Third time fail…and then I need help


I took JLPT N1 for the third time on December 4th, 2016. I had to fly to Houston for the exam…it was a rainy day, and yet I felt so hopeful to pass this time after a two-year hiatus. I took private online lessons once a week, with the goal of improving both my speaking and reading skills. It seems my reading skills improved only a bit – I still failed spectacularly this year. I can offer a few excuses: I’m in a graduate program that differs completely from my previous field, had problems to take care of, while also applied to a Ph.D. program with a tight deadline. However, excuses are worthless – it won’t change anything. So I think,”Why not just go to Japan?”.
Going to Japan is another dream of mine. My sister joined a one-year program (Bekka) in Japan, and I envied her a lot. Now, I don’t have the luxury of one year to study Japanese, but 3 or 6 months should suffice.
For this purpose, I scoured the internet for a good short-term program. After comparing several programs and reading the graduates’ reviews, I decided to go with a program at the Aichi prefecture. I won’t name names at this point until I get accepted. My goals are twofold: improving my Japanese skills to the point of not only passing JLPT N1 this year but also being professionally proficient in a business setting, and also getting an experience living in Japan. Many Japanese businesses are opening in Plano including Toyota, so I hope to be able to use Japanese at work after I come back.
Next, I will write about my application process, including my brazen request to be admitted to the Advanced Japanese program at the school.



Starting the Journey (again)


2015. I was nervously waiting for the result of JLPT N1 in January 29th and then found out the result…I didn’t pass again! This is my second year of taking JLPT N1. Maybe third time’s the charm? Maybe I will have better luck taking the test in Houston rather than in San Francisco?

However, the result said loud and clear: I need to study more. For this I have a new friend (app): It’s available for both iOS and

I put in a goal of studying Japanese everyday. There’s actually a community with the same goal in it. I check in every time I learn Japanese. Unfortunately, it’s still not everyday. Either I need to change the frequency to three times a week (more reasonable?) or be more disciplined and follow the goal. Maybe I’ll do this as part of tiny habit.

By the way, if anybody interested, tiny habit’s free online class will start in February 23. Check this out:




やまね先生のプロフィルのページはここに:  There are many classes to choose from, but mainly about exams preparation such as JLPT and EJU. As my blog title says, I’m planning to retake JLPT N1 this year, so I chose JLPT N1 Lesson.

From the start, Yamane Sensei is to the point and we didn’t waste a lot of time in chit chat, which I preferred. This class costs around $35 (based on today’s conversion, $34.22), therefore I appreciate the fact that she also valued my time and money. We delved directly into the JLPT N1 test sample (

There were many difficult expressions and vocabularies in N1. Yamane Sensei is very good at explaining those, for example, the question no. 10 in the sample. It was a comprehension question, asking about the gist of the paragraph. Yamane Sensei read the paragraph aloud with good diction (standard Japanese). She also stopped at several places to explain the meaning of either word or phrases. We discussed about this sentence: 人の思惑がカラスに見抜かれているようで、関心してしまうのである。Yamane Sensei explained that 思惑 (read: omowaku) means intention or calculation and normally not used in daily conversation. It can be used for example, to describe how the President is thinking long and hard about how to deal with the crisis in Crimea or how a country is trying to claim another territory as its own.

50 minutes passed quickly. Yamane Sensei told me that in April, the N1 class will be only $30 ($5 reduction). I really felt that Sensei is a very experienced teacher and know how to teach upper intermediate to advanced level students.



I took the 7th lesson from Umi sensei. Her profile link is here:

She was cheerful and enthusiastic. Right away we got connected after she mentioned that she used to live in Hayward, California. It’s so close to where I live!

After that we reviewed grammar. I have already passed JLPT N2 and expected something similar to the Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar. However we started from the very beginning, from particles.

1.  5課~[へ/で/と/に]行きます/~から来ました :助詞の使い分け
東京 へ 行きます/に 行きます/飛行機 で 行きます。/母 と いきます/北海道 から 来ました。
Below is the lesson point where we had to stop due to time (50 minutes class).

41.22-3 着る・はく・かぶる・かける つける
<着ます・はきます・かぶります・かけます ・つけます・はめます>
<くつした ・ネックレス・コート・くつ・ゆびわ・メガネ・時計・ぼうし・ズボン・セーター・ネクタイ・イヤリング・うでわ>

I learned something new here. When wearing jewelries that shaped like a ring for example bracelet and armlet, we can use the word hameru. For example: ゆびわ を はめる。 うでわ を はめる。

I heartily recommend this lesson for beginners who need a firm grasp on Japanese grammar. However, since it’s intermediate, I wish the lesson is paced accordingly so I have time to review more intermediate grammar points.

I review this lesson as part of Cafetalk Monitor task and tried different lessons and teachers. If I can redo it, I’ll choose her other lesson “Japanese Free Talking for Intermediate and Advanced”. It’s very reasonably priced and I am sure will be fun and useful for intermediate learners and beyond.

レッスン 6:I am here to help you!! Let’s talk in Japanese!




I really enjoyed Yuka Sensei’s class. She had a really nice, friendly demeanor so that I felt comfortable right away. The class was informal and since I didn’t request a special lesson we just started with a phone script (a call to Kinokuniya Bookstore).




私:私はXX と申しますが、注文した本は届いていますか?






私:682-411-332 ろくはちに の よんいちいち の さんさんに です。

相手:番号を確認します。682-411-332 ろくはちに の よんいちいち の さんさんにですね。





私:失礼いたします。  (終わり)

Also she made clear some expressions that I was confused about. For example, I was trying to say that I got bored doing kanji exercises. Taikutsu (退屈) is similar to “暇だな” when you are bored since you’ve got nothing to do. She suggested to use the word “omoshirokunai” (面白くない) instead, it is more natural.

We conversed on a lot of topics, and at the end of the session, Yuka sensei wrote down the detailed scripts with her comments. I learned a lot, thank you so much Sensei!



3月10日のレッスンでした。また、ゆかり先生のレッスンを受けました。先生のページはここに: 今回もSkype とScribblar を使いました。読解の前に単語のリストを勉強しました。まずは色の単語でした。

In the first exercise, I learned that you can either attach the iro to a color or leave it the way it is. A good example is midori. Both midori (緑) and midori iro (緑色) are correct. Of course it doesn’t apply to mizuiro (緑色) since the word mizu stands by itself: water.

We had a couple more vocabulary lessons before finally getting into the reading part. Unfortunately the course was only 50 minutes so we did not have enough time to fully discuss the reading.

The reading was interesting. It was about gender color preferences. The author of this story was a boy whose father wanted to have a daughter. He had his five boys wear clothes in “girly” colors such as red and bright yellow. However in these days and age, the perception of color preference is not as strong as before and colors are viewed as gender neutral.


レッスン 4:Feel free to talk in Japanese♪






I took Haruna sensei’s class, “Feel free to talk in Japanese”. It was only 40 minutes long, unlike my usual Japanese classes that last for 50 minutes or more. However, it was concise and to the point. 

Haruna sensei was really nice and very concerned about my terrible cough. I had a sudden, terrible allergies and did not have enough time to cancel the class. However, it was a great lesson! We talked about many topics, especially about elementary education. 

Good points: Explaining using simple Japanese (good for intermediate and above), correcting incorrect sentences/vocabs nicely, giving feedbacks about student’s good points and area of improvement.