JLPT 3 2009 results

This morning as usual, I went downstairs to buy breakfast and some grocery shopping at NTUC. On the way home, I decided to check the letterbox… :D

There was a huge pile of mail, many of which were related to the baby bonus for Baby1. Then there was this 1 letter from The Japanese Cultural Society, Singapore… :D

If you have read my earlier post, you would have known how I had 2 years of Japanese language lessons some years back, and how I deferred taking my JLPT until this year. Having 2 years of formal lessons under my belt, I was pretty confident of tackling JLPT3 directly (I did not take JLPT4).

However, I was getting rusty from the lack of practice. My revision didn’t go as well as planned since I was busying myself with baby stuff. And perhaps I was a little bit lazy. Hehe… But hey, I still do my weekly fair share of reading practice (raw manga) and listening practice (raw anime). :P

On the day of the exam, I was feeling very nervous. I was really ill prepared. However, I calmed my nerves and handled the exams with my years of exam experience. When I left the exam hall, I had hope that I may pass after all.

And now, the results:

  • Writing-Vocabulary – 67/100 – 67%
  • Listening – 83/100 – 83%
  • Reading-Grammar – 150/200  – 75%
  • Total – 300/400 – 75%

Yeah… I passed! Ha ha ha ha ha! I passed with a score of 300 (passing score is 240), not bad. In O-level terms, I would have scored an A1. :D

My poorest section was in Writing-Vocabulary, and rightfully so. As I had mentioned, I was ill prepared, and the one thing that required the most memory work and study time was vocab. And it really showed.

My best section was Listening. I attribute this to the 2 years experience I had interacting with my native Japanese teachers. Quite frankly, my Japanese teachers spoke much faster, more non-standard, and with more slang. So I naturally was able to understand most of what the exam audio tape played.

For Reading-Grammar, I did average. This was becos a lot of the information in the passages can be deduced from context. And somehow, I have more of a knack for remembering grammar than remembering vocab, so I was able to draw upon my memory from deep within to understand the comprehension passages.

It was a good result for me, given the little time I spent on preparation. Now, I hope to advance to the next level and try my hands on the new N3 level which is set between JLPT 3 and JLPT 2. Of course, N3 is not going to be a walk in the park. I’ve most probably already used up my luck and rusty memory with JLPT 3, so I need to study study study! *Growl*

頑張ります!

-Dear1

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The weekend of JLPT

Last weekend marked the end of several weeks of activities, and it also meant that Dear1 and Dear2 can finally take a break and slow down our pace of life.

Baby – We visited our gynae on Friday for our week 28 appointment. With this, Dear2 has officially stepped into the third trimester. The focus now will be to stay healthy and happy while we monitor baby’s development. Our doctor has also briefed us about booking of hospital beds, things to pack, and how to identify labour pain. We’re really into the counting down phase now, looking forward, so exciting.

Shopping – On the same Friday, we went to Taime warehouse sale again to pick up a few more items on discount before going over to Baby Kingdom to finally finally buy our car seat after much considerations.

Our Britax Premier car seat looks comfy. :D

The car seat we bought is the Britax (Safe n Sound) Premier, Camel Suede colour, at $359 (UP $399). It’s a convertible car seat suitable from newborn to around 4 years old. We were told by the people at Baby Kingdom that we can bring the car seat back to them for installation any time if we do not know how to properly install the car seat. This service is valid any time (even a few years down the road) as long as we produce the receipt as a proof of purchase. We asked for an immediate demonstration of the installation process and try to absorb as much as we can before removing the car seat and putting it back in its box. Baby Kingdom isn’t exactly near our house but we’ll keep the receipt just in case we really needed help with installation and switching from rear facing to front facing next time.

On Sunday, we bought a simple bath tub from our neighbourhood shop for $7.50 as oppose to branded bath tubs which can cost above $30. Come on, it’s just a plastic tub. And with this, our major baby shopping items are all ready. All that’s left are consumables such as diapers and shampoos. Phew!

Cleaning – We received quite a number of hand me downs and those had conveniently been laid around the kitchen floor since we brought them home. In additional, we’ve been piling up our baby purchases on our study room floor and it just kept on growing. House was really in a small (big) mess. We (mostly Dear2) spent the weekend cleaning, wiping, moving, shifting, and sorting out all the items. All the big boxes such as breastpump, car seat, stroller goes neatly stacked under the study table now. All the hand me downs goes to the laundry basket to be washed; those unusable to be thrown away. All the baby linen goes into the clean Toyogo chest of drawers. *nod nod* Everything is neat and tidy again and our house is back to normal. :D

JLPT – Meanwhile, I was pretty bogged down by my JLPT exam. I started studying quite late, just about 3 weeks ago. I decided to concentrate on reviewing my grammar and totally forgot about my vocab and kanji. It wasn’t until the final week when I started doing some mock exam papers that I realized how weak my vocab was. Panic panic. With the exam on Sunday, but both Friday and Saturday used for baby shopping, I had no more time left to study. Gone case. I’m going to fail. Dear2 told me to take it as an experience and just try my best. Sigh.

I took a bus to SMU for the exams as I don’t want to think about driving and parking. I revised what I could on the bus ride which took slightly more than an hour. I arrived on time and was shocked to see so many people taking JLPT exams. The exam started on time and consisted of 3 sections (vocab, listening & grammar) which lasted about 3 hours. Hmm… Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I imagined (maybe my 20 years of exam experience kicked in and my memory went into hyper-drive). I was stumped at a number of questions due to my poor preparations but I knew the answer to many as well. Maybe there was going to be a slight chance that I might pass after all. Hope for the best. Anyway, it is over now, huge sigh of relief. Phewwwwww~

Good job dear, we did it! We’ve done so many things since coming back from Penang. Let’s slow down the pace and get some much needed rest. December is going to zoom right past becos of the festive mood and public holidays, and soon it’ll be January. Yeah yeah yeah. :D

-Dear1

Encore – Last Sunday was also the Standard Chartered Marathon. We miss running.

JLPT3, here I come

I’ve always been interested in Japanese language and culture (but less the history). So, when the opportunity presented itself to me some 3 years ago, I took up a structured Japanese language courses at my school.

In all, I took 4 modules in Japanese language over a span of 2 years. It was 7 hours of lessons per week for 13 weeks per semester over 4 semesters. So that meant I’ve had 364 hours of formal training in Japanese. The textbook that we covered in class was the Minna no Nihongo series 1-1, 1-2, 2-1 and 2-2.

It was also a great opportunity in the sense that I didn’t have to include the results of these Japanese modules towards my modular credits at school. Essentially, they were considered extra-curricular modules. And that was great because I really dun foresee myself scoring A’s in a language module. And I was right, I scored mostly B’s.

I decided that I should sit for the JLPT exams to get myself accredited. I also decided that I should skip the JLPT4 exams as it was just going to be a waste of money. Level 3 will supercede level 4 anyway. And the exams are held once a year so it made sense to skip a level and save 1 year.

However, the date of the JLPT exams did pose a problem. JLPT is traditional held on the first Sunday of every December in Singapore. Unfortunately, StanChart Marathon is also always held on the first Sunday of every December. It will clash every single year.

I did contemplate about taking JLPT as early as in 2007 (after 1 yr of formal lessons), but I finally decided to attempt the full marathon with Dear2 instead. In 2008 (after 2 yr of formal lessons), I again thought about taking JLPT, but still decided to stick with our half marathon. This year however, Dear2 is expecting our first child so all our running plans are cancelled for the rest of the year, and so I decided that I will go ahead and sit for my JLPT3. :D

Now comes the tough part, I have not been studying Japanese for the past 14 months. The only chance I have to practice was during our Japan honeymoon, regularly watching anime and interpreting the product descriptions at Daiso.

There is roughly about 7 weeks to the exams and I have not started revising yet. I need to study all 4 Minna no Nihongo books to prepare for this exam. In effect, I need to revise everything I had learnt over my 2 years of study. And I haven’t started yet… oh no…

My goal is to attain JLPT2. Anything above that would be a bonus to me and would only be attempted if I have the time (and motivation). But first, I need to get past the hurdle of JLPT3 this year. Time to pull up my socks!

-Dear1

Anime Watching

All of us grew up watching some form of children program on TV. One genre of programs that captured the imaginations of countless children worldwide is animation, or cartoon in some places.

For us in Singapore, we grew up watching mainly cartoons from America, be it Disney or Marvel. Pardon me for the over generalization but I feel that American cartoons of my era (1980-90s) fall into 2 main categories, Talking Animals or Superheroes.

The only Japanese animation that we had and I could remember was Doraemon. Of course, during that time, I couldn’t tell the difference between American and Japanese animations. To me, they were all cartoons, the only difference being whether they were shown on Channel 5 or Channel 8.

I enjoyed watching cartoons immensely as a child. I remember rushing home from primary school everyday so that I could catch the 6.15pm cartoon on Channel 5. I remember learning how to operate the timer function on the VCR so that I could record cartoons that I knew I was going miss. I remember recording and compiling my own cartoon series so that I could watch them over and over again. I remember The Land Before Time was my all time favourite movie for many years and If We Hold On Together was my all time favourite song.

I remember proudly declaring to my mum that I will never ever grow sick of cartoons and will never stop watching cartoons even when I grow older.

I was that much a fan. And in a way, I did fulfill my declaration. Till this day, I am still very much in love with animation, just that I had shifted from American cartoon to Japanese anime.

I couldn’t really remember when I started the switch. Perhaps it was during the time when SCV started screening up to date anime from Japan. I recall persuading my mum to sign up for SCV just so that I could watch the anime Detective Conan. It was then that I realized animated films can be much more than Talking Animals and Superheroes. It was then that I realized opening and ending songs of anime didn’t need to sound childish. It was then that I realized themes such as crime, guilt and justice can be embodied by an anime.

It was then that I realized anime can be enjoyed by adults too.

It wasn’t until broadband was introduced that the anime became more accessible. Thanks to the hard work of fansub groups, the latest anime from Japan was able to reach out to all corners of the world. I even considered joining a fansub group to make my little contribution to the anime world.

The next big event that contributed to the accessibility of anime was video streaming. Just click Play and moments later the video will begin its run. Now, anime fans around the world could watch their favourite anime even with a basic broadband connection.

I digress.

A few years back, at my peak, I used to watch about 5-10 anime per season. I used to watch an episode or two in the morning while I sipped away at my morning coffee. Those were the days. However, it felt like I was choosing quantity over quality.

Since moving in with Dear2, I’ve learned to reduce my anime intake and focus on quality instead. These days, I watch about 1-2 anime per season. And I would introduce those that I think are really good to Dear2 so that we can watch them together as a couple.

I guess I really will never outgrow anime. And in the future, hopefully Dear2, baby and me can all watch anime together as a family past-time. :D

-Dear1

(p.s. Currently, I’m trying to find a good, calm and tranquil anime that perhaps Dear2 and I can watch together in the delivery room at TMC so as to take her mind off the labour pain. I wonder if they have DVD players there?)

Japan trip expenses

Ok, I’m going to talk about Japan (yet again). Haha… Yes, I know I know, I’ve been writing alot of Japan. But that’s only becos we really did enjoy Japan that much. :D Ok, let’s get down to my motivations for writing this post. There are 2. First, to document our lives and also to provide a guideline for others who wish to make an estimate of how much a Japan F&E holiday costs for budgeting purposes. Second, to illustrate the importance of using credit cards to pay for big ticket items. Point 2 about credit cards will be covered in a subsequent post. Let’s begin.

Broadly, there are 2 time frames where we need to make payments. Before the trip, and during the trip. The difference being that, Singapore dollars is most likely to be used before the trip while the foreign currency, in this case Japanese yen, is to used during the trip. For payment in SGD, it is advisable to pay by credit card to earn reward points and cash rebates. For overseas spending, my take is that there are some uncertainty involved in exchange rates and it only makes sense to use a credit card if u r able to achieve savings in point & cash rebates greater than the best money exchange rate available (for example in Chinatown or Mustafa). For us, we were able to get good exchange rates from a Singaporean friend who is working in Japan so we pay everything in cash during the trip. For reference, we’ll be using 1 SGD = 62 JPY. Amounts quote are total spendings for two. Format is item – amount – payment method.

Before the trip

  1. Northwest Airlines tickets – SGD 1462 – Manhattan Card
  2. Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku (6 nights) – SGD 1184.21 – Manhattan Card
  3. Ichinoyu Honkan (1 night) – SGD 312.19 – Manhattan Card
  4. JR East Pass (4 day flexi) – SGD 678 – Manhattan Card

Total: SGD 3636.40

During the trip

  1. Food – JPY 70721 (SGD 1140.66) – Cash
  2. Transport – JPY 35830 (SGD 577.90) – Cash
  3. Hotel (4 nights) – JPY 34320 (SGD 553.55) – Cash
  4. Attractions – JPY 25000 (SGD 403.23) – Cash
  5. Shopping – JPY 32667 (SGD 526.89) – Cash

Total: SGD 3202.23

So, in total we spent SGD 6838.63. But in fact, our actual expense is less than that, becos we were able to get 5% cashback (SGD 181.82) from using our Manhattan Card. We received the cashback 1 month after we returned. This meant that our actual amount spent after deducting cashback is (3636.40 – 181.82 + 3202.23) = SGD 6656.81 (everything included) for two for 12 days in Japan. :D

-Dear1

Tokyo honeymoon route

I’m playing around with how to embed Google Maps into wordpress. And what better way than to experiment with our Tokyo honeymoon route. Gee… Here’s how it looks like. Took me about 15 mins to draw.

Interesting… This will be useful for visualizing places that we’ve visited or places of interest both outside and within Singapore.

Now, how do I change the marker symbols? And what about marker colours? Line colours? Lots of things to learn. Tips, anyone?

-Dear1

Japan Toilets

It has been almost 2 months since Dear1 and Dear2 returned from Japan.  If there is 1 thing that impressed Dear2 the most out of this trip, that will be TOILETS.

Japanese toilets are so thoughtful!!  By no means of degradation, let’s talk about how amazing they are.

Train stations

Ever have that urge to use the washroom while you are traveling on the MRT?  It’ll mean getting off at the next stop, but pray that 1) there is a washroom at that MRT station (yes, SOME stations DO NOT have toilets), 2) It is NOT Closed (for renovation, for washing etc), and 3) It is clean (tell me about it, Singapore toilets, not sparing those in MRT stations, are usually dirty….).

Well, in Japan, these are hardly considerations at all.  There’s usually a washroom within the station gantry itself (in Singapore, I still need to get out of the MRT gantry to get to the ladies), and it’s usually CLEAN.  Tell me about it again, I wonder why is it that Japanese can keep their toilets so clean, and yet Singaporeans dunno how to pee properly?  Nope, it’s not becos they have more cleaners.  I know becos even the train station in the wilderness is clean and there is no sight of any cleaners in that ‘ulu’ station.

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Toilet INSIDE a train station

And oh, some of their trains come with toilets as well!!  That’s so considerate, as the typical Japanese usually spend a lot time getting from 1 place to the other via the train.

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The occasional toilet IN a train

Public parks

Ever been to a public park where the locality map is dotted with PLENTY of washroom signs?  Not a sight you’ll ever find in Singapore.  Not to say that there’s none, but surely when u finally manage to reach one, plus factor in another 10 minutes of queuing time, becos due to its scarcity, the toilets are usually packed.  This is in vast difference as compared to Japan where there’s almost always 1 at the optimal location, plus some incidental ones along the route.

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Just look at how many toilets are there in this park

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A pretty shed in the park that is actually a washroom

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And this is one in the serenity of a temple compound

In Restaurants/ Eateries/ Shops

Big restaurant, small eateries, even shops, they usually have their own toilets.  Ya, we have our Singapore OK washrooms in all food centres and coffee shops, but try visiting one today and I can almost assure u that tonight’s appetite for dinner might be gone.  Why is it that the cleanliness level of these Japanese public toilets can be comparable to that at home, but you’ll never find one like that in Singapore, except maybe in an ‘atas’ hotel or shopping centre?

Along roads

This is not a common sight in Japan though, but Dear1 and Dear2 managed to spot one while walking along Omotesando road, one of the up market shopping street in Japan.  How you wish that toilets in Orchard Road are not so hard to locate, and again, I dun have to queue so long with so many tourists….

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A surprise find along ‘Orchard Road’

Coming back to Singapore, Dear2 wondered why Japanese toilets are always so clean?  Dear2 finally concluded that this must be really due to their considerate nature.  Are you considerate enough?

– Dear2