Japanese Language Proficiency Test – Learning Japanese – Goal towards JLPT N5

As someone that works in IT, it is particularly important to keep up to date with the latest trends. That means work outside of work to investigate and test new software, play around with code and tools.

For at least my first year abroad, I decided to spend zero time on anything IT related after work hours and weekends. I felt it was important to focus on some other goals instead that I may not have time for when I eventually return to Sydney.

So, I set myself a goal of learning Japanese this year. I wanted to be able to have some basic understanding of a language that would help me when I decide to next travel to Japan.

The resources are endless for learning a new language. But how to prove to myself that I have achieved my goal? What would constitute a milestone? Enter the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

The JLPT is an exam to assess your Japanese reading and listening ability. Its held in a classroom setting around the world, and consists of five different levels, each of which is a stepping stone towards business level proficiency.

I’ve elected to aim for the lowest mark, being the JNLP5. This means the ability to read and understand basic daily expressions written in Kanji, Hiragana, and Katanana. It also means you should be able to understand day to day conversations if the person speaks slowly to you. In other words, you have the reading and listening ability of a small child, perhaps kindergarden grade.

I’ve read that you are expected to know about 100 basic Kanji characters, and the Katakana and Hiragana alphabets. Fortunately, i was put into Chinese classes as a kid (not that i remember much these days), so most of the basic characters I already know. I just need to attach a new way of pronunciation for them.

So what are my resources to help me achieve this goal over a year (within a generous time frame).

Reading / Writing

Learning Japanese Kanji Volume 1 

This book is meant to get you through the 1st 100 characters needed for the JLPT. Theres a section for you to practice writing, but I think you need to supplement this with some grid paper for more practice.

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

For learning the alphabet characters. You probably don’t need to buy a book for this, but when you are excited you start to throw money at things as motivation. Same reason people go out and buy really expensive athletic wear when they want to start going for walks around the block.


Pimsleurs Japanese

An audio program and book that guide you through day to day conversation topics. The good thing about this is that it has two voices speaking on the tapes, one male and one female. It makes it easier to pickup the correct way of saying a word or phrase because you get two perspectives.

Learning Japanese

I bought this one on an impulse, and haven’t had the chance to use yet. Though from the Reddit subreddit www.reddit.com/r/learnjapanese and Amazon reviews, this is meant to be one of the best resources out there, as well as Pimsleurs.


I attend a weekly class at a school called IKOMA on Beach Rd. Personally, i find that the classes are not too useful unless you need something to push you to learn (such as a classroom setting). Its basically repeating after a teacher. The classroom itself has too many participants (about 30) so theres not enough time for students to interact with each other, or to play games that would help get the content into your head. This feels more like a money grab than anything.

I did previously attend a school in Sydney Language Solutions in Pitt St that was fantastic in getting the content in your head. The teacher (Toshiro Osawa) was great at getting everyone in pairs to make sure we had the chance to converse and practice. The classes were about 10 students so it was small enough that you got to meet everyone.

2 thoughts on “Japanese Language Proficiency Test – Learning Japanese – Goal towards JLPT N5”

  1. I am looking to learn some Japanese for a number of reasons. One, I am fascinated with the language and the culture itself. Second, I love video games and Japan gets so many more games, most of which are never localized into English. Third, I’m going to Tokyo later this year and want to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language to appreciate it more.

    This was pretty informative as far as options go, and as I spend a lot of time on Reddit, it never even dawned on me to look for a subreddit for learning Japanese! I think what’s overwhelming me the most is whether to try to learn to speak it, or to learn some kanji characters to get my feet wet. I don’t have anyone to speak it with so reading it would really be my priority. Then again, speaking it or being able to understand spoken language seems like they should be done in parallel.

    Any advice on books or apps that would help someone trying to get started?

    I speak english and a decent amount of Spanish, although I’m pretty sure neither of those help at all!

    1. Books arent necessary, i just find that buying them makes me more likely to use them. Im only a month in or so, but id recommend learning the alphabets first (hiragana, katakana). Theres online resources out there for you + youtube to help with the pronunciation. After that, maybe get yourself a good audio book to listen and learn from that is interactive. Hope that helps 🙂

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