Japanese, Korean, and books, oh my! (New Year’s Resolutions)

2015 is my year to read a ton! Not only that, but I have two resolutions to help me achieve my language goals. My reading goal this year is to read 40 books, and in July I am finally committing to retake to JLPT N1.

When I was in Kyoto studying abroad, I was placed in the highest level of Japanese classes for my first semester, and the next semester, I took the language test to be exempt from Japanese classes. I was able to take any course offered at Ritsumeikan, and I chose classes like film and literature and Japanese foreign relations. I wasn’t completely off the hook, though, as I had to take a Japanese newspaper reading class, a speech making class, and an essay writing class. It was a good way to keep myself studying Japanese to prepare for the JLPT N1 (which is the highest level, for those of you who’ve never heard of the test). However, I failed. I passed each section, but my total score was about 10 points under the mark. I was pretty frustrated.

I went back home to America to finish my last semester of college, and then I applied for JET. In December, I was a week from graduation and I had the busiest semester of my life. I didn’t leave my apartment for almost a week, so an entire weekend going to Atlanta to take the JLPT I had signed up for just wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I wasted my money by signing up and not taking it, but I had no choice. I needed a good GPA.

Fast forward to my JET interview. I applied to be a CIR, and I had to complete a Japanese reading test. I was so nervous that I messed up on easy kanji that I knew, and they asked me about my JLPT certification. I was white as a ghost. I had to tell them that I failed, but made sure to tell them that it was by a thin margin. They were not impressed. Then they asked why I hadn’t taken the N2. I knew I would pass the N2 and wanted a challenge, and I had just passed all my classes, which were all strictly in Japanese. Even after telling them this, I was told that I would be interviewed from then on as an ALT candidate.

At the time I was mortified and beat myself up. But it turned out to be a blessing because my career goals are in education, and I know some CIR positions are more about event planning or translation. I also got to be placed in Fukuoka, which I love, and I learned so much being an ALT.

This year, though, I will pass the JLPT N1. I am mainly doing it for self-satisfaction, but if later down the road I need to be able to prove my Japanese ability, it will be good to have. I already have JLPT prep books and in July I will take the exam with my head held high. (I did mean to take the exam this past December, but I ended up getting tickets to Big Bang. Can you blame me?)

My next language goal is to get my Korean skills high enough to pass the TOPIK in October. With the JLPT in July, I feel like it will give me enough time to accomplish what I want, which is to pass Level 4 of the TOPIK II. Level 4 is the higher intermediate level. A while back, I took a TOPIK I (beginner) practice test. It was about 40 questions long, so it gave me a great idea to gauge my level. The first 20 questions were extremely easy, and the last 20 became increasingly challenging, but when I finished, it told me that I would be able to pass the TOPIK I. That’s why I want to push myself this year to really be able to pass Level 4.

When I was in Korea, we went to Junkyu’s sister’s house. She has two kids who are growing out of little kid’s books, which they have in abundance. She was nice enough to let me have three children’s books in Korean so I can practice. We also went to a big bookstore in Daejeon and Junkyu bought me the book 2000 Essential Korean Words for Beginners. I got home and started learning the words on Memrise, so my goal is to blaze through them and be able to start on the Intermediate words before long.

wpid-dsc_3888.jpg

I also found Big Bang’s book (all in Korean) thanks to two bloggers who read Korean to self study: My Seoul Dream and Korean Notebook. The book is called 세상에 너를 소리쳐! and although I won’t be able to fully read it until the end of this year at the earliest, it will give me something to aspire to read. Plus, it has tons of pictures of Big Bang.

wpid-dsc_3891.jpg

I also found The Little Prince for Korean learners of English. I have a friend who lived in France, and back in the summer, Junkyu and I visited Petite France in Korea, which is modeled off the book and has a mini museum about the story and its creator. Since Junkyu is a learner of English and has been itching to read an actual book in English, I bought the book for both of us.

First, I will read it in English and learn the Korean grammar and vocabulary that is provided between the margins, and then I will give it to Junkyu to help him test his own English reading ability. Watching movies in Korean and English is always a fun activity together, but reading together is a whole different experience that I can’t wait to traverse.

So there you have it. My New Year’s Resolutions are as follows:

  • Read 40 books
  • Pass the JLPT N1
  • Pass the TOPIK (Intermediate 4)
  • Post to my blog at least once a week

I know I can follow through. Last year, I didn’t make a resolution until I decided to attempt the 2014 Goodreads reading challenge. This year, I am focusing myself on concrete goals and ready to tackle them all. (Of course, I still have grad school classes, so hopefully I will still have my sanity by the end of 2015.)

I have been getting so much amazing support from my readers lately, and I appreciate all of your comments and encouragements! Thank you so much and good luck to all of us as we make 2015 our best year yet!

29 thoughts to “Japanese, Korean, and books, oh my! (New Year’s Resolutions)”

  1. Ah you are so ambitious! Good luck with all your goals! I’ll be reading your weekly updates and rooting for you!

    I’m glad that the turn in your JET interview didn’t deter you and you are happy now. I applied to be a CIR on the JET program twice. The first year I felt like I was embarrassing in my interviews and when I was put on the list of alternates that year, my heart sank and a beat myself up about it. It hurt every time my coworkers would ask me, “So when are you leaving for Japan?” and I didn’t have an answer. Especially when a classmate and fellow fencing club member I didn’t particularly jive with became an ALT that year and I was idling and praying I’d get a call that didn’t come.

    I seriously debated not applying again, but then I figured, what do I have to lose? I’ll try again and figure out something else if JET isn’t for me. During the process, the JET coordinator who handled the interviews last year said it was a real shame, last year our consulate didn’t receive any CIR openings, otherwise I was at the top of the list.

    I can’t describe how relieved I was to hear that. All this time I had been blaming myself and it had never been an issue with me. Long story short, the 2nd time around our consulate had two CIR placements and I was one of them. I love where I work and where I live, but I do get envious of my ALT friends sometimes, I really like working with kids.

    This year I am dedicating myself to personal study, building confidence and fluidity, getting rid of my “American accent.” I haven’t passed N1 either, but I don’t worry too much about it. When I studied in Hokkaido, my Chinese classmates were at the same speaking level as me had already passed N1. Gotta love that kanji advantage.

    Anyways! I can tell that you are a very driven person and I am sure that you will surpass your goals with flying colors. It’s inspiring me to work harder, that’s why I love reading your blog.

    1. Oh wow I can’t believe you are a CIR! It was my dream, but I think it turned out to be a really good opportunity for me. Usually things that don’t work out the first time are just leading you in a better direction. I just think of this as my own path and I don’t look back.

      Yes, the kanji was my weakest section. I did really well in listening and I know I’ll do even better now. It’s frustrating knowing that people who can’t speak as well as I can passed while I didn’t, but the test doesn’t have a speaking portion so it’s kind of skewed. I know my Japanese is good enough, I’m mainly doing it to say, finally, that I did it.

      I’m so glad you didn’t give up! It is discouraging when people around you are getting chances you think you should be getting, but I try to remember that we aren’t stuck and the future holds a lot of potential. We just have to be ready for it by arming ourselves with a positive attitude and a lot of knowledge and persistence.

      Thank you so much! I am inspired every day by other bloggers, so it means a lot that sharing my story has helped someone else. Let’s both work hard and make ourselves proud!

      P.s. What do you mean about your American accent? haha

      1. Oh, heh. My boyfriend is always pointing out how foreigners, even with good speaking skills, tend to have an American accent when they speak Japanese. Which makes sense, but like, I had been obliviously believing my Japanese teachers that I had good pronunciation.

        So every week we have a little shadowing session where he points out my accent and I practice becoming a more natural sounding speaker. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure it helps, but I’m trying lol.

      2. Ah I can’t imagine. I remember trying to learn French after 4 years of studying Japanese and would just get so frustrated with the accent, so much more difficult. Since Korean and Japanese are closer, I imagine it must be hard not to want to fall back into Japanese.

        1. My friend was the opposite; she learned Japanese when she studied abroad in France and the class was IN French, so her vowels always sounded really French. I think a big motivator for me is knowing that I’m really good at speaking Japanese, so I know I can do it again.

  2. Ah you are so ambitious! Good luck with all your goals! I’ll be reading your weekly updates and rooting for you!

    I’m glad that the turn in your JET interview didn’t deter you and you are happy now. I applied to be a CIR on the JET program twice. The first year I felt like I was embarrassing in my interviews and when I was put on the list of alternates that year, my heart sank and a beat myself up about it. It hurt every time my coworkers would ask me, “So when are you leaving for Japan?” and I didn’t have an answer. Especially when a classmate and fellow fencing club member I didn’t particularly jive with became an ALT that year and I was idling and praying I’d get a call that didn’t come.

    I seriously debated not applying again, but then I figured, what do I have to lose? I’ll try again and figure out something else if JET isn’t for me. During the process, the JET coordinator who handled the interviews last year said it was a real shame, last year our consulate didn’t receive any CIR openings, otherwise I was at the top of the list.

    I can’t describe how relieved I was to hear that. All this time I had been blaming myself and it had never been an issue with me. Long story short, the 2nd time around our consulate had two CIR placements and I was one of them. I love where I work and where I live, but I do get envious of my ALT friends sometimes, I really like working with kids.

    This year I am dedicating myself to personal study, building confidence and fluidity, getting rid of my “American accent.” I haven’t passed N1 either, but I don’t worry too much about it. When I studied in Hokkaido, my Chinese classmates were at the same speaking level as me had already passed N1. Gotta love that kanji advantage.

    Anyways! I can tell that you are a very driven person and I am sure that you will surpass your goals with flying colors. It’s inspiring me to work harder, that’s why I love reading your blog.

    1. Oh wow I can’t believe you are a CIR! It was my dream, but I think it turned out to be a really good opportunity for me. Usually things that don’t work out the first time are just leading you in a better direction. I just think of this as my own path and I don’t look back.

      Yes, the kanji was my weakest section. I did really well in listening and I know I’ll do even better now. It’s frustrating knowing that people who can’t speak as well as I can passed while I didn’t, but the test doesn’t have a speaking portion so it’s kind of skewed. I know my Japanese is good enough, I’m mainly doing it to say, finally, that I did it.

      I’m so glad you didn’t give up! It is discouraging when people around you are getting chances you think you should be getting, but I try to remember that we aren’t stuck and the future holds a lot of potential. We just have to be ready for it by arming ourselves with a positive attitude and a lot of knowledge and persistence.

      Thank you so much! I am inspired every day by other bloggers, so it means a lot that sharing my story has helped someone else. Let’s both work hard and make ourselves proud!

      P.s. What do you mean about your American accent? haha

      1. Oh, heh. My boyfriend is always pointing out how foreigners, even with good speaking skills, tend to have an American accent when they speak Japanese. Which makes sense, but like, I had been obliviously believing my Japanese teachers that I had good pronunciation.

        So every week we have a little shadowing session where he points out my accent and I practice becoming a more natural sounding speaker. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure it helps, but I’m trying lol.

      2. Ah I can’t imagine. I remember trying to learn French after 4 years of studying Japanese and would just get so frustrated with the accent, so much more difficult. Since Korean and Japanese are closer, I imagine it must be hard not to want to fall back into Japanese.

        1. My friend was the opposite; she learned Japanese when she studied abroad in France and the class was IN French, so her vowels always sounded really French. I think a big motivator for me is knowing that I’m really good at speaking Japanese, so I know I can do it again.

  3. Hi! I haven’t even finished reading the book (fee guilty now) but I’m glad your got some inspiration for me (any help given gives me a smile) I love your list of resolutions (minus Japanese) I am so beginner its unreal (think basic Hiragana) <3

    Hope you enjoy the book, even if you can't read it without a crutch its cool, we all been there and its fun to see progress so have fun and I will be following your journey!!!! 😀

    Fighting. <3 Kirsten

    1. Ah thank you so much! Yeah, everyone starts somewhere! I remember when I could barely read kid’s books in Japanese, and last year I read a full novel without having to do much looking up in the dictionary ^^ So now my focus is to get there with Korean 🙂

  4. Hi! I haven’t even finished reading the book (fee guilty now) but I’m glad your got some inspiration for me (any help given gives me a smile) I love your list of resolutions (minus Japanese) I am so beginner its unreal (think basic Hiragana) <3

    Hope you enjoy the book, even if you can't read it without a crutch its cool, we all been there and its fun to see progress so have fun and I will be following your journey!!!! 😀

    Fighting. <3 Kirsten

    1. Ah thank you so much! Yeah, everyone starts somewhere! I remember when I could barely read kid’s books in Japanese, and last year I read a full novel without having to do much looking up in the dictionary ^^ So now my focus is to get there with Korean 🙂

  5. Wow, you have quite ambitious goals here – and kudos to you for learning Japanese + Korean! I’m conversational (thought not quite fluent) in Mandarin Chinese, so I can appreciate how difficult it must be to learn a language where not even the alphabet is the same as English, haha 😉 Best of luck on all your goals, and may 2015 be a wonderful year for you!

    1. Thanks! My Japanese test will be easy – I’ve been studying Japanese for over 8 years. I just never took the test after I failed a few years ago XD I tried learning Chinese a while back but I don’t have much use for it at the moment and Korean I use every day. Thank you! Same to you as well! ^^

  6. Wow, you have quite ambitious goals here – and kudos to you for learning Japanese + Korean! I’m conversational (thought not quite fluent) in Mandarin Chinese, so I can appreciate how difficult it must be to learn a language where not even the alphabet is the same as English, haha 😉 Best of luck on all your goals, and may 2015 be a wonderful year for you!

    1. Thanks! My Japanese test will be easy – I’ve been studying Japanese for over 8 years. I just never took the test after I failed a few years ago XD I tried learning Chinese a while back but I don’t have much use for it at the moment and Korean I use every day. Thank you! Same to you as well! ^^

  7. Looks like you have a lot of reading and studying ahead of you in 2015! It is good to know what you want to achieve – kudos to you for creating concrete goals for yourself in 2015!! And good luck achieving everything you want in terms of languages!

  8. Looks like you have a lot of reading and studying ahead of you in 2015! It is good to know what you want to achieve – kudos to you for creating concrete goals for yourself in 2015!! And good luck achieving everything you want in terms of languages!

  9. Hi!
    Stumbled upon your blog while researching about the JET programme.
    Your posts are all lovely to read and I think you’re amazing for taking on tough challenges such as moving to another country, and learning new languages!
    한국어 배우는것도 잘되길 바래요~ ^^

      1. No, I’m currently in my last year of university in Montreal.
        I’ve just been debating lately whether to go find a job back in my home city (Vancouver) or take a challenge and apply JET, and happened to find your blog while researching. 🙂

  10. Hi!
    Stumbled upon your blog while researching about the JET programme.
    Your posts are all lovely to read and I think you’re amazing for taking on tough challenges such as moving to another country, and learning new languages!
    한국어 배우는것도 잘되길 바래요~ ^^

      1. No, I’m currently in my last year of university in Montreal.
        I’ve just been debating lately whether to go find a job back in my home city (Vancouver) or take a challenge and apply JET, and happened to find your blog while researching. 🙂

Comments are closed.