Sunday, December 4, 2005

language shmanguage

When you first come to Japan, the Japanese will be quick to congratulate you on the use of one or two words of Japanese, and you feel happy to have communicated something. When you’ve been here for two years, people comment on how incredibly fluent you are, and you pat yourself on the back for mastering such a tough language.

And then you take the Proficiency Exam which puts you in your place - right back at the beginning where you should have realized you were in the first place.

No, it wasn’t that bad. The worst point: of the hundreds of vocabulary words I memorized in the past month I can count on one hand how many showed up in the Vocabulary section. The best point: almost every single grammer point I had studied showed up in the Grammer section, and I would say I remembered a good 80% of them. The highlights: the cell phone that rang on the seat next to me blocking an entire Listening question from entering my ears (and the fact that the owner was NOT kicked out, as per every rule, regulation, sign and reminder), the person two rows ahead who opened her test booklet and leafed through the questions BEFORE each section (again, very much against the rules. again, not kicked out), and the guy who fell asleep and started snoring (not against the rules. they woke him up.)

It’s not that I’m a stickler for the rules so much. It’s that the JLPT people have gone to such incredible trouble to make this a fair test (only offered once a year, everything happens exactly on the minute and not a second sooner), and their “fairness” policy is tossed out the window by lax proctors. I will stop my complaining here, though, until I see my test results. If I miss passing by one percent, I am going to look up Ms. Tao Lin and ask her to pay my test fee, because that one question I missed when her phone rang could have gotten me my Level 1 Proficiency Certificate.

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