The Horrors of Taking the JLPT Test in China
I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N1 last Sunday. I won’t even go into the logistics of the test. Like, who says あるまじき anymore? Whatever.
What I want to complain about is: The test center. I signed up for the nearest testing location in Shanghai, which was deep in the-middle-of-nowhere subrb. I get to the university (testing location) and ask the nearest guard about the JLPT test, and she’s oblivious. She points me to a nearby sign that has some stuff on it. Lo and behold, it lists all information about the JLPT–except where to actually take it.
After searching the no-signage campus and asking 25 random Chinese students, I was finally able to locate the testing center.
So imagine my surprise when I walk into the test room and see that, lovely, there’s no air conditioning.
I don’t know if any of you have ever lived in Asia in the summer, BUT IT SUCKS. It’s basically like living in a sauna. A big, hot, steamy sauna. I was already a sweaty mess, and I was about to join 40 other piles of sweat in a tiny room for 4 hours. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pleasant.
If any of you have ever taken JLPT in Japan, you know they aint fcking around. They bust out the red and yellow warning cards and aren’t afraid to use them. You touched your booklet before the starting time? Yellow card. I remember someone actually flipped their test booklet over and got a red card. You just don’t mess around with standardized tests in Japan.
Of course, in China, as soon as we received the booklets everyone started looking through the questions before the start time. The proctors didn’t care and watched the students flip through the test questions 20 minutes prior to the test. Awesome.
I couldn’t find my seat, so I asked the proctor in perfect Mandarin:
“Excuse me, I can’t find my seat, could you please tell me where it is?”
Answer? I don’t know. She started speaking Shanghai dialect to me.
Now. My biggest pet peeve is Shanghai-hua, so don’t get me started on this subject. But seriously, man, I was even holding my USA passport with my big white woman face to match. Do you honestly think I’m going to understand Shanghai-hua?
In Japan they speak to me in broken English. In Shanghai, they speak to me in a dialect that only 1% of the population understands. I don’t know which one is worse.
Test starts and I’m whizzing through. I’m reading one of the reading comprehension passages over for the third time or so when I hear it.
Someone hawkin a loogie.
Chinese people love to spit. I always ask my Chinese friends why, but they just kind of shrug and look at me. They tell me that older people spit because they don’t know better and weren’t educated, but I was in a room with 20-30 year olds taking a Japanese test. I mean, seriously. Explain that.
Listening section starts. In the JLPT, they only play the recording once so you really have to concentrate on what the speaker is saying and don’t miss a peep. Not even one vowel.
The two proctors were talking throughout the entire first question. They didn’t leave the room to talk, nor did they talk in quiet voices. They were talking in weinaloudclub type voices. I was appalled no one said anything at this point, because it was beyond distracting. I most likely missed the first two questions because I had to hear this Shanghai-hua garbage over the Japanese dialogue.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I stood up, slammed my hands on the desk and screamed:
They shut up.
Thoroughly stressed and a few blood pressure points away from a heart attack, I handed in my test and got in a cab to the nearest bar.
A few months later–somehow–I passed the test.
I am, officially, JLPT 1 certified.
Registering for the JLPT in China
Surprisingly, it’s easier to register for the JLPT in China than it is in Japan. The process in Japan involves hunting down a Kinokuniya bookstore to get a paper application, which requires a special stamp and specific mailing instructions. Register online? Good god, that’s too convenient for Japan.
The Chinese office was really helpful–in fact, they even answer the phone on a frequent basis! (they can help you in both Chinese and Japanese, but I’m not sure about English).
For general info about the test visit the Japanese Language Proficiency Test official homepage.
For registration in China, easily register online at the National Education Examinations Authority, Ministry of Education, the People’s Republic of China (try saying that ten times fast).