2011: Good Luck on the JLPT!

In good times, passing the examination makes one’s name.
Treading in my father’s footsteps, I will not break with tradition.
Fortunately, I do not return home a failure to become a frustrated old man.
Unexpected, I am ranked among the clouds in the blue sky.
Your congratulatory note deeply touches me,
But I wipe my eyes when with dismay I look at the criticism of my essays.
Do not say I have succeeded and shall receive noble office.
I must apologize to my father for breaking off only a worm-eaten branch of the cassia [tree].

Sugawara no Michizane in reply to a congratulatory letter,
translated in Robert Borgen’s, Sugawara no Michizane and the Early Heian Court

Good luck to everyone taking the JLPT tomorrow!

As for me, this will be two years worth of effort to try and pass the JLPT N2 exam. Tonight, after celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday,1 I am here in the study room sharpening pencils and preparing for an early rest. I didn’t get as much studying done as I hoped this past month, but this couldn’t be helped. Work and other obligations just got in the way, and the end of the year is very hectic. Thankfully, I did start studying and learning material at the beginning of the year, when work is light, and I have more free time, so at this point I was mostly just reviewing anyway.

Just as Michizane wrote in 870, over 1141 years ago, I can’t say I am proud of my accomplishments, but I amidst the vicissitudes of life and my awkward language skills, I have given it my best effort. My wife and I talked about taking the test again in Japan in July (JLPT is offered twice in Japan) if I fail, but I would prefer not to fail of course. I worked too hard to fail now. Even while very busy and working long hours, I still found time to read manga and watch TV shows with my wife and daughter on the weekends (mostly TV shows featuring Arashi or Kanjani Eight).

For example, I recently finished another issue in the series 宇宙兄弟 or “Space Brothers”:

Some light reading

This is issue 11, I think. When I first started reading the series over a year ago, it was not easy. I had trouble grasping long conversations, or understanding what was going on. It was a very interesting topic to me (astronomy), so I kept reading, and with a lot of help from the dictionary, I found I could read more and more easily. In the past it would take weeks to finish a single issue, but now I can finish within a week.

Hard work pays off. If you invest 10,000 hours in something, you will improve. I am ashamed to say I haven’t yet invested 10,000 hours worth, but I have made a sincere effort and tomorrow will be the test of those efforts.

Anyway, as I said before, good luck to everyone taking the JLPT!

P.S. Michizane’s reference to the Cassia tree is, according to Professor Borgen, an old Chinese euphemism for passing the Civil Service Exams (which were similarly instituted in Vietnam, Korea, Okinawa and Japan).

1 Her birthday is at the end of the month, but we’re celebrating early in the US, since we’ll be in Japan at that time.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “2011: Good Luck on the JLPT!”

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