Language | BILINGUAL

Outlook uncertain for Japanese-language exams

by Haruka Murayama

Staff writer

The words on everyone’s lips the past few weeks have been 緊急事態宣言 (kinkyū jitai sengen, declaration of a state of emergency). The official declaration came via Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s lips on April 7, a day after The Japan Educational Exchanges and Services group (JEES) made a declaration of its own: 現在検討中です (Genzai kentōchu desu, Things are under consideration at the moment).

JEES was referring to the 日本語能力試験 (Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken, Japanese Language Proficiency Test), better known as the JLPT, which is planned for Sunday, July 5. According to the JLPT website, the test was taken by as many as 610,000 people around the world in 2011, but this year some of the venues that host the exam — in London, Caracas, and Canberra to name a few — have already announced 試験の中止 (shiken no chūshi, cancellation of the exams) for July. The winter test is still expected to be held on Sunday, Dec. 6.

海外の都市で夏の試験が中止になったということは勉強できる期間が延びるということです (Kaigai no toshi de natsu no shiken ga chūshi ni natta to iu koto wa, benkyō dekiru kikan ga nobiru to iu koto desu, The cancellation of the summer exam in cities overseas means [those people will] have more time to study for the next one).

In Japan, however, the decision to cancel is still 未確定 (mikakutei, up in the air). The current 緊急事態 covers several prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, but those areas have yet to see the kind of lockdown that places like New York and London have. An official from JEES told The Japan Times, however, 実施か中止は全国で統一的な見解になるとは思いますが、まだ決まっていません (jisshi ka chūshi wa zenkoku de tōitsu-tekina kenkai ni naru to wa omoimasu ga, mada kimatte-imasen, I think there’s the point of view that [we will] carry it out or cancel it uniformly nationwide, but nothing is decided yet).

Your best bet in planning your study schedule this year is to check the JLPT website on a regular basis. When doing so, the first thing to look for is the お知らせ (o-shirase, news) section. The actual registration page comes with a 重要なお知らせ (jūyōna o-shirase, important news) tag at the top. It states that 第1回日本語能力試験は、4月8日(水)から申込受付を開始いたします (Dai ikkai Nihongo nōryoku shiken wa, shi-gatsu yōka [sui] kara mōshikomi uketsuke o kaishi-itashimasu), meaning the period for applications for the July JLPT opened from (Wed.) April 8. As the application period had been postponed by a week, the current period is shorter than usual and ends on April 20. Bear in mind that 試験を中止する場合がございます(shiken o chūshi suru baai ga gozaimasu, there’s a case in which the exam is canceled) depending on the situation of the new coronavirus.

No JLPT, no life? That’s not just popular ad copy at this point, some people need to take the test in order to maintain visas or be hired for jobs. If that is the case for you, the best advice I can give in these uncertain times is to explore other options.

Unlike the JLPT, which is held in Japan twice a year, the Business Japanese Proficiency Test offers tests on a daily basis, so it may be a good time to brush up on your business Japanese.

According to the お知らせ on the BJT website, they will “一部の会場を除き実施” (“ichibu no kaijō o nozoki jisshi,” “carry out the removal of a portion of the venues”). As of April 13, tests are being carried out as planned except for in Sapporo, Sendai and Fukuoka. (It is important to note that only Fukuoka was included in Abe’s 緊急事態宣言.) Meanwhile, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test, aka the Kanji Kentei or “Kanken,” has said plans are still on for its June 21 exam, though a representative told The Japan Times they might make a decision around the end of April.

On the bright side, 変更とキャンセル (henkō to kyanseru, alterations [rebooking] and cancellations) are possible with the BJT, and 予約した時間の24時間前までは無料 (yoyaku shita jikan no nijūyojikan mae made wa muryō, [cancellations and rebookings] are available up to 24 hours before the test day for free). If you’re concerned about the 新型コロナウイルス (shingata koronauirusu, novel coronavirus), you may want to hold off on making an appointment.

If you can’t see the information you need in a company’s お知らせ section, then you may just want to call them. In that case, look for a section marked お問い合わせ (o-toiawase, contact). If you get through, try asking, “テストは予定通りありますか?”(“Tesuto wa yotei dōri arimasu ka,” “Will you have the test as scheduled?”).

That was the situation with J-Test. When contacted on April 10, a representative said, “5月10日の試験は、今のところは実施の予定です” (“Go-gatsu tōka no shiken wa, ima no tokoro wa, jisshi yotei desu,” “For the test on May 10, at this point it will be carried out as scheduled”).

With all of the reading and talking on the phone, figuring out what’s happening with your preferred Japanese exam of choice may end up becoming a test in and of itself.

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