More About the JLPT Level 4 Test

1. The JLPT Level 4 test seems, based on our assessment, to cover a very wide range of various superficial phenomena in Japanese at random. It seems to require a student to study the entire scope of the Japanese language (with the inexplicable exception of some very important aspects of oral communication - see example at 2. below), learning grammar in a fragmentary, hit-and-miss fashion instead of taking the integrated, comprehensive approach required for truly useful understanding. It looks as if those who made questions had a perverse desire to force test-takers to traverse a huge jungle by checking one tree at a time.

2. Moreover, in Japanese, conversations are mostly carried out with e-N' DESU*' endings. JLPT Level 4 test, in contrast, mostly tests just eDESU'/'-MASU' endings, which are mainly used in written Japanese, and contains almost no content concerning conversational e-N' DESU' endings. In fact, the 2008 version of the JLPT Level 4 test had no content containing eN' DESU' endings at all.

*The -N' DESU ending, the conversational ending, involves the listener in the conversation, and shows that the speaker is trying to convey a certain implication to the listener in addition to the pure value of reporting information. The implication is basically as follows:

1. "I want to have a talk with you about what I am currently saying."
2. "I have something more to talk about."
3. "I want you to catch the gist or the drift of what I've said."
4. "This is the reason for what I am going to say or do, or for what I have said or done."
5. When used in the question from, -N' DESU-KA?, the speaker is trying to imply, gI want to have a more detailed answer rather than just a simple answer like eyes' or eno,' because I have something I want to talk about <although I don't have to, or wish to actually mention it>.h

It sounds quite awkward, however, to use the -N' DESU ending when reporting pure unilateral information to the listener, or when inquiring about pure unilateral information from the listener. Although the -N' DESU ending is most commonly used in conversation, it cannot be used when the speaker is conveying one-way unilateral information, such as when the speaker is:

1. Writing a diary, a letter, or a report
2. Addressing an audience
3. Reporting or describing a fact
4. Making an announcement, a declaration, or a warning
5. Exchanging greetings or paying a compliment
6. Asking for a simple agreement (in which case the ending must be followed by the particle -NE)
7. Asking for a simple answer, such as eyes,' or eno.'