If you’re learning Japanese, you will want to show your progress at some point in time. That’s where the JLPT test comes in. What is the JLPT, and how to take the JLPT in Singapore?
Archive for Japanese
A while ago, we asked on our Facebook page what languages you wanted to learn. To my surprise, Japanese was the big winner with 116 votes so far, followed at some distance by Korean (74 votes). I had expected Korean to win by a wide margin, but of course Japanese holds very good cards too. Such as:
1. Korean has got the drama, Japanese has, too. And manga. So both languages have a clear cultural draw to them. Of course everything can be subtitled and translated, but it’s just not the same as the original.
2. Japan is bigger. With some 128 million inhabitants, Japan is a lot bigger than Korea. And it has a history of being a technological leader, although the future remains to be seen.
3. Singapore has jobs that require Japanese language ability. Be it with Japanese MNC’s or companies servicing Japanese customers, Japan’s size and the relatively low number of English speakers among the Japanese, mean that speaking Japanese can really set you apart when looking for a job.
Any other reasons? If you want to learn Japanese for another reason, leave a comment!
And to get started, do check out the Yago site for Japanese courses!
As we have different mother tongues and are just generally different people, we will all have different opinions on what would be the most difficult language to learn. Here are a few languages that are often cited as difficult to learn:
Mandarin – Besides the fact that you need to know thousands of characters to be able to read and write Chinese, another difficulty of Mandarin is that with just few sounds, Mandarin resorts to tones to distinguish between meaning of words. Learning to distinguish the tones, and producing them alone can take weeks to accomplish.
Japanese – The Japanese writing system may be more complicated than the Chinese, as it combines characters (Kanji) with two other writing systems: Katakana and Hiragana. Besides that, ways of addressing people vary based on the hierarchical relationship and situation.
German – Speaking just a bit of German may be doable, what makes the language hard to learn well is its multitude of rules and structures. Besides verbs, German also inflects nouns and sentence structure is rather rigid.
Arabic – Is said to be difficult for its multitude of sounds. Correct me if I’m wrong here. I haven’t studied Arabic.
English – If you grew up with it, you may not realize it, but English is not easy to learn at all. It’s not difficult for its rules, like German is, but rather for its lack of it. As well as its large vocabulary.
Klingon – A language specifically designed by linguist Marc Okrand for the fictional alien Klingon species in Star Trek. He made sure the language was as different as possible from languages commonly spoken on Earth, in particular different to English. As you could say that his assignment was to create a very difficult language, it’s quite likely Klingon is actually the most difficult language to learn.
What do you think is the most difficult language to learn? Does it challenge you or rather scare you away? Join the discussion on our Facebook page!
Does the picture next to you look like an animation movie to you? If you have visited Spain or learnt Spanish, you will be more likely to know that this place exists: it’s Parc Guell in Barcelona, designed by the famous architect Antonio Gaudi.
It’s technically possible to learn a language without learning about the culture of the countries in which it is spoken. I refer to “culture” in its broadest sense here, including customs, values, traditions, history, current society etc. But even if you’re learning a language strictly for career reasons, it helps to take note of the culture.
All languages are rooted in the culture of the country or area they originate from, so learning language and culture at the same time makes a lot of sense.
So how do you do that?
While a good school, teacher and good materials can help a great deal in learning a language fast and well, the single most important factor that will determine the success of your language learning is: you.
In earlier posts, I have covered many of the common excuses for not learning a language, such as:
- “I am too old to learn a language well”
- “I am not good at languages, never was and never will be”
- “I have no time”
The fact is that almost anyone is able to learn a new language up to a decent level. But it often doesn’t happen, because learning a language takes more time and persistence than most of us are willing to put into it.
We tend to forget that learning our mother tongue has also been a process that took many years and involved making countless mistakes and facing the frustrations associated with all that.
Learning another language is not going to be more difficult than the languages we learnt before, but it’s not going to be any easier either. If you start with that mindset and are willing to commit the time and effort to make it through, you will be successful. In many cases, though, it takes so long to see any progress that we grow demotivated before we are able to harvest from the learning effort we put in.
I know a particular case where a German girl quit her Mandarin lessons after about 1 month of full-time learning. It was ‘just too difficult’. I and most of my fellow students with a European background started to see the first results (being able to ask for something simple) after about 6 weeks.
By quitting so early, this girl wasted 4 weeks, along with the money it took her to come to Singapore to learn Mandarin. I don’t doubt her intelligence – she may be more intelligent than me. But what’s the use of intelligence, if because of her attitude, she wasn’t able to make full use of it?
As a positive contrast, I once heard a long term American expat in Japan say: ‘Everyone in Japan needs to learn Japanese eventually. There is no way around it. It takes about 2 years to learn Japanese. I am a rather slow learner for languages, but I am here for 10 years now and took about 3 years to learn it.’
If she had put in the same amount of effort, would the German girl have been able to learn Mandarin? Of course she would. It’s a simple fact that whatever your IQ is, learning a language takes continuous effort over a long period of time. I’d rather be a bit less intelligent, but ‘stubborn’ enough to stay the course for long enough to see the results.
Let’s assume you have learnt a new language up to an advanced level, and now are facing your first serious presentation in your language of study. Here are a few points to keep in mind to make your presentation a success.
Style figures and expressions. If you have held the presentation in your mother tongue before, make sure to have a sharp look of how you make your point. Many style figures and expressions don’t translate well in another language. Don’t just look at cutting out expressions that won’t make sense for your audience. Also see if you can add some new ones that will help liven up your presentation.
Explanations and metaphors. Sports is used as a metaphor in all parts of the world, but not the same sports are popular. If you’re an American presenting in Italy, you’ll be wise to trade your basketball and baseball metaphors for something similar in football. Talking about ‘home runs’ and ‘slam dunks’ will likely draw blank stares, or at least they will emphasize you’re an outsider. No matter how good your Italian is. The same goes of course for a Singaporean who delivers a presentation in the USA. Better not to put things in football terms or you will come across really odd.
Language level of your audience. Does your audience consist mainly of native speakers, or are you speaking to a group of which many do not have the language of your presentation as a mother tongue? No matter how fluent you are, there is no point of flaunting it of your fluency goes over the head of most of the people in the room.
Content. Then there are cultural preferences as to what should be in your presentation. Some cultures like to refer more to history, so they will appreciate it if you make your point by putting things in a historical context. It is typically said that this goes for the French. People from other backgrounds may be bored by lengthy historical references and prefer to go straight to the point. Or look at future plans. Don’t blindly assume what you need to do based on the nationality of your audience, though.
Conclusion: know your audience! You may have given your presentation before in a different language. Never blindly translate, but ask yourself how your message will be picked up by the people you will be presenting to. There is more to this than simply being fluent in French, Italian, Japanese or whatever language you are presenting in. They key is to know who you are facing and adapting your message to your audience.
I started my time in Singapore with learning Chinese. The lessons were taught in English. Though that’s my second language, it wasn’t a problem for me, but for some people it really isn’t ideal. Do you know of any courses in Singapore that offer e.g. Mandarin lessons with Indonesian instruction? Or teach Japanese in Mandarin?
We’ll be very glad to add such courses to our listings.
If you are learning Japanese, you are probably going to want to have a certificate proving your attained level at a certain point in time. Just like TOEFL and IELTS in English and HSK and BCT for learners of Mandarin Chinese, there are dedicated exams to certify your Japanese level as well.
The two most relevant tests are the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and the Business Japanese Proficiency Test (BJT). Let me quickly introduce each of them:
1. The JLPT
The JLPT is the most widely applied and accepted Japanese proficiency test. The test consists of 5 levels: N5 to N1, where N1 stands for the highest level of proficiency. Japan’s immigration applies JLPT results as a standard to judge whether long term residents have achieved a sufficient level of Japanese language proficiency.
For most purposes, you probably want to be certified in the JLPT, since it’s most widely recognized. Several Singapore language schools offer JLPT preparatory courses. For more background on the test itself, have a look at the Wikipedia article.
Every year, there are two test dates in Singapore, one in July and one in December. To register for the next exam, have a look at the website of the Japanese Cultural Society in Singapore, which organizes the test.
2. The BJT
Formerly known as the JETRO test, after Japan’s external trade agency, the BJT is specifically meant to measure your profiency in using Japanese in business situations. So if you are planning to look for employment in Japan or in Japanese companies, you might consider to sit for the BJT instead of (or on top of) the JLPT. More information about the BJT test contents in the relevant Wikipedia article.
Unfortunately, the test can only be taken in Japan itself and at a very limited number of locations outside Japan.
Hopefully, this gives you a clue as to what test you should be aiming for. If you are looking to learn more Japanese before engaging in any exam, check out the Japanese courses on yago.sg if you want to learn Japanese in Singapore.
In the upcoming weeks, you will see more and more language schools appearing on our main website yago.sg. Some of them are large and offer a diverse range of languages, such as Spring College international, while others are smaller and specialize in just one language (Bunka, Daehan, Las Lilas).
We believe in giving you the choice, because not every course or school is equally suitable for everyone. Consider e.g. the choice between large vs. small schools; what would you consider? Both have their advantages. Fortunately, Singapore is blessed with many language schools, both large and small.
The advantages of large language schools:
- Schools with multiple locations mean that you can probably fiend a class close to your home or work.
- Having multiple classes ongoing at the same time at different levels, it means that you can most likely join a class that fits your level quite precisely;
- Formal procedures will be more established, so that if you have a complaint, you will know who to turn to.
- Having more enrolled students, larger language schools can often afford better facilities, such as language labs.
On the other hand, the follwoing reasons can make you consider joining a smaller language school:
- More personalised contact with the teachers and school staff
- Flexibility. Since smaller schools have less students, each student matters more to them and at smaller schools you may see staff go a long way to make sure you are happy
- Many smaller schools also make up for being relatively small by specializing in one language only. So they effectively become a large language school in English, Korean, Spanish or Japanese.
All in all, which school you choose to take your language course at may depend more on personal factors such as the location of the school, when the classes start and the timing.But you can keep the above points in mind when making your selection between the Singapore language schools listed on yago.sg.
Being an international hub for business, and more and more for tourism too, learning languages is a popular pursuit with people in Singapore, both Singaporeans and foreigners. Here’s the top-7 of languages most learnt in Singapore by adults.
Germany is respected in Singapore for its quality products and as a holiday destination. There are a number of high profile German companies in Singapore, including Deutsche Bank and Lufthansa. While German is an important language in Europe, it’s also recognized as one that is hard to learn if you don’t have a European language as mother tongue. (See available German classes)
Singapore is far from Spain and South America, but Latin culture is very appealing for its cuisine, dances (think Salsa), tradition and history. Many of those who learn Spanish in Singapore do so mainly out of interest, since it’s relatively hard to find a business application for the language, due to Singapore’s location. With the economic rise of South America, that may change in the foreseeable future, though. (See available Spanish classes)
French holds appeal as the second language on the international stage. Besides, it’s the language of art and literature, and besides in France, it’s an operating language in Belgium, Switzerland, and many African states. Not to mention that French companies make themselves count in Singapore as well. Did you know that the Circle Line is built by the French ALSTOM conglomerate? (See available French classes)
Moving into the top 4, we start seeing languages that are closer to home. Korean has become tremendously popular in Singapore, due to its pop culture, including music groups and tv shows. For many in Singapore, being able to understand dramas and music in native Korean is an important motivation to learn Korean. Not that there are no other good reasons to learn Korean in Singapore: Korea is also a popular travel destination, and there is a large community of Koreans in Singapore, many of whom are still struggling with English. So being able to speak with them in Korean holds real value. (See available Korean classes).
With all the talk about China’s economy surpassing Japan’s, we shouldn’t forget that Japan is still out there and playing an important role as an economic and technological center. Since English isn’t widely spoken in Japan, businesses in Singapore understand that they need to service their Japanese customers in their own language. Besides that, Japanese products hold a lot of appeal (clothing, fashion, gadgets … even cars) and Japan has a long history. So there are both economic and cultural reasons to learn Japanese. (See available Japanese classes).
As we move to the most popular languages to learn in Singapore, though, we see languages that are actually spoken natively in Singapore. So why are adults learning Mandarin in Singapore, wouldn’t they have learnt it in school? One group of learners are older Chinese Singaporeans who were previously English educated. Others are foreign professionals working in Singapore: Indonesians, Filipino’s, Vietnamese – often with an ethnic Chinese background. As well as Westerners who have come to Singapore to work here and would like to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Chinese. (See available Chinese classes).
What other language than English could be at number 1? While you won’t get lost in Singapore when you can speak Mandarin, English is essential if you want to achieve anything in Singaporean society. The economy and education system operate in English, and you need to speak English to communicate with Indian, Malay Singaporeans, and even some Chinese Singaporeans. When people come to Singapore to work, English is not optional as Mandarin, it is a must. Maids are required to learn English to be allowed to stay in Singapore.
Besides, with Singapore becoming an important hub for higher education, those who come to Singapore for study from elsewhere in the region, often opt to improve their English before starting their course. (See available English classes).
While these observations are based on our experience in the language area in Singapore, experience is always a bit subjective and we don’t claim to have absolute knowledge. People might approach others instead of yago for certain languages. If you feel we over- or underestimate certain languages, please let us know in the comments!