Wandering Across the Rainbow Chopsticks #8: How I'm Preparing for the JLPT N4 (Textbooks)

While my updates for WAtRC have been lacking (broke my collar bone so I was unable to really type easily for a month and then I got busy writing other blog posts and doing other podcast-related stuff), I have not stopped studying! The last post for WAtRC (5 months ago) I was just finishing level 11 and now, as of ~8am this morning, I am now level 25!

At the start of the month I took the plunge and applied for the N4 in December! So that means I have 73 days to completely master the content.
Now since I’m all signed up and in the progress of heavily cramming for the next few months, I thought I’d write a post about the materials I’m currently using to study. I’m probably over doing it with the amount of different textbooks I’m using but I wanted to make sure I could cover everything.
I originally was going to write one post with apps, textbooks, games, story books, etc… but after starting writing just the textbook part I realised how long it was getting, so I’ll be covering each type of resource in a new post.
First of all, for the N5 catchup and revision textbooks and workbooks, I own Genki I, All 5 of the Minna No Nihongo Shokyu I books, and Ninhongo Sou Matome N5.
I don’t want to spend too much time on N5 content from here on in but I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything by skipping N5.
Minna No Nihongo
This series is entirely in Japanese which makes it good for intensive learning but pretty difficult without the companion translation and notes book. I mainly have this as a challenge book, I don’t expect to cover all of Minna no Nihongo (nor should I considering it’s only N5 level and I only have 73 days to cover N4) but I feel it’s a good resource to have.
It’s very meaty and covers more ground that all of my other textbooks and the grammar explanations are in depth.
I would say that I prefer Genki to Minna No Nihongo, the exercises and the story makes it a little less dry, there’s only two books (a textbook and a workbook) and everything is well explained in English without the need of an additional book.
It doesn’t cover as much as Minna No Nihongo but it’s a lot less threatening with a lesson structure that is easy to follow but this shows that it was also heavily designed for classrooms and has a lot of ‘find a partner and practice this exercise!’ which, as a self-learner, is hard to do.
However it was a great place to start when I was getting back into learning Japanese and the lesson structures really work well.
And now, my current favourite just because it’s so easy to consume and is just so adorable;
Nihongo Sou Matome
Do you like animals and easily set out lessons for each day of the week? Then this book is for you!
The front cover of the N5 book says that if you cover two pages a day, you will complete it in six weeks. I completed in about two weeks as I was doing a few a day. The format is pretty simple, the first 6 days in a week are lessons and then at the end of each lesson you are given a few multiple choice questions to answer (there is also a question at the start of each lesson as well). On day 7 for each week you are given a test which covers the entire week’s worth of content.
The first few lessons are for kanji, the next are for grammar and vocabulary, and then the last is for listening along with the CD.
I’m a big fan of the listening section as it seems to be in a very similar format as all the JLPT Practice listening tests I’ve heard. I’m really trying to work on my listening as this isn’t something I’ve practiced too much and I got every question correct in the listening portion which was a great confidence boost.
It’s a very approachable and well laid out book considering it not only has the English explanation, but the Vietnamese as well.
However, as they are quite short, especially compared to Minna no Nihongo, I highly doubt everything is covered.
There are two books for N4 (which I also own) and 5 books each for N3, N2, and N1. So all up it could get expensive.
In addition, it’s just so dang adorable. All the books have cute animal characters and I love them.
I’m only just digging in deep to the N4 content now, most of the vocab and kanji I already am aware of thanks to WaniKani, but I don’t want to take the JLPT just with WaniKani alone.
I’m currently blasting through the N4 book for Nihongo Sou Matome and flipping through Genki II in preparation for N4 and will probably jump into Minna No Nihongo 2 closer to the test. I can’t really say much on these considering I haven’t jumped into them nearly as much as I have with my N5 resources and they’re just N4 versions of the N5 books on the surface.
If I were to recommend a textbook, it will always be Genki as it’s got a lot of material but is an easy structure. If somebody wants a quick cram, however, I’d suggest Nihongo Sou Matome.
Hopefully I’ll write another post about my preparation next week at some point.
It takes me about a week and a half for each WaniKani level, so I’ll still be on level 25 by then. I’d like to be a little further in the first N4 Nihongo Sou Matome book too.
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