I believe I've mentioned both my Japanese sensei who comes to the Kaisha once a week to flog me with a kanji textbook, and also the Test. The Test that is fast-approaching.
I'm actually not that anxious about it, and aside from calmly acknowledging the fact that I will most likely not pass due to shockingly good marks in listening and shockingly shocking ones in kanji, I am feeling pretty zen (wink wink) about the whole thing. As long as I don't read the information on the test voucher that warrants two different styles of underlining that is. I don't know if the TOEFL or TOEIC people are as anal as those from the JLPT, but I'm convinced the JLPT peeps are employing scare tactics to keep everyone in line.
Before applying for the test there is a little 45-page booklet that you must read before attempting to fill out the application form. The booklet first instructs us: "Do not throw away the booklet until you receive your test results". OK. Then scattered throughout the most anal and exceedingly Japanese explanations contained in said booklet, there are little warnings screaming out at you from the page: "Every year people do not receive their test vouchers due to mistakes on their application forms", "every year --% of examinees are expelled from the test site for letting their cell phones ring", "every year --% of examinees have incomplete test scores due to tardiness". They even go so far as to tell us not to bring our cell phones. What mad planet are these people from? First, we are in Japan, where 5 year-olds sport their own cells and second, most people have to trek at least an hour from home to some second-rate university testing site and they want us to do this with no mode of communication?! I say i to the iie to that.
I could be completely off base here, but I could have sworn the test booklets in past years contained little smiley faces that were more often than not frowning, with little crosses for eyes to draw your attention to yet another warning. Reading through the test materials always makes me feel as if I have made the Test People mad, by my mere existence as someone who studies Japanese and is eligible to take the Test.
But back to the two fast-unravelling threads running through this post: my sensei and the Test. Or was it red cards? During the test, the proctors employ a warning system not unlike that of football (not American football, Americans!), in which yellow and red cards are furiously waved at players to signal a foul. The first and to date only time I have taken the Test, I thought the proctors were joking when they demonstrated holding up the coloured cards while running through a litany of Prohibited Behaviour. In essence, if you receive a yellow card once, your second offence is likely to graduate you to a red card. There are however, certain events in which you will be directly handed a red card, which essentially means Get the fuck out! I looked at my Test peers in amazement when some of them had the audacity to keep writing after Pencils Down. Or those who couldn't help but whisper to their neighbours despite the proctor's warning. I don't know if as far as classroom scare tactics go there are differences in the Asian and Western classroom, but those yellow and red cards sure as hell kept me in line. I did however, almost get a yellow card during the break time when I was having a smoko in a Prohibited Area. This must be an Asian classroom technique: just when you think you can relax during break time, they sneak up and get you from behind. Was the Original Head Test Man a football fan? What in the world gave the JLPT people this idea for discipline?
This just about brings me to the end of my not-much-of-a-story. I was about ready to red card my sensei today, and I might just prepare a yellow and red card just in case, for our next battle. Things up until today had been going swimmingly, until I asked her to quickly read me the answers to a mock test I had completed at home. This turned into almost 45 minutes of her going back and forth between my answers and the book's, and included tittering on her part when she thought that the incorrect kanji reading I chose was tres amusant. I should have just taken the reins at that point and told her what I wanted to study during our limited time, but I got so pissed off at her incessant tittering that I was stony silent for the remainder of our time together, only speaking when spoken to. What the fuck is her problem? I told her I would take full responsibility for my kanji duncedom. And for such a normally cool old lady, she was a real red-card deserving witch today.