Ode to Yuka Sensei: Or, How to Study for the JLPT N1 Without Falling Asleep

So as those of you who follow me on Twitter now know very well, I found out last week that I finally passed the JLPT N1, on my 7th try.

Let us all pause now for a moment of profound, sublime celebration.

Ok moving on.  As someone without the time or money to be a full-time student (or even a part-time one, actually) my only option over the years has been self-study.  To tell the truth, it’s been a vicious cycle.  For each doomed attempt I would memorize textbooks full of words and grammar that I never use in real life, invariable fail anyway because the N1 is fucking evil, then drown in self-pity and give up.  Then, often years later, I would decide to give it another try for whatever masochistic reason I had at the time, at which point I would have to memorize everything all over again.  Wash, rinse, repeat, and eventually go completely insane.

But then, the game changer arrived: affordable, pre-recorded JLPT focused lessons with Nihongo no Mori. (I am not affiliated with them at all.  In fact, they don’t even answer my emails. But thats ok.  I still love you.)

Self-study, especially of a foreign language, can be a pretty lonely business.  But with Yuka-sensei (Seriously, I love you so much.), and her trusty sidekick Ayano-sensei (I love you too of course), I found that I was no longer by myself.

Studying with Yuka sensei (Please respond to my emails), I gradually came to understand that vocabulary words are never just that.  Rather, every word is a story in itself.  For example, when Yuka sensei (I swear I am not a stalker or anything) teaches the N1 word  斬新(ざんしん), she puts it in context as 斬新なファッション.  Zanshin fashion, she explains, is not something so simple as mixing up the color combination of your Uniqlo turtlenecks.  Rather, zanshin is more often used to describe, say, for example, a dress that is made entirely of meat.  And now, for the rest of my life, the effortlessly memorable story of 斬新 involves a meat dress.

And so on.

Another super awesome thing about Nihongonomori is their use of false monikers.  While the memorization of the additional 900 or so kanji needed to pass the N1 is well-known for its soporific side effects, Yuka sensei (I’m totally wholesome and not sketchy) uses clever, amusing and often ridiculous mnemonics in order to keep us engaged.

In closing, it is with an abundance of gratitude that I will now post screenshots (without permission ? ) of what I believe to be the top 14 false monikers for remembering N1 kanji.  These are brought to you, of course, by Yuka sensei (I am just a normal girl who is madly in love with you.  And that is not weird at all.)

14) That time she told us that we should squash the nobility, while also submerging them in a pool of water.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité, if you will.  Now just add water.13) They finally arrested that guy who was stabbing the water with a fork in the middle of the street.  Good, cuz he was a total weirdo. (Not like me, Yuka.  I am normal.)12) The preferred method of taking a rest, in case you haven’t heard.11) This one makes the list because the necessity of holding a meeting for the sole purpose of deciding the one’s next utterance is a profoundly relatable phenomenon for anyone working for a Japanese company.10) The lame, unremarkable people hang out in the larger pond.  Obviously.  Don’t be lame.  You are special.  Resist the larger pond.9) That guy on the horse is a weirdo.  Also, he appears to be a native english speaker.  I will pretend not to notice that.8) Dark, Yuka.  Very dark.7) Or we could just, you know not do that.6) That time she burned people just for fun.5) That kind of does look like my grandma though.4) If you really want to get tied up good, make sure you go to a specialized rope store.   …3) The human armpits possess three special powers. 1) They can holding files and folders. 2) They can be used to do The Chicken Dance. 3) They stink.2) If you happen to have a square-shaped face, don’t skimp on paying for plastic surgery, lest the missing pieces of your chin end up atop an N1 kanji.  You’ve been warned.1) The perve king with poor self-feeding skills.

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