Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Patrick- Japanese Language Proficiency Test

So, for the past three months I have been studying for the Japanese language proficiency test, which I will take the first weekend of December.

There are basically two versions of the test; one for moderate proficiency and one for fluency. I am taking the easier of the two.

I decided to do this when I arrived here because I knew that if I didn't have something to motivate me I probably wouldn't make much progress. Instead, I've been studying between four and six hours a day and learned to read a few thousand words.

Unfortunately, despite studying Japanese for three years at Earlham (but not at all my senior year- very unfortunate considering my position now), I had crap reading ability when I got here, a result of two factors. First, Earlham's program focuses on conversational proficiency. Second, I didn't study Japanese all that hard.

Well, in the past few months I've made up for that, mostly, and am fairly well prepared for next month. SuperMemo has made most of this possible.

SuperMemo is a computer program that shows flash cards that you make. The only difference is after you see each card, you grade yourself 0-5 (0=terrible, 5=great), and then it shows you the card again based on how well you have done historically with that card. So, instead of you scheduling your own reviews, it schedules the reviews for you. So, in preparing for this exam I have accumulated almost 13000 flash cards, but I only see about 800 per day, which still takes a few hours, but isn't unbearable.

I start using SuperMemo this summer, and at first I was skeptical, but after three months I can read an enormous amount of material that I could not begin to process before, so I'm very impressed. I would caution anyone wanting to try it, though, with these two caveats: one, it has some horrendous bugs, and can sometimes behave erratically. Two, the interface is terrible. But for what it does, it's amazing. The real test, of course, will be to see if it helps me remember the language for years to come, as it promises.

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