My First Japanese ‘Shiken’ At Iloha Culture Centre



It’s been well over a quarter of a century since my last exam and I thought I would never have to take another test in my life but then in my restricted wisdom and spur of the moment decision, I went and signed up for Beginner 1 Japanese at Iloha Culture Centre and found out at the class before the penultimate class that there’d be a ‘shiken’ or test at the last class. Yikes! What had I got myself into?

Great, I was and am still struggling with Hiragana while the rest of my classmates seemed to know it like their ‘ABCs’. Maybe it is true that the older one gets, the less brain cells are active. Certainly seemed that way in my case because everyone else was able to answer correctly whenever the ‘sensei’ wrote a word in Hiragana. When he asks me, I just laugh nervously and shake my head but I have to say I am really not that disastrous when it comes to memorizing vocabulary and complete sentences so there is some hope for me yet.

D-day arrived, no escaping. I can’t be a coward and avoid the test when those half my age bravely take it. Before the ‘shiken’, we did some revision with the textbook and then we were handed a 5-page test. There was dictation, arranging jumbled sentences, filling in the blanks and answering questions based on a short story and in between all that, each of us was called out of class for a few minutes of oral Q & A with the ‘sensei’. There, really no escaping unless I fainted.

We had to answer 10 questions during the oral Q & A and to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected since I didn’t have to write anything in Hiragana. If that was a requirement, I’d have held up the white flag. I’d have admitted defeat since that is never going to be my forte.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find the written test that difficult either other than the Hiragana section. I handed up my test paper before the ‘sensei’ announced that time was up. I’m not aiming to be one of the tops scorers and am very sure I’ll never be a top scorer of any level of Beginner Japanese. My target is very low, I just want to pass and I’d be more than happy if I didn’t fail. I’ll have to wait till Wednesday to see if I make it. Now for Beginner 2 Japanese. This time it’ll be even more daunting as we’ll be learning Katakana. Wait, I haven’t even mastered Hiragana yet. What have I got myself into again? I really am trying to “ganbatte” but what if my best isn’t good enough?