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Why You Shouldn’t use the JLPT to Study Japanese Words

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For those who don’t know, the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) is a test offered by the Japanese government. Many companies here in Japan will also require that you have passed JLPT 2 (business level) or JLPT 1 (native speaker)  in order to consider someone for a position who’s first language isn’t Japanese. If this is what the Japanese government requires and also what companies use as a benchmark for hiring, then it should make perfect sense to study the Japanese words on the JLTP right?

The problem is that the JLPT wasn’t set up to teach conversational Japanese or even useful Japanese. The content itself is also outdated and many of the words are outdated. I have listed some words from the JLPT 4 (the easiest level) to give you an idea of what I mean.

  • kakushi kamera -hidden spy camera
  • chou nekutai- bow tie
  • haizara- ashtray
  • ko-toshi-coated paper
  • mannenhitsu- fountain pen

As you can see these words are by no means used in everyday speech. With the exception of haizara (ashtray) you will probably never need to use any of these words. Let alone waste time studying them when you are first starting to learn Japanese. Since the number of rare and unused an outdated  words only increase in the more difficult JLTP tests, this goes even more so for Japanese learners studying at a more advanced level.

Instead, study materials with the most common Japanese words and phrases. This will allow you to learn the Japanese language much faster and much easier. The quicker you learn to speak Japanese, the more you will enjoy it. The ability to communicate in a general conversation allows you to learn even faster since you can learn hear words in conversation you may not have known to study otherwise.

Purpose of the JLPT

Just as a side note, for those who are planning to take the JLPT,  I highly encourage that you use study materials specifically written for the JLTP. As mentioned above, the JLPT does not test on your ability to communicate in Japanese. Instead it focuses more on your ability to read and understand formal Japanese, awkward stories and  outdated conversations, and all the words that go along with this. Having materials that are designed for the JLPT will help prepare you the style of the test.

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