The JLPT 2021 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) was held on December 6. I do have a special relationship with this test and took it again.
Ever since I’ve left language school, tests such as the JLPT have been great motivation to study more. This includes the more obscure grammar. Applying for the test has been harder in recent times though, at least in Germany. My previous applications were canceled because the JLPT was canceled. The July test was booked out within a week.
As for the December test, Düsseldorf and Stuttgart were the test sites. The easier tests (N5 to N3) were offered in Stuttgart, the two upper levels (N1 and N2) in Düsseldorf. I did take the test in Düsseldorf before – before moving to Japan. For people not living in Düsseldorf, it couldn’t be more convenient: The VHS (Volkshochschule) is next to the central station.
I concentrated much on vocabulary and listening (Japanese movies and shows). There’s plenty of Japanese content on streaming services, especially with a VPN. For vocabulary and kanji I mostly relied on Memrise. There’s also an app that focusses on grammar (Bunpo), but I didn’t finish all levels in the app before the test.
The JLPT is far less comprehensive than the tests I wrote at Naganuma. There’s no writing, no conversation and I felt that the JLPT is somewhat light on grammar. It doesn’t mean that the Naganuma test was much more difficult – both the writing and the conversation test were often very predictable. The content of the JLPT is much less predictable, because it isn’t based on a series of textbooks.
JLPT 2021 Düsseldorf
Deutsche Bahn arrived on time at Düsseldorf Central Station. People were already waiting in front of the VHS. I plugged in my earphones and listened to my playlist. Maybe one question will be about Yoasobi’s latest single? Of course not. But I do like Apple’s lyrics feature (even though there’re plenty of songs with wrong lyrics).
The organisers split up the applicants in various groups, distributed to different house numbers and rooms to avoid crowding. There was no big crowd and no speech by a member of the Japanese embassy this time. JLPT was a 3G (vaccinated, recovered or tested) event. A mask was mandatory in the building, but could be taken off during the test.
All seats were spaced out and had a paper nameplate. My room is usually used for ballet practice. The test began with… rules.
The Do’s and Dont’s
Most of the rules were obvious or known to me, like no talking, nothing on the desk except for pencil, sharpener, eraser, tissue and a watch. Any kind of phone has to be switched off and the same applies to smartwatches.
Having a watch is essential, especially when the seat is in the back and they have to improvise. It seems that a big wall clock isn’t essential for ballet practice. So they brought a clock to the room. Time announcements were made ten and five minutes before the end. At this point you should be at the last questions of the reading part.
For N1 and N2, the test has two parts with a break in-between. Time is an issue and many prep books specialise on JLPT patterns to save you time. There’s not enough time to appreciate every sentence of the long essay or that there was a question with a banana.
Of course a banana!
I’m the worst person to ask about contents of a past test though. After finishing a test, my short-term memory does an immediate reboot. So I know that a banana appeared, but not what the banana question was about.
But if you’ve reached JLPT N2 you should be confident about your ability to talk about bananas used in everyday situations. This includes articles and commentaries in newspapers and magazines as well as news reports about bananas. Unterstanding comedy duo Bananaman? That’s N1 level.
JLPT 2021 epilogue
After a couple of failed attempt to apply for the test, I was glad to take it. As a motivation to study more, it worked. It should be noted however, that the JLPT isn’t as important as it used to be. Japanese universities have their own language test and prospective employers will likely check your speaking ability too.
Since it’s the season, I decided to check out a restaurant in Düsseldorf’s “Little Tokyo” and then continued to the Christmas markets. Unlike the JLPT, restaurants and Christmas markets are open with 2G rule (vaccinated/recovered).