide the contents of the test? No, wait, scratch that — if you don’t yet know enough Japanese, the JLPTers can always hide behind that — all you need do is go look at some ESL/EFL materials to see for yourself the kind of bullwinkle that passes for language “education” and skill evaluation. My friend, the emperor has no clothes. You do not need these tests; they’re just a bunch of junk some people who think they know what they’re doing put together. If you really want to test your Japanese ability, turn on the television.

For real. The End.

You thought I was done, eh? Well, rants don’t conclude: they merely pause! I’m back with another talking point! What’s all this shizzle about “well, Khatzumoto, I’m going to take the JLPT to motivate me”. ‘The fooooooork? Dude, if you need, to shell out actual dollars, to have someone ask you, to fill in crappy little circles, with a stupid little #2 pencil, in some massive room, filled with other nervous deskmonkeys…to get <airquotes>”motivation”</airquotes>…then maybe you shouldn’t be learning Japanese in the first place. Dude, come on! Make your own phrekkin’ goals, man!

If you really want to test your Japanese ability, turn on the television.

  121 comments for “Git up, Git up, Git Down, JLPT is the Joke in Yo’ Town: Why I Hate the JLPT and Why It’s a Waste of Your Time and Money

  1. Kang
    September 28, 2008 at 12:21

    beautiful d(゜∀゜d)

  2. David
    September 28, 2008 at 12:39

    Thank you.

  3. Colin
    September 28, 2008 at 12:47

    I pretty much agree with you. But I think that those scores may be useful for determining things like minimum levels for university entrance, visa requirements etc.
    What do you think?

  4. Luke M
    September 28, 2008 at 13:26

    And that, my friends, was pure gold! Either you understand what the heck your Japanese grandfather in law, with middle of nowhere, countryside dialect, is raving on about, or you don`t. End of test.

  5. Nukemarine
    September 28, 2008 at 13:26

    I think 50 people over at TheJapanesePage forum simultaneously just yacked up a hairball.

    While I agree with your statement (tests should not be the goal, nor are they the be all end all of assessment, not even close), there is one benefit to the standardized language tests. College credit. If a 3 hour test lets the powers that be think you have the equivalent of 50 credit hours in a language, and it’s to your benefit, then taking the test is reasonable. That’s the reason I took CLEP and challenged classes, to save time taking stuff I want to, not classes I had knowledge about due to self study.

  6. Partyrash
    September 28, 2008 at 14:16

    Very interesting. As a member of the JET programme, I am witnessing everyone around me in the JLPT final push. I think that if people want to take the test, let them. Most people taking the JLPT are not aiming for fluency, while people drinking the AJATT punch are.

    I’m curious. How does everyone feel about taking a Japanese test that Japanese folks know about and take themselves: the kanji kentei?

  7. September 28, 2008 at 14:34

    i totally disagree. outwardly it seems the thing “keeping” me from saying what I want to say is not knowing some cool words/phrases like say “cryogenic suspension” or “government intervention” or “blasphemes the name of”. It’s EASY to know that I am lacking knowledge of exactly how to say those things. But what is NOT easy to know/notice on my own is how my lack of knowledge of specific ultra-boring looking structures such as those in the JLPT 2 Kanzen Master book are actually MUCH more detrimental and impairing to my ability than lacking some specific words. This is totally analogous to running across a word on a 1000 most frequent word list that you do not know or use in your native language, but that wouldn’t be there unless Japanese people are saying it 100 times a day. You might “hear” it in continuous speech but overlook how important it is. When you see it on a top 1000 list you KNOW it’s important… So for me preparing for the test means covering all the “holes” in my knowledge that I didn’t know enough Japanese to know are holes. (It’s a paradoxical dilemma: you don’t know you don’t know something you need to know unless you know that thing exists—which of course you don’t know cause you don’t know it.)

  8. QuackingShoe
    September 28, 2008 at 15:43

    Typically I know a word or structure is important enough to learn when I see it used. That’s my criteria. Particularly, when I see it used more than once.
    I don’t really need a list for that.
    Fortunately, since they’re saying it 100 times a day anyway, I have pretty ample opportunity to pick it up – often while not even trying!
    Seriously, I hear this a lot, but I’ve never been able to follow. The argument basically reads to me like (and is sometimes literally stated as) “How will you learn/know to learn this incredibly common and important structure/word/kanji if no one tells you to/if you only read real books instead of textbooks/etc?”
    The answer is pretty simple. If it’s incredibly common, I’m going to see it A LOT. When I see it a lot, chances are I’m gonna figure out it might be important, and I’m gonna get a lot of practice.

    Now, if you were studying the language as a hunter, where you thought up something you wanted to know and then actively went after it, sure, your problem would be valid. But that’s a crappy way to learn a language anyway. If you let the language come to you, everything important is just going to be there to take.

  9. September 28, 2008 at 16:03

    Can’t really agree on the motivation thing.

    Is it kinda sad that I have to rely on a test for adding motivation? As I would expect you to say, who cares? Motivation is motivation and any extra motivation is a good thing. I may be a product of the school systems, but it’s hard to break and may as well do what I can.

    If you want to watch the same Japanese show 50 times in a row to understand one bit of it, more power to you. I would be going mad by that point. Going through this grammar book, which is completely in Japanese, gets me a clearer understanding of things in a couple of minutes.

    Not to mention the realities of life. I laughed at the last success story. No shit you’ll get good at Japanese if you have the ability to quit your ****ing job to open up time. If I can’t read manga, watch TV or listen to music at my job’s downtime, I’d rather have a JLPT book out than do nothing.

    It’s a measurable goal, and that makes it appealing. You don’t know when that anime or news segment is going to start making sense, and that is quite demotivating. I ain’t happy with that, but it is what it is.

    Granted, I’m not saying “study for and pass the JLPT and you are Japanese wonder person” but I don’t know who is. If it helps you keep your head up, it helps you keep your head up.

  10. jamesFALLEN
    September 28, 2008 at 17:40

    I think it depends on why you are studying for the JLPT. If that is your final goal ie.. “when I pass level one i will have mastered Japanese”, then you should stop becuase people that have studied for only the JLPT and passed level one still a tough time in real Japanese situations. That’s why there are increasing the difficulty of level 1 every year.

    BUT if passing this test is just a pitstop on your quest for native-like fluency, then why not go for it. But all the Japanese people I have shown the practice books to have said its waaay too mechanical for real life use. But if it’s motivating for you, why not?

    Many I people I know use the test as a safety net. If I pass level X, I must be good right? Despite the fact they can’ t speak to Japanese people. I’ve been Khatzuing it for about 6 months now, I can speak ok, maybe behind where I should be speaking wise because I Heisiged it for 3 months(so no grammer study at all) but the people I know that are totally focused on passing that test(level 3) are even worse speaking than me.(And they write maybe a 1/10 of the kanji)

    I think the goal should be real Japanese, not test Japanese. Of course in the beginning you have to learn grammer from Japanese education books etc. But why not use real life sources as soon as possible as much as possible instead of that JLPT-made-for-only-this-test book.

    Yes the realities of life are always there, so I think you should be studying for the reality of REAL japanese. That should be your one and only goal. Not a test level.

  11. September 28, 2008 at 17:59

    Well, I had a real interesting conversation with a co-worker the other day about that kinda stuff. The “stiff, mechanical” Japanese was pointed out to me along with some kanji that they said they “never write”. I asked the person if they could, though, and they said of course they could, they went through the educational system.
    Of course in the end it’s all going to blend together and it’s not as if it’s going to ruin your Japanese.
    And hell, all play starts to feel like nothing if there ain’t some work. I’m not saying study for the JLPT and call it a day for Japanese “studying” but it sure makes the anime and manga I read feel even that much sweeter.

  12. quendidil
    September 28, 2008 at 18:16

    OOT but does anyone know how to type the obsolete hiragana using Windows IME?

  13. quendidil
    September 28, 2008 at 18:17

    NM, silly me. Just type wi/we and select.

  14. uberstuber
    September 28, 2008 at 18:28

    Should’ve posted this before the US cancel deadline 😉

    This post is amazing and so true, but Japanese grad schools I’m looking at require it T_T

  15. NDN
    September 28, 2008 at 22:18

    Honestly, I really thought I would never see a post about the JLPT. I mean, according to this site’s title it’s just so obvious that JLPT is nothing compared to Japanese itself that I really thought a post about it would be a waste of energy 🙂 .
    Could someone really take JLPT 1 just to feel motivated? Maybe there are different goals in question: fluency and partial fluency maybe. I personally think total fluency is infinitely more enjoyable than the partial one. I read from the great Tony Buzan that the human brain has a NATURAL tendency to complete things (whatever they are) so being partially fluent may be motivating IF the person continues to use the language AFTER taking the test therefore encountering new “holes” to fill in leading in the end to full fluency. But then, it looks like the JLPT was entirely a waste of time(even if only some minutes/hours) and effort in the first place. 矢っ張り, I still love full fluency as a goal right from the beginning which means only fun stuff in japanese and no tests around. 😀

  16. NDN
    September 28, 2008 at 22:59

    ああああ!It’s not “…according to this site’s title…”. I guess it’s more “…from this site’s title point of view(fluency)…”. 🙁 😀

  17. Pingback:
  18. September 29, 2008 at 00:13

    That handsome man must be very grateful for your input, Khatz. 🙂 1724 kanji today.

  19. Hitode
    September 29, 2008 at 01:26

    Interesting rant. I agree. Haha, yesterday I saw someone with a JLPT2 trying to translate something, and they were way off. And yet they were bragging about knowing more Japanese grammar than a native speaker would ever know.

  20. beneficii
    September 29, 2008 at 02:11,

    Look, if you are fluent at Japanese, then why do you require the test? If you are virtually indistinguishable from a native speaker, then you should not need such a test on your resume. As Khatz was saying, even more powerful is, “You talk to HR on the phone in Japanese, and they have to ask your nationality to make sure, because they thought a gaijin was supposed to be calling.” At that point, do you think whether you have taken the JLPT is an issue? They don’t ask native speakers if they took it.

  21. beneficii
    September 29, 2008 at 02:28

    A bit off-topic, but something interesting, written in the language we’re all trying to learn here:

  22. khushvane
    September 29, 2008 at 02:29

    Seems what jamesFALLEN said was most astute — people who are uncomfortable with “invisible” goal-markers (although they aren’t really invisible… like Khatz and others have said, if you can understand Japanese, you can understand it, that’s all there is to it…) might fall back on something like the JLPT to sort of ‘confirm’ their project and give them a sense of comfort. In that sense, it’s not just useless, it’s counterproductive and something that’s likely to cause greater friction during one’s more frustrated moments (I PASSED the JLPT already… why can’t they just speak properly?!…)

  23. David
    September 29, 2008 at 02:30

    Hitode said,
    >And yet they were bragging about knowing more Japanese grammar than a native >speaker would ever know.

    Yes, well, they may *know* more grammar. But, I’m sure they can’t use the grammar they know. 🙂

  24. khushvane
    September 29, 2008 at 02:58

    Oh, and if the IELTS is anything to go by, the language in these kinds of tests is really awful. There is kind of a ‘range’ (I’ve read some books which had sentences you might actually hear) but it’s pretty much universally “English-for-English-tests” — boring, stilted stuff. They never use contractions where it’s completely appropriate (e.g. I would like to meet them…) making it sound weird and robotic.

    Also, if this is the standard by which the listening tests are measured, my heart goes out to the poor kids taking this thing…

  25. Squintox
    September 29, 2008 at 05:11

    Eek, I had to take one of those ESL tests in high school. And the way they spoke… guh, there are no words to describe it…

  26. September 29, 2008 at 06:33

    I’m kind of in the middle here, I agree with you mostly but disagree too. The thing is I also agree that JLPT is kind of stupid and people shouldn’t depend on that to judge if they know Japanese. But I know many people, including myself that uses the JLPT as one of their motivations to keep that train going (and JLPT is not my only motivation or goal, definitely not). While I know that, if I pass the JLPT1 I won’t be fluent yet, I atleast want to take one of the levels of the JLPT some day (haven’t yet). I’ve already skipped past JLPT4 because I’m past that level and that’s too much simple stuff anyways, but I plan on either taking 3, or skipping 3 and going to 2 in late 2009.


  27. Jonathan
    September 29, 2008 at 06:46


    Yikes. It’s like they resurrected all the driest aspects of high-class Victorian English, threw in some modern words like “washing machine,” and had it spoken extremely, unbearably slowly by some remarkably dim-witted folks. (“My washing machine is leaking!” “Are you still using it?” “Yes.” “Perhaps you should stop using it.” Well no sh*t, Sherlock…)

    Like Khatz wrote a long time ago: you could ace every single test that measures this sort of dead, Vulcanesque English, only to find yourself completely stumped at the McDonald’s drive-thru. If that’s the kind of English/Japanese/whatever you want to be proficient in, knock yourself out. Personally, when I learn a language, I want to know the most current, real, colloquial, un-sterilized, unedited version of it. Because that tends to be the most interesting and fun version (and because, on a daily basis, I’m FAR more likely to want to order a cheeseburger than to phone up Charles Dickens about my plumbing woes 🙂 ).

    By the way:

    Oddly enough, this was just posted today. :O

  28. Dazyrue
    September 29, 2008 at 09:10

    I thought that taking and passing the test would be motivation for me.

    Well considering that I have only looked up maybe 3 definitions and havent even read a single “this is how you learn japanese” book in the last 6 months, but I was able to, for the most part, understand that video Jonathan posted, was motivation enough for me now.

  29. nomadicsiren
    September 29, 2008 at 09:54

    While the JLPT may actually be evil incarnate, the threat of taking this monkey test is what got my butt in gear in the first place, got me looking around the web and investigating study techniques and tools and ultimately led me to this site. For that I am tootally grateful! Thanks, JLPT!

    While I took the JLPT last year, and was thinking about taking it again this year, I realized that with only a few months to go until the test date that I had shifted my studies from fun stuff to what I was “supposed to be learning”. And that crapitude just doesn’t fly. So this year, I decided to ditch the test, thrilled to my toes that more than a year later after starting this whole Japanese business, I’m still just as excited and motivated to study on my own, following the threads of interest wherever they take me, instead of being chained down by a vocabulary list and grammar points.


  30. Eric
    September 29, 2008 at 10:57

    well put, i cant “not” agree with you lol.

  31. Daniel
    September 29, 2008 at 12:06

    I thought the article was over, but you just kept going!

  32. Madamada
    September 29, 2008 at 17:45

    Having passed JLPT 1 and being very well aware of the limitations of my Japanese ability, I have no desire to argue on behalf of the test. I do, however, think it would be nice if people would sit it and pass it before crowing about how piss poor it is.

  33. Daniel #2
    September 29, 2008 at 18:22

    Ya’ll need to stop hatin’ on the JLPT. Personally, it’s both a great motivating factor, and the study books are bomb. Screw doing the fill in the blank exercises, I just went through the answer book and circled all the correct ones so I could have lots and lots of juicy example sentences to learn from. The JLPT level 2 grammar is laid out in a really easy to understand way, and all of it has been extremely useful to me. Not to mention the vocab you can glean from going over the material when you’re feeling in a more bookish, traditional study mood. It just makes doing REAL Japanese that much smoother!

    I don’t know what this jive is about knocking all the “stiff, mechanical” Japanese in the books being discussed in these comments, if you’re doing things like reading newspapers, or emails at your job, or TV instructions, or anything thats basically not kiddy manga, you’re gonna see all that stuff pop up. It’s also a bomb way to learn explanatory Japanese!

    I’m a firm supporter/co-conspirator of all Japanese all the time, and I also think the JLPT study material can make that road a lot smoother and efficient.

    Besides, don’t universities, and grad-schools, and an assortment of jobs require it nowadays?

  34. September 29, 2008 at 21:10

    The thing is, whether it’s good motiviation or not is not the point at this stage – the point is what do you NEED it for? I absolutely agree that these tests do not prove that you are proficient in communicating and that companies who rely on JLPT to “prove” anything are being lazy by not testing people themselves nevertheless the fact is most HR departments ARE lazy these days and won’t consider anyone without the right pieces of paper.

    The TOEFL/TOEIC comparison is I think an erroneous as these are not just about learning a language by wrote but provide some, if minimal, instruction on how to teach – which is a very different thing from being able to communicate colloquially in a language. Frankly, if I were an employer I’d be insisting on seeing these – not because of their quality, or lack thereof, but because it shows that the person in question has at least some level of commitment and respect for teaching a language. I have met some fantastic teachers of English here but many more who simply have no business even claiming to be able to do so and are committing fraud by accepting their paychecks.

  35. September 30, 2008 at 00:11

    Hi, just chiming in here. Having a hard goal like the JLPT helped me and as a result I bagged it in 2 years of coming here (level 1). I got it the next year because I wanted a higher score. Rather than doth protesting too much, you might try to see that there is some wisdom in some of the things the Japanese do, and see if you might not be wrong. I think you are.

  36. Jonathan
    September 30, 2008 at 00:23

    @Daniel #2

    I think that’s a good point, that JLPT study materials can be an excellent source of sentences, “advanced” vocabulary (i.e., words that are uncommon and/or technical), kanji readings, etc., as long as you keep it all in context. It’s the kind of language one uses on a resume, or in a court of law. So if you go through these sentences with full awareness that they are, by and large, highly formal and somewhat unnatural-sounding, you’re sure to get a lot out of them. But obviously, in so-called “real life” situations, stick with the mangaspeak. 🙂

    Besides, if I recall correctly, one of the main components of the “AJATT philosophy” is the idea that “if it’s in Japanese, then it’s good for you.” Therefore, insofar as JLPT-related stuff is in Japanese, it must be good for you.

  37. captal
    September 30, 2008 at 00:59

    Different people are motivated by different things. I think most of the people on this site would agree that the goal is fluency in Japanese, not the ability to take a test and pass it (props to passing the lvl 1 within two years… to my brain that sounds impossible). However, I also like to have goals, because goals give me something to shoot for. Being fluent in Japanese is too ethereal of a goal at this stage in my learning- and the JLPT is a solid goal for me. Passing it doesn’t mean anything, especially since I’m only taking the 3級, but it’s a measurable, attainable goal. When I worked in the business world we always talked about making our goals SMART goals- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and in a certain Time frame. The JLPT is all of those things while “I want to become fluent in Japanese” is not specific, measurable or in a time frame. Maybe you can say “I want to read manga within a year” – fine- then you have your own goal to shoot for. Or Khatz set his goals by buying a plane ticket to a careerfest. The important thing is to have these goals that will help put positive pressure on you. For me, the JLPT is a convenient way to do that.


  38. mikka
    September 30, 2008 at 02:25

    I applied for and passed the level 3 of JLPT last year after 3 months of studying Japanese. I wanted to learn Japanese so I could understand some of the shows and dramas I was watching, but watching them raw with no subtitles right off the bat seemed too daunting for me. And the class I signed up for was painfully slow (that is before I found out about this site… oops) and I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere. I needed a quick, measurable goal that would “force” me to at least get down the basics. Studying for JLPT level 3 made me learn about 400 kanji and some quick grammar points (listening comprehension was useless so I didn’t even bother studying for it). Those 400 kanji has been the foundation for my ongoing kanji study.

    All this was before I found out about this site and I would’ve probably gone the different route if I knew about AJATT earlier. Having said that, what is wrong with “wanting to shell out bucks to get quote-unquote motivation?” Different things motivate different people – I don’t think people who study for JLPT should be reduced to “maybe they shouldn’t be learning Japanese in the first place.”

    I’ll take it that the crux of your article is that JLPT should NOT be the ultimate goal of measuring your proficiency in Japanese, which I whole-heartedly agree.

  39. Leo
    September 30, 2008 at 05:57

    “‘The fooooooork? Dude, if you need, to shell out actual dollars, to have someone ask you, to fill in crappy little circles, with a stupid little #2 pencil, in some massive room, filled with other nervous deskmonkeys…to get ”motivation”…then maybe you shouldn’t be learning Japanese in the first place. Dude, come on! Make your own phrekkin’ goals, man!”

    First, I love the website, and I’ve been following it for a long time now, trying all the stuff thats been said, you know. But anyway, I read and agreed to almost everything he has written so far, etc and all. But is it just me or did he sound a bit condescending with that last paragraph.
    To me, a goal is a goal, be it fluency, be passing a test, be it entering 20 sentences in 10 minutes, be it getting a job in japan, a goal is a goal and if trying to reach it will motivate me to learn japanese, than does it matter? I mean, with all the issues people have with burnout and motivation, something that was discussed a lot before, I’d think Khatz would be the first to agree that any extra motivation, anything that will help you keep studying, even if it is a stupid test, if kept AJATT, would be a good thing right? I’m not trying to defend the test, as I’d be the first to agree it doesn’t really measures your true japanese ability(kind of impossible anyway), but everyone is different, everyone has his own way of motivating himself, some think they want to be japanese, some would rather point a gun to his own head rather than do something willingly, and some think a nice score on a test is all they need. I’m not any of those, but if someone is using the test to his benefit, or if companies use it to their benefit, than what can be done? Sit and tell others the test suck you shouldn’t take it? Come on most people here have the goal of reaching fluency, and if for some people, the JLPT can help reaching that goal, then why not? I guess in the end I wouldn’t like to have my motives questioned just because we are taking a stupid test. I’ll take it someday, though I’d most likely try to get to a much higher level before attempting it so I’ll not have to actually study for it. To me, it is not the goal, it never was, it is just a step in the way, a step that some people look forward to, some ignore, but to me it is just that, a step along the way. It might be wrong to take it, but imo that is a long way from questioning people’s motives if they should be studying or not.

    Besides, we can sit and talk about how the test is bad, how it doesn’t mean anything and all, but honestly, if that dream japanese company requires it, I’ll happily take the test, get the job, and move on. Rather than being pissed at the system, I’d rather use it to my advantage and never look back. If I take level 1 say 2 years from now, hopefully it will be so easy it wouldn’t even matter anyway.

  40. Ryan
    September 30, 2008 at 10:23

    I like the cut of this rant’s jib.

  41. Daniel #2
    September 30, 2008 at 11:11

    Sorry to chime in again, but I wanna try to figure out all this negativity towards this test, its been bothering me…

    First off, there is a world of difference between JLPT level 3 and level 2 and 1. Of course, since the level 3 is beginner level, its going to be sterilized, dry Japanese used only to highlight one specific fundamental grammar point, or maybe vocabulary word, per example. Using this as your only method of learning Japanese is obviously going to fall flat.

    Second, let’s not forget that the level 2 and level 1 tests are intermediate and advanced level tests respectively. There’s such an air of failure and abysmally low expectations of JSL learners that suddenly being able to pass an intermediate level test means you can claim you’re a genius that knows the in’s and out’s of Japanese grammar better than Japanese do. Maybe that’s where most of this criticism is being leveled at, I dunno.

    But people on this site are often asking about good materials to use when you’re getting up into those intermediate and advanced stages. Well, the JLPT study books, level 2 and 1, are written entirely in Japanese and target your level, so there ya go. Also (@Jonathan in particular), it is clearly not grammar or vocab you “only use on a resume, or in a court of law”. My JLPT 2 grammar book, just thumbing through, I would say about 75% is useful for everyday conversation, listening, and reading…the other 25% being clearly marked anyway as formal/specialist language anyway (i.e. newspaper stuff…don’t ya wanna read newspapers?). Just by going over this book for a few minutes everyday for a month, suddenly Death Note goes from “too difficult for me” to “an awesome and enjoyable read”. The news becomes far more understandable. My speaking becomes much more nuance-able. Appliance directions become extremely clear. Shopping/browsing around on becomes a lot smoother. Do ya see what I’m sayin’?

    You’ve got your immersion environment, or you’re living in Japan, here’s some intermediate/advanced grease to make your engine run much more smooth and efficiently. That’s all I’m sayin’. I don’t care about filling in bubbles on a test, but doing the training for that has made all the everyday stuff I do while living in Japan vastly more enjoyable and easy for me, and I’m surprised no one else has really chimed in with a similar experience.

  42. September 30, 2008 at 11:33

    Actually, I can attest to that. After only doing the first 18 of the JLPT 2 grammar book, dictionary definitions in Japanese are much easier for me.

  43. QuackingShoe
    September 30, 2008 at 13:04

    Newspapers, instructional manuals, and formal e-mails don’t use stiff, stilted language. They use newspaper, instructional, and formal language. Pick up an ESL guide and then pick up a newspaper. There are no similarities whatsoever.

  44. Florida
    September 30, 2008 at 13:34

    I’m taking the JLPT level 1 this year, and I don’t think the language used in it can be said to be too stiff or mechanical. In fact the reading comprehension section takes articles from newspapers and essays from magazines and such. It’s Japanese written by Japanese people, sounds good to me.
    I will however say that level 1 could stand to be a good bit more difficult, especially the listening section. And there are a few questions which I’ve shown to Japanese that we agree more than one answer is correct, or a word is poorly. In particular one question used the word 保管 to mean 保存 when talking about a word processor , but to be fair, the question wasn’t about that word in particular.
    In the end, it’s a relatively easy test, that doesn’t cost much to take and might be worth something to somebody. If you’ve got the time, and you’d like the little piece of paper I say go for it. I should also add I have no plans to do anything with the certificate if I pass, but I don’t see any loss in having it.

  45. khushvane
    September 30, 2008 at 13:50

    To the people who’ve claimed that the language used on the JLPT is like that found in ‘formal’ settings, newspapers and the like… I’m way sceptical. The problem is that it isn’t even a matter of vocabulary or grammar, which could prove useful regardless, it’s that often the arrangement… or the task… itself is really unnatural. For example, ESL papers might ask you to study a text ‘describing your teacher,’ or something, but when will you ever need to do something similar in real life? In any context? You’re not in preschool any more. If you were, you wouldn’t be taking an ESL course! The only ESL stuff I saw that bore a good similarity to ‘formal’ writing was, in fact, formal writing (i.e. newspaper articles) imported word-for-word into the exam paper. I really think that says a lot and makes a quite fine distinction a little clearer — that between the language ‘written for exam papers’ and that where the language is a medium, not some self-conscious end.

    I should add that I can’t comment on the JLPT specifically, because I don’t know Japanese. I’ve never seen a HSK paper but in Chinese, you can open almost any textbook and there’ll be hundreds of examples that have nothing to do with Chinese as it’s written, formal or not.

  46. E-N
    September 30, 2008 at 20:27

    It seems to me that a lot of the ones here ragging on the JLPT probably haven’t actually looked over it’s material. I find the 1kyuu and 2kyuu grammar points in everything from newspapers to novels to labels to even manga (not even technical ones, either). I doubt anyone here believes that the test is a final goal, however studying for it certainly won’t hurt.
    Also, looking over last years 2kyuu booklet, I see several problems in the reading section that were pulled from “real writing”, proven so by the references following each extract.

    I know this isn’t really the place for this, but I wanted to point out that I’ve noticed a lot of people following what’s posted on this site as if it were the word of god (khatzumoto’s recent articles seem to reaffirm this position, even if only tongue-in-cheek), while forgetting that the he himself said in one of his first posts that this is what worked for him, and that others shouldn’t be afraid to alter his methods to fit their learning styles.

    Ultimately, I think everyone should just take everything with a grain of salt, and do what works for them. Before chiming in with everyone else’s “JLPT is crap and too stiff”, give it a read first, and then compare it to everything else you read. It surely can’t hurt.

  47. simonz
    September 30, 2008 at 20:46

    Of course it’s important to learn the “real” Japanese language and have “real” motivation. However, if you’re looking for a job, certifications can make the difference between getting a job and not. Even more so in Japan. That’s why everybody puts their TOEFL/TOEIC on their resume but nobody can speak English. Often times, you’ll get the job because you’ve got the certification, but you really don’t have much of a clue on the subject. That’s how it works sometimes. Having the JLPT on your resume is definitely better than not having it if you’re aiming for a Japan-related job. In fact it is very often a prerequisite. They weed out candidates this way. If the applicant really doesn’t know Japanese all that well, that will become apparent in the screening and interview process. And if somebody can’t back up whatever JLPT certification they have with “real” Japanese, that’s their problem. The JLPT is not perfect, but it’s by far the most recognized certification for Japanese.

    Passing the JLPT can be a very big motivator. How can’t it be? Not everybody has the energy and motivation to surround themself in Japanese 24/7. The JLPT gives people a measureable goal to shoot for.

  48. Brad
    September 30, 2008 at 22:50

    I agree that the JLPT shouldn’t be a final goal, but after studying the materials for JLPT 2, I can say that the example sentences and vocab surrounding the main points are golden. I’ve learned a lot of new vocab I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.

    As most people here seem to agree, the test is what you make of it – an opportunity to enhance your studies on the way to fluency or a shiny certificate that may not deliver what it promises. Just because someone likes to ride around on a high horse and tell you something is a waste of time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

  49. khushvane
    October 1, 2008 at 05:57

    I think the line of argument about it being required for a job in Japan is a little dishonest; isn’t that a goal in the task of ‘getting a job’ rather than ‘learning Japanese?’ I mean, I don’t think the fact that it’s a prerequisite for paid work should have much to do with whether or not it’s useful for Japanese. It’s certainly an argument for why someone should take it full stop, though, and I don’t think you’ll find many people who’ll say it’s not worth it on those grounds.

    I can’t speak for others but my main cause for scepticism about all these tests/qualifications (not just the JLPT) is that there’s money involved, and as soon as there’s money involved, it’s the marketer’s job to convince me why I should buy it — the burden isn’t on me to convince myself why I shouldn’t. I’ve seen kids in ESL classes who’ve sank thousands (four digit figures!) of pounds into their tuition and I just don’t think that’s fair for them to get the poor results they do. I mean, I don’t know how the rest of you are financially but I’m definitely not in a position to quit my job like the chick a post ago!

  50. Mark (isn't there a lot of Marks!)
    October 1, 2008 at 14:10

    Ryan! I like the cut of -your- Jib, my man!

  51. David
    October 1, 2008 at 14:14

    The JLPT, I think, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If it’s something required for you to get paid work, then I think if you’ve already become fluent, doing enjoyable things, that it should serve little to no difficulty reading up on your grammar and doing sentence mining with the JLPT books to get you familiar enough with the material to take and pass the tests.

    The JLPT may serve as motivation for you, and it may be a surmountable goal to work towards. But, so is fluency. If the material in the JLPT books is appealing to you, then learn it. Khatzumoto even said that, if it’s in Japanese, it’s good for you. I think we’re taking his point a little astray, here. If you think about it, he’s sticking true to his beliefs. That being that tests are boring (which, they are), motivation can be found elsewhere (click “Table of Contents” and you’re set!). And, the concept of a test standardizing a language is faulty.

    On a personal note, if the material in the JLPT text books is anything like the n amount of books written for University course work in Japanese, then count me out. I don’t want to learn grammar to learn how to make sentences. I want to gain an intuition for Japanese that will allow me to be truly fluent. Not JLPT fluent. (Which isn’t really fluent).

    I was browsing on a website for job in Japan, and there were five levels of proficiency in Japanese that could be chosen in the recruiter’s post. JLPT4 and 3 were not present. Ever. JLPT2 was so rare, it might as well have not been there. JLPT1, which was labeled “fluent” was most common. But there was one other. “Native.” — There’s a difference between JLPT1 Fluent and Native Fluency. And, I agree with Khatsumoto’s claim that one should be fluent in a language, well enough to communicate like an average adult, *before* stepping foot in the country. It only makes sense. And, thinking that passing the JLPT1 is enough for that, well, is a mistake.

    It’s a test. And I hate tests. I scored poorly on my ACT, and I didn’t do as well as I’d like to on my Computer Science AP* tests as I’d like to. But does that mean I’m stupid and that I can’t program? No, absolutely not. It just means I didn’t do well on that one test. I would hope that, especially applying for college, that the admissions committee will look beyond that, and read my essay perhaps? — I think anyone that isn’t a top-notch student in school can understand that. And, I hope even those who are top-notch student can also see my point.

    Another comparison can be made here. You can be a straight ‘A’ student, and completely suck at taking standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.

    Are my opinions biased? Yes, they are. But, do they have some credibility? I’d like to think so. I’m sure we all have similar experiences.

    I noticed that some comments say that things like “not everyone has the energy to watch the same clip from a movie 50 times over for one sentence.” And, “when I study from my JLPT book, things start to make sense around me.” Well, allow me to address each of these. If you don’t have the energy to watch the same clip over and over, then don’t. If you’re not having fun, then don’t do it. Go find a kick butt manga and pull sentences from that. It’s easier, and it’s still a lot more fun than: こちらは田中さんです。 Seriously. As for the world around you making more sense when you read about grammar and such from your book, great! But, do it in Japanese! All Japanese all the time. Learn Japanese so you can learn about it. If you need a specialized vocabulary, then start sentence mining from that source. (Which was my point that I mentioned before about sentence mining from that JLPT book of yours). I read a comment on here where someone was saying that they changed their GMail and iGoogle Home Page to Japanese. This person followed up by saying that they had started sentence mining that specific source to become familiar with the vocabulary used with these two particular sources. This same thing can be applied to your JLPT studies. If you want.~

    And, if the goal of the JLPT1 is “fluency”, then by all means, go for it. Not for the JLPT1, but for the fluency. That is what you want from a language after all, right? — I know that’s what I want. I want to be able to watch anime, movies, listen to music, and read manga without replying on someone to slap subs on it, or voice over it for me. I want to be able to crack jokes and have a plethora of witty comments in my arsenal. I doubt you’ll get that from the JLPT.

    Something I noticed when I listened to that audio clip posted before in English. I noticed that, even though the English used was almost comical from being so *off*, that I could still understand it quite effortlessly. I think that, if you just shoot for fluency from the beginning that when you get there, taking the JLPT1 will prove to be nothing, a cakewalk if you will.

    Well, that’s my 2 yen. Good luck, and have fun.

  52. David
    October 1, 2008 at 14:16

    P.S. — Thanks again Khatzumoto for showing us that tests are not the be all, end all. I couldn’t agree more.

  53. October 1, 2008 at 18:35

    My position on this thing: motivation is motivation. Sometime it can be very hard to get, so just take it where you can find it. If registering for this JLPT thing is what will get you off your butt and give you that extra fire, go for it. I went on a Japanese video-watching clip yesterday because some Jap punk dissed me on Monday and it pissed me off. Someone might say it’s a dumb thing to do, but it works for me and that’s what matters.

    Having said all that, I have GREs coming up soon so I can attest that standardized tests SUCK. I can also attest that sometimes they’re neessary because some jobs/schools/places require it. Use your own judgment on this one, people.

  54. Leo
    October 1, 2008 at 22:23


    “And, I agree with Khatsumoto’s claim that one should be fluent in a language, well enough to communicate like an average adult, *before* stepping foot in the country. It only makes sense. And, thinking that passing the JLPT1 is enough for that, well, is a mistake.”

    In the end it is each person choice as to whether or not they want to go live in a country even if they are not fluent on the language, and more, in this case, the blame is on the government and the corporations that believe the JLPT is an accurate measure.
    However, the point is moot as nobody(as in this page) ever said fluency = JLPT 1. What was said on khatz post, and particularly in the end, is that the JLPT is not worth your motivation, and that we should basically rebel against 80% of the japanese companies that require it because we are too stubborn to realize there is nothing to lose for taking it.
    Really, if it is not worth it or not, that each person decision, and there is more to gain than to lose for taking the test, really, the fee? Might as well take buses or trains than to have a car because of the oil prices, you are wasting money for less efficient tranportation, but why some people still use cars? Because they think it is worth it still.

    “Khatzumoto even said that, if it’s in Japanese, it’s good for you.”

    He never came close to expressing that on this post, not in relation to the JLPT. In fact, we know there is a lot of JLPT study material in japanese, and that most “AJATTers” would try to use those, and as some people said, they are not half bad, probably not at all great or useful, but a poor soul out there may find a use for it and benefit from it, but instead his advice is: “Don’t bother, not worth your time, screw the companies and the government, if your only job opportunity in Japan requires the test, than bad luck you because most japanese people I know never heard of it ha ha.”(pun intended)

  55. simonz
    October 1, 2008 at 22:30

    “There’s a difference between JLPT1 Fluent and Native Fluency. And, I agree with Khatsumoto’s claim that one should be fluent in a language, well enough to communicate like an average adult, *before* stepping foot in the country. It only makes sense. And, thinking that passing the JLPT1 is enough for that, well, is a mistake.”


    Are you serious??? Have you ever even been to a different country before? You learn best when you’re thrown into some totally new situation. I think you’ll actually miss out if you take this route. If you’ve got JLPT1, you should be able to get by more than fine. I know I am. If you can’t get by, you seriously need to reexamine how you’re studying the language.

  56. Daniel #2
    October 1, 2008 at 22:57


    “On a personal note, if the material in the JLPT text books is anything like the n amount of books written for University course work in Japanese, then count me out.” <— I take this to mean you know nothing about the JLPT text books. They’re nothing like university course work in Japanese (if I remember correctly…). They’re just plain useful.

    Also: And, “when I study from my JLPT book, things start to make sense around me.” …It’s easier, and it’s still a lot more fun than: こちらは田中さんです。 Seriously. As for the world around you making more sense when you read about grammar and such from your book, great! But, do it in Japanese! All Japanese all the time.

    Everything starting with JLPT level 2 and above is written entirely in Japanese (at least from what I’ve seen). Even the level 3 beginner books are like 90% Japanese…

  57. Tony
    October 3, 2008 at 05:50

    So out of curiosity, when you were looking at jobs on CFN were you looking at Japanese – Native Level jobs, or Business Level?

  58. Mark
    October 3, 2008 at 07:29

    A few years ago when I was living in Japan, I studied specifically for the JLPT level 1 test – I didn’t plan my prep time very well, so only managed to memorize all the L1 vocab and some (but by no means all) of the grammar before taking the test.

    I missed passing the JLPT Level 1 by 6 percent, but my spoken and, truth be told, written Jp was horrible.

    The reason I took the JLPT was that I knew that within even great companies there are often a few HR gnomes who filter resumes from applicants. And these gnomes basically filter resumes based on keywords and throw resumes without required keywords straight into the cylindrical filing cabinet.

    ‘Course, my intent was to pass the JLPT L1 and then learn Jp properly at my leisure in order that I could actually pass the interview stage (JLPT wouldn’t work well there)! But my cunning plan fell apart when I failed the JLPT.

    My major issue with the JLPT (apart from the other rather major issues mentioned by Khatz) is the year wait if you fail it – that really annoyed me!

  59. khatzumoto
    October 3, 2008 at 09:36


  60. October 3, 2008 at 11:59

    I’ve learnt more from my JLPT books than all the other textbooks I’ve used -combined-.
    They are concise and to the point. No faffing about at all.

    The lv4 book is 70% Japanese after that (3,2,1) it’s 100% Japanese. They come with CDs of the grammar points, dialogues and vocabulary. They are full of sentences and as cheap as chips. They also have practice questions in the book.

    The level 3 book has a separate English translation that you can buy if you like. This is kind of nice as it just dumps you in the language but the offer of a buoy to cling to is there when you get tired of swimming.

    I know what Khatz is trying to say about the JLPT test, and I agree to an extent, but the same definitely does not apply to the JLPT books. I reckon if he takes a look at them he’ll like ’em too!

  61. Jen
    October 3, 2008 at 22:45

    I disagree with you about the JLPT.

    I don’t think that anybody should be studying Japanese with their final aim being passing level 1, because that really doesn’t mean anything. However, whilst studying during my year abroad in Japan, the classes that I had to go to at my university used JLPT level 2 textbooks. They introduced grammar points in a very easy to understand way, and made me aware of how much I didn’t actually understand in every day conversation. Thanks to using these I found it much easier to pick things up and read them. I have to this point studied all of the JLPT level 2 grammar, and about half of the level 1 stuff, and some of it hasn’t stuck, because I don’t actually see it being used, but there are lots of things that I can remember coming across for the first time, and then noticing them everywhere in the next few weeks.

    If I hadn’t initially seen these grammar points seperately it would have taken me much longer to know how to use them, and this includes lots of grammar that I hear used all of the time. I don’t think that the JLPT is bad at all in any way for introducing you to new grammar, vocabulary, and kanji, as long as you do back that up with lots of exposure to natural Japanese.

    It’s certainly not the be all and end all of Japanese, and I can’t really see the point in taking the test unless you have to for some reason. I myself chose to take it because I am going to be living in Japan from next year onwards, and tend to become completely unable to communicate well in Japanese when I am nervous, so thought that it would help to prove that I do actually have a decent level of understanding. It’s not going to prove to the world that I’m fluent, or that I’m anything special, but I figure that studying for it isn’t going to kill me, the textbooks which I am using are completely in Japanese, and the grammar is actually useful outside of the JLPT world, so I figure, why not?

    I don’t think it’s necessary, but if it will help to improve people’s Japanese, then why not? I know that this way of learning isn’t necessarily the most natural way or the most enjoyable, but it’s one that works for me, and has vastly improved my understanding of all types of Japanese, so I’m kind of sad that you are so against it, and seem to think that anybody studying for the JLPT is some kind of idiot.

  62. Leo
    October 3, 2008 at 23:06

    “It’s not going to prove to the world that I’m fluent, or that I’m anything special, but I figure that studying for it isn’t going to kill me, the textbooks which I am using are completely in Japanese, and the grammar is actually useful outside of the JLPT world, so I figure, why not?”

    That is the question the jlpt bashers can’t answer, other than the usual “not worth it”, “not real japanese”,” the FEE!!!” dodging…

  63. Nukemarine
    October 3, 2008 at 23:25

    I think some people are confusing the JLPT (useless like most standardized testing) and material developed to help pass the JLPT. You can use the material without having to actually take the JLPT, in fact I’m sure Khatzumoto encourages it (see his posts on mining textbooks).

    By the way, as an Instructor for corrective and preventative maintenance of electronic equipment, here’s my take on “tests”. A test should be designed so that the person who knows the material can be able to pass 80% or more of the test WITHOUT studying for it, but a person that did not know the material has no chance of passing. The instant you introduce “studying” for the test, you essentially are creating a specialized knowledge that applies only to the test and not outside it.

    In addition, why do you have to PAY MONEY for something you can do for free? If passing the JLPT is so important, just get an old copy of the test and do it yourself with the same time restrictions. You don’t have to pay 70 dollars, go to an inconvenient location at an inconvenient time of the year to take an inconvenient test to see how it determines your current level of Japanese. It’s akin to paying 100 dollars to enter a marathon to see how well you’ll do when there’s 26.2 miles of road right outside your house you can run on for free.

    Again, unless you’re getting a tangible benefit like college credit, more money at the US taxpayer expense, or other things I can’t think of; then what is taking the JLPT actually giving you that you can’t give yourself?

  64. Leo
    October 4, 2008 at 04:10

    “I think some people are confusing the JLPT (useless like most standardized testing) and material developed to help pass the JLPT. You can use the material without having to actually take the JLPT, in fact I’m sure Khatzumoto encourages it (see his posts on mining textbooks).”

    Only on words, he was very clear the he thinks “studying” for the JLPT is bad, regardless of the material, be it in japanese or not, with standard pre-set “robotic” phrases or not.
    Besides, if not, than studying for a test you will never take makes even less sense…
    But if you aren’t taking and still use the material you are not “studying” for the test, you are using the material for other purposes.

    If I agreed to this, I’d be thinking something like this: “I am not taking the test, but I’ll use this awesome source of sentences/grammar explanations in japanese for something else(AJATT) and then bash the poor soul that uses the thing for the purpose it was intended to(JLPT) and then claim there are workarounds to the test like going to the company and screaming “you suck so much, even though you pay your employees so well, I will not waste my time taking a test that could be for the best job of my life!!! Damn you stupid corporation, I’ll find another one, and If I don’t I’ll never live in japan, and it is your fault not mine, because it was my decision not to take the test, not yours””

    “In addition, why do you have to PAY MONEY for something you can do for free? If passing the JLPT is so important, just get an old copy of the test and do it yourself with the same time restrictions.”

    Yes, when all fails resort to the fee and how you can get better for free, yeah, you do know a test is meaningless if there is nobody to correct it and tell you that you failed/passed right?Unless you want me to fake the test and the certification, I need the real thing.

    “You don’t have to pay 70 dollars, go to an inconvenient location at an inconvenient time of the year to take an inconvenient test to see how it determines your current level of Japanese.”

    If you want to take the test you will make the time for it, and the money for it, it would only be inconvenient if you are being forced to do it and don’t think it is worth it, in other words, back to the start.

    “It’s akin to paying 100 dollars to enter a marathon to see how well you’ll do when there’s 26.2 miles of road right outside your house you can run on for free.”

    Only there is only one marathon with the “prize” you want, and you can’t race it outside your house you see. You might as well tell F1 drivers they don’t need to pay for the racing license, and that even though they earn millions, it is not worth to pay the license and they could just get their bicycle and race outside their houses.There was a news about that, but the drivers that complained about the fee are still there, and winning too!
    If my dream is to be a pilot, should I be ranting against the FAA or whoever gives out the pilot licenses(after tests of course) or should I just quit my dream because I have this strange notion that tests suck and paying for a private license isn’t worth it?
    I know driver and pilot licenses are not the same thing as the JLPT, but if I made my mind I would never take and agree to any test that gives out a certificate, I would be able to get any of those.

    “Again, unless you’re getting a tangible benefit like college credit, more money at the US taxpayer expense, or other things I can’t think of; then what is taking the JLPT actually giving you that you can’t give yourself?”

    The “tangible benefit” is the certification that can get only through the test and that is required by the majority of japanese corporations hiring foreigners and also by I think most schools where you can go(not sure here as I never looked for them). I do think it doesn’t sound very fair, but give me a call when it changes ok? They might even eradicate all the poverty in africa while they are at it(you know, not happening?)

    Yes I know the job thing might be getting old, but so is the “it costs money!!!” “you actually have to go outside and not sit your bottom 24h at home doing AJATT, so it is very inconvenient!!!” story.

  65. Leo
    October 4, 2008 at 04:16

    “I would be able to get any of those.”

    I wouldn’t be able to get any of those

  66. Clarie
    November 3, 2008 at 11:56

    I totally agree with what you said and I am a firm believer too. But if taking JLPT allows me to get additional allowance – won’t fight on there except would keep really quiet about the passing of JLPT cos I know my level of spoken n written japanese is not much of that standard.

  67. November 13, 2008 at 11:55

    This was flipping HILARIOUS. OMGOSH. Seriously, I think I’ve read this like 5 times now. I just keep coming back for more every time I need encouragement. Wow. I can’t even describe this in words. Without sounding too sappy or like some random fangirl, Thanks Khatz.

  68. booger
    November 20, 2008 at 21:50

    Now they have come up with a new way to rip test-takers off. They send you to a test location in another prefecture. They take you application money and give you a test site in another part of the country. It is done in the city where I live, but for some reason, I have to go to another prefecture to write MY test!

  69. Shannon
    December 6, 2008 at 23:17

    The argument against the JLPT and related study seems to be that the Japanese is (a) too formal and (b) not wide-ranging enough to cover all the bases. I think this rant is committing a very basic logical fallacy: setting up a false dichotomy. Why can’t someone both kick it with the hipster Japanese dudes smoking outside the club and be able to read, enjoy, and discuss sophisticated texts in a polite setting (and who that knows Japanese would argue that there’s any shortage of such settings in Japan?)? It doesn’t make sense. Should American students stop reading “formal, stilted” history books and using 書き言葉? “If it doesn’t help me chat up the cashier at Lawson, it SUCKS!!!!” Basically, this is the argument, right? Flip that around and ask someone like me, whose conversational skills are MUCH better than their formal “academic” Japanese, to make a speech in front of all the teachers at their high school based on the stuff they’ve picked up from comedy shows and manga. You would get much the same answer, right? “If it doesn’t help me participate in a formal meeting, it SUCKS!!!!” See how that makes no sense?

    I don’t mean to suggest that there is a scale from social loser to refined sophisticate and that the JLPT separates the cream of the crop from the potty-mouthed, under-educated rejects. Clearly, this is not the case. But it is about types of language and, as the Japanese love to say, TPO. My boyfriend and I speak in Japanese-ified English or English-ified Japanese every single day, and I couldn’t agree more that studying for the JLPT doesn’t help me understand about 95% of the Japanese stuff that he says to me. But can we not all agree that there is more to any language than everyday boyfriend/girlfriend conversation? As much as I like to consider myself intellectually curious, I frankly don’t and don’t care to engage in formal, philosophical, high-level conversation with my close friends on a regular basis. I find that it neutralizes the lovey-doviness. Also, unless you have years to sit around slowly absorbing the language without cracking a book (or, alternatively, the insanity required to totally cut yourself of from everything and everyone that you love in your native language – some would call this the pinnacle of motivation, and I would call it a person with pitifully narrow interests), the “just let it wash over you” approach isn’t gonna do it for you. Nor is the “only watch TV” approach or the “only read blog posts” approach or whatever other kind of “do what you like” nonsense someone barfs up. If you want real fluency, you can’t skip the formal (and I am being very liberal with the term, as I am totally with the people who say that they encounter the things in the JLPT books/test on a daily (read: informal/conventional/normal/natural) basis as well) any more than you can skip the conversational. My listening skills are through the roof compared to my kanji, vocabulary, and grammar skills, which means that if I want to be totally fluent, as in able to speak, write, and participate in adult society like an educated person who reads, I absolutely must force myself to learn the JLPT stuff (and more!!). Period.

  70. Halcyon
    December 30, 2008 at 14:09

    You are a very wise man.

    Not for your views on standardized tests, but for your innovative use of the word “billclinton”.

  71. ウォーリック
    January 11, 2009 at 23:15

    Well, I sat the JLPT Level 4 last month and personally I don’t expect it’s going to revolutionise the world or anything, but I do think there are at least a couple of things that it was good for:

    1) I wouldn’t say it was actually good for motivation or that I really cared about the test itself (I mean this is the JLPT Level 4 that we’re talking about) but the action of taking it was at least a signal to myself; the waving of the flag to restart the race of learning Japanese.

    2) Having taken it, if I want study Japanese at university in the future then I shouldn’t have to spend the entirety of a semester re-studying things I already know. I think I probably will try for university, but even if I don’t it’s still good to have the option open to me.

  72. Metrovino
    January 25, 2009 at 12:10

    Read your rant on the JLPT, totally get it. When I was in France I took some JLPT equivalent for the French language called DELF and DALF. I assumed JLPT would be similar but totally different. The DELF and DALF are old school. Listening – short answer sentences in French. Reading – Short Answer sentences in French. Writing – Multiple-page Argumentative Essay in French. Speaking – one-on-one debate with a French person in French. If you pass, you are awarded a Diplôme no less. It is not an exam suited to rote-learners who can’t express themselves in writing and verbally. The speaking test is with a native; shy, you fail.

    Standardized test are one of the pillars of Japanese society. No one would want to accept responsibility for assessing writing or speaking.

    Love the site. Keep up the good work!


  73. jim
    February 16, 2009 at 23:27

    Ace the JLPT before you rant about how it kicked your ass. You sound like a baby. 1-Kyu strikes fear even in native speakers. So yes, I would put it on my resume if I passed level 1, and were Japanese.

    Secondly, don’t end sentences with prepositions. You can make fun of grammar all you want, as long as you use it correctly, mister arrogant.

    • Jason
      February 25, 2011 at 03:34


      Any thug or gangster down the street can probably easily pass JLPT level 1…..yeah…tell that to your Japanese teachers..

  74. May 27, 2009 at 18:31

    JLPT level 1 doesn’t strike fear in native speakers. A (smart) Japanese junior high school graduate can easily pass the JLPT 1. The JLPT is specifically oriented towards foreigners. And passing it doesn’t mean you can translate, interpret, give speeches, or write flowing prose. To quote the back of the JLPT cerificate, passing JLPT 1 means means this and only this:

    The examinee has mastered grammar to a high level, knows around 2,000 kanji and 10,000 words, and has an integrated command of the language sufficient for life in Japanese society. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 900 hours.

    I think you’re confusing the JLPT with the JKAT or the Nihongo Kentei, both of which are for native speakers, not foreign learners.

    The JKAT (Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test) level 1 (few people in Japan can pass that) and the 日本語検定 (Nihongo Kentei) level 1… which is a Japanese proficiency test FOR NATIVE SPEAKERS. Level 1 is aimed at Japanese college graduates.

  75. wombo wappy
    June 24, 2009 at 05:19

    Working towards 2-kyuu with a view towards a sweet job not teaching English next year.

    Khatz, you’ve forged an impressive example in this country. Clearly you think light years outside the box, but no degree of hyperbole should mask the plain fact that many opportunities for employment and higher education (leading to higher employment) exist for us if we pass 2/1-kyuu, and ONLY if we pass 2/1-kyuu. That’s we, native speakers of another, possibly global language that isn’t Japanese. A huge asset in Japan.

    Maybe the Japanese equivalent of you got fluent with their bad self without ever going kaigai, then cruised into Silicon Valley to start a new life as a professional alien, armed only with a Japanese passport, a Japanese college degree, and a working knowledge of every Chappelle’s Show script straight down to Diddy’s predilection for Cambodian breast milk. But I really gotta imagine for every one of those, there’s 10,000 just like them who took one of the English tests just cause it gave them a better chance at getting ahead. And for some number of those, I gotta imagine studying for and taking that test was actually FUN.

    The way of the autodidact is fraught with fun, or so you’ve led me to believe? Why can’t the JLPT be fun? It’s a part of my routine now, along with fun practice like radio, TV, websites, and old SNES games in J. By itself maybe a bore for some/most, but spicing it up with your prescription of native materials makes it a lot more believable. Sure, it’s draconian, expensive, and not intuitive, but A JAPANESE PERSON COULD PASS IT – and we’re trying to become Japanese people, aren’t we? And if it does open career doors for gaijins which would otherwise remain shut, what is the harm?

  76. Matt
    October 1, 2009 at 10:39

    JLPT is for foreigners – whoever said it strikes fear even in native speakers is either confused or doesn’t have very bright (native speaker) Japanese friends. Take it from a foreigner who has lived in Japan for 6 years and has taken the JLPT 4 times and shared the study questions with plenty of my Japanese friends. They sympathize, but are far from shaking in their boots.

    As for the JLPT NOT being necessary- Maybe if you are doing a job interview with Khatz, and then that would be very true. Unfortunately MANY companies, especially here in Japan REQUIRE that you have level 1 or at least level 2 even to get an interview. I lucked out and got an interview with a Japanese company with level 2 at the time. Once I got in the interiview and they spoke to me and were holding my resume in hand – the test didn’t matter so much. But I was LUCKY. If you want to work for many Japanese OR Foreign companies, having level 1 is important, even if it is just to get an interview.

  77. Pingback: What is the JLPT
  78. アメド
    June 5, 2010 at 14:05

    I remember a lot of people where bothering me about JLPT. But ironically the group of people were 外国人. Never, one have a heard of a Japanese person talking to me about that test. The only test I’ve ever heard from them are 漢字検定. Which tests for 3000 kanji and the hardest one(Level 1). Tests for 6000 kanji. Now that’s something to aim for, native-stuff. Aim for what natives do, like watch movies, take tests(intended for natives not any other. It’s a good motivational thing. Although 6000 kanji is a bit too much. But should be good motivation to aim for.

  79. 4fksake
    July 12, 2010 at 15:13

    I absolutely agree that it is a worthless waste of money to take a jlpt just for motivation or to prove something to oneself. If you need to get your motivation or self esteem from a test then you seriously need to reevaluate and reform your inner self. Personally I can think of a better way to spend $60 than taking a test for those weak reasons.

    I understand people taking the jlpt 1 or 2 if they need it for jobs or school. But I do not understand people taking the lower levels at all in most circumstances. To me, the lowest two levels only prove that your Japanese completely sucks. I have less respect for someone after they tell me that they passed the jlpt 3 or 4. First, because I know they are stupid enough to pay money to take a test level that measures the lowest levels of knowledge. Second, because I know they are stupid enough to be impressed by themselves that they passed a test level that only measures the lowest levels of knowledge. Third, because I know that they have a weak character and can’t find motivation and self discipline from within. I would make an exception for a mentally retarded person, however. After all, if a person had an IQ of only 70 or so, I would think it a major accomplishment and sign of great work ethic for them to pass the jlpt 4. But if you have an IQ over 100 and you take the jlpt 4, well, you are just a pathetic, sorry individual.

    And as far as someone saying that native Japanese speakers would be afraid of the 1 kyu…that is ludicrous. That is like saying that a native English speaker would be afraid to take the Toefl. That is just absurd beyond words. If a Japanese person ever acts impressed after looking at the 1 kyu, well, that is all they are doing…acting. They are being polite and putting cotton candy up your bum to be nice or humor you or condescend or such. At best, they might be surprised that an English speaker is able to learn any kanji beyond the first or second grade kanji. And that is hardly flattering.

    I have heard that the Japanese government has been discussing for years the idea of giving visa perks to people who can prove some degree of Japanese competency such as having passed the jlpt 2. I do think that is a good idea. Japan allows 6 month or longer working holiday visas to young people from various countries. I think they should equally allow a 6 month working visa to anyone who can pass the jlpt n2 and a 1 year working visa to anyone who can pass the jlpt n1 (to do any job they can be hired for with or without a college diploma). Doing something like that would encourage more interest in the Japanese language abroad. This in turn would create an even larger market for Japanese language materials (books, games, cd’s, movies, etc) which would be a very smart move for the Japanese economy because many people would spend a lot of money on Japanese products but never reach the level of jlpt n2 so they would increase Japan’s export to import ratio. It would also create a huge pool of people who would develop an interest in Japan or the Japanese language and so would visit Japan as tourists or attend temporary language schools, both of which would bring foreign money into Japan and help to create a trade surplus. Also, those who did reach the level of jlpt n2 would have an easier time getting jobs in Japan than those who haven’t and would therefore displace some of the idiots who go to Japan and live there for years without even being able to put a simple sentence together. Most of those people really do not need to be in Japan. Illiterate and otherwise language incompetent people create more problems in a society than they are worth in general. Of course, the jlpt is not a perfect measure of fluency, but it is better than nothing. It can at least discriminate between complete incompetents and partial ones. But any test that could do the same to any reasonable measure would work fine.

    • FlushingAccountant
      December 5, 2010 at 14:05

      Why would you need to insult people who want to take the N4 or N5? It is great that you are so proficient in Japanese but let people learn at their own pace 🙂 The lower levels are only remedial to people who know a lot of Japanese. There are many people who clearly do not consider N4/N5 remedial since the passing rate for this level is around 50% in the United States. Putting down other people won’t make you feel any better about yourself. Thank you.

      • 4fksake
        December 19, 2010 at 02:45

        Hmmm, maybe the pass level is around 50% because mostly idiots take these levels of jlpt? The pass level isn’t low because the n4 and n5 are hard…it is low because most of the people sitting for these suck. It would be comparable to the GED in America. I am sure that has a bad pass rate, too…not because the GED is some mark of academic proficiency but because most of the people who take it can’t read, write, or do arithmetic. It is often a mark of someone’s academic insufficiency just as the n4 and n5 are a signal of someone’s Japanese incompetence. And telling the truth has nothing to do with feeling better about myself. Does taking remedial tests give you some kind of ego boost? Sadly, I am sure it does.

  80. 4fksake
    July 12, 2010 at 16:53

    I should add that I mean any people from English speaking countries who attain that sort of fluency. Obviously, Chinese and Koreans would have to be held to a higher standard or else Japan would be flooded with people from those countries. It would obviously be in the best interest of Japan to maintain a reasonable quota of people on temporary working visas from each individual country. It wouldn’t make sense to have 500 people from the UK and 500,000 from China so as much as quotas can be unfair in some ways, they would nevertheless be necessary.

    But then since it has been so many years that Japan has discussed encouraging or requiring proficiency for certain immigration purposes but they still have done nothing about it, it seems that it will remain all talk and no action.

  81. nippyon
    August 19, 2010 at 10:59

    Hey Khatz. I’m taking the SAT2 Japanese testa in November. I’ve been learning Japanese for about two years now(the AJATT way since April 2010), and I know about 1000 kanji(following Heiseigs). I can understand the jist of kids and shounen manga, and I can read Hirigana and Katakana. My formal speech comprehension is much better than my understanding of casual speech, but thats improving the more manga I read and dramas I watch. I know how you feel about JPLT,etc. but this test is for college, and my own knowledge of how well i am learning Japanese( i don’t have any native Japanese-speakers handy). Any tips? Can anyone who has already taken the test help me out here?

  82. jason
    September 7, 2010 at 03:36

    Hmm, it’s weird that a person who insists that the foundation of “real Japanese” is the ability to do something that 90% of college-educated Japanese people can’t do (write all the Jouyou kanji by hand) is now attacking a test for its lack of similarity to Japanese as used everyday by real Japanese people.

    Why the contradiction?

  83. ダンちゃん
    September 7, 2010 at 20:07

    Jason, what are you talking about? The JLPT is multiple choice.

    Has writing out the Kanji been implemented in the new reforms to the JLPT? If so, those reforms have come about after Khatz wrote this article, so it would hardly be fair to retroactively say he is being ‘contradictory’.

  84. ダンちゃん
    September 7, 2010 at 20:08

    @Jason. OK, Ignore the above comment. I misread your comment the first time. Please ignore. But I still don’t think you have a good point there.

  85. ダンちゃん
    September 7, 2010 at 20:16

    I am spamming the comments section with this, but you state that 90% of college educated students cannot write the 常用漢字 by hand. Where does this statistic come from? I find it extremely dubious.

  86. jason
    September 26, 2010 at 03:42

    I admit, it’s a statistic that I made up. 😉

    Regardless of the exact percentage, though, it’s widely recognized to be extremely high. This is why Kanji-based DS games have become so popular; people are trying to remember how to write them. This also jibes with my own experience with my Japanese friends.

    I’m not saying that Japanese people can’t “get by” with their handwriting, but when it comes to detail, they fudge it and let context fill in the blanks. For example, I have a Japanese friend (very educated, graduated with a physics degree from University of Tokyo) who couldn’t remember exactly which radical was on the left side of 祈.Was it that one, or the same one as in 初? He didn’t know, and he didn’t care.

    FWIW, though, the highest JLPT level does test some kanji-writing skills.

    • FlushingAccountant
      December 5, 2010 at 14:13

      Jason is correct. I have spoken with many native Japanese people and they have confirmed that after 10 years of smartphones and computer IMEs, they cannot really remember how to write out much kanji past the first 1,000. This definitely does not apply to all Japanese people but it does apply to the average Japanese adult. In any event, they can READ their kanji just fine. High school students can also write them out just fine. But after a Japanese adult has been out of school for 10 years or more, they lose a good deal of kanji writing ability if they don’t practice. And with phones and computers that translate phonetics into kanji, it is not necessary to write them out (especially since a native Japanese person can always resort to using kana.)

  87. Nick
    November 16, 2010 at 03:17

    Whether the test is wrong or not, you still wasted a lot of time writing a long article smashing it, when you could’ve learnt some new phrases or kanji.

    If it’s really so pointless, why lower yourself to criticise it?

    I have JLPT 1. I don’t think it makes me a native speaker or anything, but I certainly worked hard to pass it and I would be lying if I said it didn’t contribute towards my ability in Japanese as a whole.

    True, it’s not everything,
    but it’s certainly not nothing.

    • 4fksake
      January 3, 2011 at 20:10

      How is criticizing something lowering oneself? I disapprove of adults putting their cigarettes out on little children’s faces. I think those adults are cowards and monsters. I also hate adults who rape little children. I think those adults should be impaled Vlad-style. Oh, did I just lower myself by criticizing child beaters and child molesters?

      Further, criticizing things isn’t a waste of time. It is one way of changing the world.

      As to your everything or nothing argument–I am calling foul on your attempt to set up the issue in those terms. Why do you choose to set it up as everything or nothing? The person who wrote the article did not. You are trying to falsely set it up as though he did, though. That is pretty sneaky and underhanded. You are simply presenting that as the only possibilities so that you can try to set up the question in a way that you can win it despite the fact that you are unable to successfully argue against the criticisms in the article.

      Whether it contributed to your Japanese as a whole is beside the point in the face of the fact that you could have achieved the same Japanese proficiency without taking the jlpt. Your argument is either moronic or diversionary. Don’t know which since I don’t know whether you are a moron or a snake. Your argument is the same as me saying that spending $1,000 on a limousine ride to get from one end of town to the other was worth it since it got me where I wanted to go. Well, if I am not a wealthy person (so that $1000 would be a very large sum of money for me) and I could have gotten across town by driving my car or some similarly cheap but equally efficient method, then it would be pretty worthless and stupid to spend $1000, wouldn’t it?

      It is really unbelievable how many nonsensical and illogical arguments I read on the internet in support of taking the jlpt. But then, when people want to justify their own bad decisions, they always have to use convoluted logic to rationalize things to themselves so really it only figures.

  88. December 6, 2010 at 10:47

    I should have taken Khatzumoto’s advice and avoided the JLPT exam at all costs. I took the N4, without realizing that it’s just a ranking that’s worthless and proves I’m not fluent yet, whether I passed it or not (as I’ve noticed, only N2 and N1 matter to employers). I already knew I wasn’t fluent. No point in taking it. And seeing the path of all the people taking the JLPT with me, it seems like they are taking courses that teach to the JLPT. I can imagine their Japanese being very limited in the future. Plus, the JLPT only tests reading and listening. And the listening component is very short. The N4 had nothing about keigo, which was also surprising. And there were furigana on very easy kanji, like 料理, another surprise. Rather than studying to the test, my plan is to aim for fluency, and be able to interview just as well as any other Japanese native-speaker. Rather than waste my money again.

    If every class taught to the JLPT test, all the foreigners coming to Japan would have the same thing to offer. What a screwed up test, just like the SAT.

  89. December 7, 2010 at 00:19

    Maybe someone could give me some insight here. I realized that on the JLPT N4, I understood the longer paragraphs much better than the shorter sentences. I thought that I just didn’t know enough vocab, but I realized I knew all the vocab. My problem was, I didn’t know how they wanted me to use those vocabulary in the sentence they provided. So what do I need to work on here? I understood the sentences too. I just didn’t know which word would fit best.

  90. Jacinda
    December 7, 2010 at 06:24

    oh thank god! “japanese language proficiency test proficiency test”

    I was made to take this when I was in Japan with a university over there. I can hold a Japanese conversation fairly well (not perfect grammatically, but understandable) and got so disheartened when I failed the level 2.

  91. swedmonkey
    January 4, 2011 at 00:21

    Alright, I do understand that a mere test doesn’t prove your “real” fluency of a language by any means. I also believe that you shouldn’t completely ditch it though. I mean, if you are looking for a job and having passed JLPT1 is required for most of them; then go for it. I mean, if you are already fluent, studying some piece of schoolbook-grammar shouldn’t prove to be THAT difficult.

    Also, I salute to AJATT, I think it’s a really awesome method to learn any language. BUT, I also believe that reading some old books about grammar can give you a good foundation to stand on. Japanese is my third language; I am Swedish. And yeah, I learned English from school, and I find that having that piece of grammar in the back of my head has nothing but helped me to get that awesome intuition of when a sentence sounds “right” or wrong. Haha now because I’ve said all this I’ve surely gone and done some newbie mistakes here and there, but w/e. Anyway, I really love this site and your posts are incredibly motivating, khatz. Don’t ever stop writing! ;P

  92. maus
    January 15, 2011 at 08:03

    For your entertainment:
    I too used to pride myself in exalting my fellow language learners to neither worry nor care about the JLPT. ‘You’re fluent enough! –Just keep the $50!– It’s such a hassle driving to New York (to take it!)’ And time after time I proudly navigated myself through Japanese language opportunities by my own wit and language ability(?), surviving keigo-laced interviews, inaudible Japanese language phone calls, e-mails and the like. Even managed to earn acceptance into a legit senmongakkou. However, when my senmongakkou applied for a certificate of eligibility (在留資格確認証明書) on my behalf, Immigration told them I wouldn’t be issued a visa without JLPT 2 or higher (or 6 months at a Certified Japanese program, or 12 months at a Japanese university– my academic year abroad didn’t cut it). Man alive, how I wished I’d taken the JLPT! Jumping through that one hoop and shelling out the USD$50 for a JLPT certificate would have saved me a lot of wasted time and effort in the long run. So, 日本語を頑張っている皆様、ビザが下りない恐れがありますので充分にご注意くださいますようお願い申し上げます!

    • Mike
      January 27, 2011 at 01:53

      Khatz should really add a huge warning label at the top of this post. With all of the immigration changes coming in and the Japanese love of certifications you will not be the last to be rejected for a visa due to lack of proof of Japanese ability.

      I hate standardized tests, but so many recruiters and HR departments want to see that certification that the time and money are trivial in comparison to lost opportunity.

  93. January 17, 2011 at 10:15

    If it’s required for your field of work, do it and get it out of the way. Otherwise, trash it.

    Those who study Japanese for the JLPT will be proficient at JLPT testing, and envy others who can actually function in a -Japanese- environment. As seen by those proficient in Japanese: the JLPT is almost an insult.

    If you need the test, you don’t need Japanese.

  94. Jason
    January 27, 2011 at 01:35

    Here’s a suggestion:

    Don’t take ANY JLPT tests below N1 until you are absolutely fluent..I mean freaking native level fluent.

    When you reach that stage, then go take the test.

    It will probably be a walk in the park.

  95. dip-C
    October 28, 2011 at 01:16

    I think there are a couple of things that should be taken into consideration, but are missing.
    One point is: Languages change, much faster than the specifications of tests. It’s a simple fact I’ve been confronted with while learning French at school in the mid-1990ies. I’m a native German and the relationship between Germans and French has always been pretty tricky, much like the Japanese and the Koreans still struggle today, but it has become so much better after WWII, probably not only because of a friendship treaty, but also the idea of the European Union.
    My French book had been published in the early ’70ies, which implies that the concept must’ve been penned in the 60ies. In the 60ies, the main purposes of choosing to learn French were: a) not having to learn latin b) for going on vacation c) doing business with the French (probably…). The European idea had not yet emerged and you could feel it throughout the textbooks. The biggest part of things you learned was dealing with touristic stuff. Going camping, understanding the history of the castle you were standing in front of, interpreting for your parents, which was not neccessary since my parents were very active organising events and exchanges with the French twin-town ever since I was little. I had been used to French and had wanted to talk French and talk to my family’s French friends about ‘normal everyday things’, they even had children only a few years older than me. But I couldn’t. I was stuck with the tourist attitude of my textbook and teachers that apparently didn’t belive French was anything more than a compulsory second foreign language. It was not about actually speaking French (my spoken French is pretty much ok), but reproducing the grammar and vocabulary as if it merely were some kind of math problem.
    Two years later, my younger sister started learning French, too. And she finally learned it with a new book. While that did not change the teachers’ attitudes, it still provided a much better approach. The book did not start with “things you need to know when staying at a hotel in France”, but dealt much more with the issues of being an exchange student.
    Another point I’m missing is that, although my French book was a horrible example, modern books have several intentions aiming at different aspects of the language.
    My English book was a pretty good one, actually. It also featured the ‘exchange student’ situation as an introduction to both, the language and the culture (starting with the british, but also, althought rather briefly, other parts of the anglophone world with focusing on the US for two years later on).
    One of the more underrated aspects of language are sociolects. Concerning this, it’s the aim of language teaching that you are able to appear as educated as possible, thus raising the bar to an ‘elaborate’ way of speaking and writing. That also tries to give you the possibilty to be able to understand highly official or academical texts and speeches. And it’s crucial.
    ‘Lowering’ you level of speech is much easier than only being able to speak like a pre-schooler, but trying to read an academic paper or even just the explainations for customs at the entry. Please remember that, and I think it’s not limited to Germany, most native Germans are puzzled when confronted with reading a law. That’s a German quite of its own, rather archaic at times.
    So, since the aim is teaching you the formal variation of the language, it’s the aim of the test to measure that.
    Every day language is not the same.  If formal language was a glass full of water, every day language would be a glass of water with a few gulps missing. You can always easily drink or pour some water to make the glass only half full, but it’s more complicated to go back to a full glass when there is no water you could pour into the glass, isn’t it?
    For some time we had an exchange student from the German School in Mexico city in my class. She spoke the language that is typical for textbooks and there was absolutely nothing wron with her German. She got really good grades on her tests and exams, even when that had been a German essay or an interpretation of one of the shorter works of Kafka. She got along perfectly. The only ‘downside’ was that she kept sounding like our parents because she had missed some of the more recent changes in spoken language, but picked them up after a month or two.

  96. rowena
    December 5, 2011 at 10:02

    i’ve taken yesterday’s JLPT. just for the sake of experience. went there with an open mind.
    but, you’re absolutely right! it’s a friggin’ waste of time. it was a huge fucking joke.
    the questions, well, at first i was being amused. but later on, it got pretty annoying. it got so fucking annoying.
    and i was like, wut? this is it?
    i took N4. why, i’m a my-pace kind of person so, i just laze around, listening to jpop, and watching random doramas and animes, reading random Nihonjin’s blogs on the net, seldom touching my Nihongo learning materials. i have installed Anki, but i find it too boring. can’t stand it for more than 10 mins. -_-”
    so yeah, i wasn’t very confident with my Kanji knowledge.
    but, i think i’ll do it again. i’ll take N2 next December.
    if i think i can go for N1, i will, too. 🙂

  97. Catherine
    December 26, 2011 at 08:02

    I actually have to take the JLPT to go to this college I want to go to in Japan. :/ I reallly want to go to this college though so..yeah. >w<

  98. Ian
    March 20, 2012 at 12:40

    Worthless LOL.
    Consider this, how many people have you met that “know” Japanese but can barely order a drink at a bar?
    While the test is arguably worthless from learning perspective, the fact is when you are making any kind of application, people want proof.
    Sure you might have interviews and such to show your ability, or they might just throw your application in the trash.
    Remember people in Japan assume no one can possibly learn their language (except for maybe Koreans and Chinese).
    When it comes to the test, in my experience on JLPT 1 and 2, the questions have very clear right and wrongs. If you think there are 2 or 3 possible correct responses you simply aren’t there yet.
    The reading and listening sections both make the 1 correct very answer obvious to anyone with sufficient skill.
    On a final note, given that the cost of the test in both money and time is nominal, I have never once heard anyone who passed JLPT complain about it. However I constantly hear people that have failed it very badly go on rants about it. As a result I strongly suspect that khatzumoto had just failed the JLPT when making this post.

    • irmoony
      March 21, 2012 at 03:28

      While I might have no experience with JLPT, as my Japanese is nowhere near good enough yet, I have taken similar tests in  English (not my first language). Yes, it might not be the same, but I bet there are similarities. And what I think is Khatzumoto’s point here, is that being able to pass JLPT should not be THE goal for a Japanese learner. Yes, if you’re fluent in your target language, you’ll probably be able to pass such a test with little to no trouble. But I also know lots of English learners that get excellent grades in various examinations and their speech is still riddled with mistakes (not that mine is perfect, far from it).

      Basically, if your goal is learning Japanese, you’ll eventually reach a level when you’ll be able to pass JLPT (so you’ll have your proof), yes, but you’ll also be able to do so much more in this language by then. But if your goal is to pass a test, then you’ll probably pass it eventually, but that’s where your knowledge of the language is going to end – with textbooks and graded examinations.

      As to whether Khatzumoto had failed JLPT when writing this post, well, that’s only for him to say :p


  99. Jess
    March 23, 2013 at 07:57

    Now this really, really makes me want to take the TOEIC and the TOEFL, just to see how well I go. Does it cost money?
    And I am going to take the JLPT once I am fluent in japanese to how well I go. As long as it doesn’t cost much or is free.
    By the way this is an epic and inspiring site, good work! I do actually have multiple things that I want your opinion on, (although if it doesn’t agree with me I’ll probably ignore) so I will email you when I can be bothered.
    Thanks for the inspiration! I am in the 400’s with my Heisig kanji.

  100. Victoria
    July 5, 2013 at 13:35

    Taking it Sunday, because people in HR departments value it irrespective of its value. Suspect I will fail, but refunds are not available so I will take what I’ve paid for and see how much work there is to do before next time. Fortunately, the J.TEST – a similar test that is available more than twice a year (twice a year! what is wrong with you people?! from now on TOEIC tests should be limited to twice a year in this country, in protest, and held only at least an hour from applicants’ homes… no refunds…) exists and through taking it I have identified some areas where my study approach needed to be improved. I am confident what I’m doing now will enable me to jump through this hoop of compliance at some point in the near future. But I didn’t learn that by taking the JLPT. It could’ve taken me years to learn that way, especially since the results are so under-detailed by comparison to the J.TEST scores.

    The JLPT, like so many things Made-In-Japan, is a test of compliance. It’s a test to make sure you understand that even where there is no logical justification for you to waste your time, you must do it anyway simply because it is expected. I will be immensely pleased when I no longer have to indulge this triumph of power-play over genuine educational value. And don’t worry, JEES, that time will most certainly come.

    • Victoria
      July 5, 2013 at 13:42

      Oh, and I meant to say to Khatzumoto… thank you for making me laugh about this. If the laughter can continue until Sunday is through I’ll be a happy woman.

  101. Danchan
    July 7, 2013 at 20:01

    Took N1 today. The listening component in particular was really too easy.

  102. Aki
    October 19, 2013 at 15:33

    I absolutely agree the JLPT is a poor test, and it encourages mediocrity in my opinion. First of all, N5+4 are useless cause you can’t do SQUAT with it in reality. N3 I don’t mind existing hypothetically cause you should be able to hold your own in any conversation by this point if you study holistically. N2 I dislike cause it’s just a stupid stop between N3 & N1 and doesn’t prove anything.

    I have never, and never intended to take the N1 JLPT (I’ve never done N2-5 either)….

    However I’m aiming to practice as a doctor in Japan. I learned yesterday that to take the National Medical exams in Japan as a graduate of an overseas medical school (Australian), you must have an N1 pass.

    so feck.

  103. JadelyJade
    December 10, 2014 at 23:39

    I absolutely agree with your last point. It shouldn’t be a test that motivates you to learn a language, it should be the language itself and all it carries along with it. I’m still really new with Japanese and have been studying for nearly 2 months solid. Just a few minutes ago I was watching “Detective Conan” and during the ED noticed the Kanji for 込 in 「込む」. Going back, I noticed that it was followed by a ま-も character meaning it must have been a conjugation of the verb. Now I’ve seen it used in the context of surrounded, and when I came to the conclusion of that context, it felt really good, and I got a good rush of dopamine from it.

    Now I wonder, when I was a kid, was this what it was like to continue to learn English? Every time I could associate the word with new contexts and feelings, did I get this same dopamine rush? Was I just always stoned out of my mind because of all the dopamine from all the English words I was learning? Maybe this is what fuels the intrigue and desire to know what people are talking about when they use a word in a way unfamiliar to us. Maybe, just maybe, when someone uses a word like “becomes” in an atypical way such as “that hat becomes you”, we continue to ask “what do you mean?” for the sake of even the tiniest burst of dopamine, giving us a good bit of high, and fueling us to continue to wonder what EXACTLY people mean by what they’re saying.

    I don’t know, but I do know that learning is the most exhilarating thing in life for me, and to learn an entire language, culture, and outlook on life is simply the greatest thing I can imagine. To constantly see and experience new contexts, and broaden and even narrow those contexts. It’s simply so grand.

    Ahh~ I love it so.

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