Tag: language learning

The Tests Don’t Mean Shit

The Tests Don’t Mean Shit

Back in 2012, I briefly considered doing grad school. But after working as a teacher, I had a real hard time convincing myself it’d be worthwhile to be on the other side of the classroom again.

I thought renewing my personal trainer certification would be the extent of having to deal with standardized testing, but tomorrow afternoon I’ll be tackling another beast in the form of the JLPT N2.

And honestly, my chances of passing are slim to none. It’s just too many concepts to have tried to cram in 3 months. That’s kind of what I get for not really touching Japanese study in any substantial way for 6 years. Sure, it makes me wish I had more time, but I’m okay with that.

For one, I’ve been in a study rhythm that’s been consistent. If I would’ve signed up for the summer or winter exam in 2019– a plan that makes way more sense– I know I would’ve continued to put off actually studying.

The other thing that keeps the stakes low for taking this test? There’s not exactly a real good reason for me to be taking it. (Major props to my friend Jo for calling me out on this.)

Oh sure, it’s useful for working in Japan, but I’m not going down that route. I mean, it could help my with my own coaching business. Maybe. You know, by… finding better Japanese clients or something.

In other words, the JLPT isn’t a barrier that’s blocking me from achieving my goals.

For some, the TOEFL or TOEIC is a “necessary” evil. They need to pass that in order to enter a university. They need the certification in order to get a job. And sometimes you have people who have legitimate language skill who fail, while you have people who can pass the paper despite being completely unable to use the language.

The last time I took this JLPT level, I failed miserably. Anybody who’s never studied Japanese had an easy shot of scoring better that me– that’s how poorly the final tally came out.

And yeah, it was pretty soul crushing.

Back then, I didn’t prep for standardized testing. I didn’t drill things specifically for test taking skills. I naively thought I could brush by with my subconscious learning gleaned from, you know, living and breathing in Japan and Japanese.

But the test doesn’t mean shit.

If I pass from dumb luck, nothing is proven. If I fail despite knowing how to use all the concepts overall, nothing is proven.

If I can pass and know how to use the concepts? Well, that’s the idealistic hope and dream for the people who came up with this test in the first place, huh?

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Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

No one likes to be the “new guy”, whether it’s at work, a class, a club,  a game, or group of friends. It can be intimidating. It’s also super uncomfortable because you’re starting at an absolute zero.

You don’t have the rapport that everyone else has built. Your skills aren’t quite up to par. Your abilities are lacking. You feel like you suck.

And maybe you do suck.

But there’s also a huge advantage that comes with being a newb: clarity.

Let’s say that most of the time, no one can eat what you cook. So you work on perfecting your culinary arts. No bites at all become a few nibbles. A few nibbles become an entire plate. Eventually, people just might ask for a second serving!

The same goes for speaking prowess. First, you’re unable to muster a single word, but then you do. Next, you pick up phrases. Your vocabulary builds, and the quality of discussions to be had improves.

And that’s only if you stick with it. Johnny Nguyen from ExpertBoxing put it this way:

“Of everything you do, only [a percentage] of it’s going to be any good… And that’s only going to be when you make your best effort. If you give a half-assed effort the whole time, 0% of it will be good.”

This leads me to the key point I want to cover. No, no, none of that “it’s okay to make” BS. Let’s face it: as true as that statement may be, it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Instead, let’s talk about the difficulty in tracking progression when you’re not a newbie. Building from the ground up, it’s easier to see how far you’ve come. When you’re in the intermediate stages and try to reach the next level, that’s much more difficult to see.

To take it to the next level, you need to revamp how you see and feel progression. Otherwise, your perspective will trick you into thinking it’s not happening. Just like with fitness, your probably have a terrible sense of self-perception.

For the most part, the school system does a pretty good job of setting a sequence of progression. Whether or not you actually get better, because you’re moving along in classes, you feel like you’re improving.

On the other hand, if you focus your efforts on solely using academics as measurement, you’re going to feel unsatisfied. The payoff isn’t really there. Academics are important, but they’re limited in scope. They can’t really tell you how well you’d do in practical application.

Plenty of language learners, however, will stick to that kind of model because it’s the most familiar method of tracking they know.

And this is why an aptitude for conversation doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. This is why the ability to give directions to a stranger doesn’t feel very rewarding. So even if people are experiencing progression in real life, they can’t see it or feel it.

People have been conditioned to think they need a formalized test in order to get a sense of improvement.

How do I evaluate an advanced speaker? I look for someone who can adapt and deliver.

Too often, language learners obsess about finding the “perfect” vocabulary word. They fail to realize that English doesn’t work in terms of perfect word choices. We need words that are appropriate enough for the topic, context, and listener.

In addition, language learners who obsess on an idealized “perfect English” fail to incorporate variety in their speech. They’ll say the exact same things, the exact same way, every single time. A “perfectly” dull delivery rarely sounds advanced.

Very important speaking qualities to possess, but very difficult to evaluate. And that’s why you need a good coach/instructor to pull you out of your head space. Otherwise, you’re very likely to kill your own progress because you can’t see it.

If you can’t see progress, you probably need a different marker.

If you can’t feel progress, you probably need to re-define your goals. You need to remember the bigger picture.

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"Don't let a couple losses throw you off course. All you gotta do is win someday." #animequotes I had a question from @jomanh1193 a/b its meaning. I thought it was pretty straight forward, but I can understand how it can be confusing. Most of you probably aren't familiar with the phrase "to be thrown off course". Don't confuse this with "of course" which means "definitely/absolutely". When you're off course, that means you're going on a different route from the map. So in other words, when people fail and lose, they don't feel like they're following their plan. They don't feel like they're meeting their expectations. They feel disappointed. "But all you gotta do", this is a reminder that means REMEMBER! Even if you lose today, you can still win tomorrow. Keep going!

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Remember, true progress doesn’t look sexy. That’s why movies always incorporate montages– watching the daily struggles is boring!