Taking the JLPT exams – what if you are deaf?

In my previous post, I gave some advice on learning Japanese. Now, if you want to get an official recognition for your learning Japanese, you can take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, JLPT for short (日本語能力試験, nihongo nõryoku shiken).

Actually, now that it is April, it is the time of the year to apply for the summer JLPT. In Japan, the registration forms should be available at many bookstores, and it needs to be filled in and posted by April 30th.

The test used to be in four levels, but it has been expanded to five levels in 2010:

  • N5 – the ability to understand some basic Japanese
  • N4 – the ability to understand basic Japanese
  • N3 – the ability to understand Japanese in everyday situations to a certain degree
  • N2 – the ability to understand Japanese in everyday situations and in a variety of circumstances, to a certain degree
  • N1 – the ability to understand Japanese in a variety of circumstances

When you are thinking about moving to and working in Japan, I suggest you try to pass the N2 or N1 levels: many companies ask for these. They will be OK with N2, but some may prefer N1. Having at least N2 will greatly increase your chances of getting employed in Japan.

The exams are conducted by the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES), but you can take the exams elsewhere in the world. For the closest examination center, please refer to this page.

The JLPT exam consists of several sections, which test your vocabulary, grammar knowledge, kanji reading, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension. If you are deaf, you won’t be able to take the listening test, but you can get an exemption from that. To request this, please contact your nearest JLPT examination center. In my experience, I have only dealt with the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, the U.K., which is where I took my JLPT2 exam (equivalent to N2) in 2007 – when it was still categorized in 4 levels. They have an e-mail address, so you can easily contact them and request the “Request Form for Special Arrangements”. You need to submit this form along with your usual application form.

I believe they will ask for medical records to prove that you are indeed deaf. They will keep this in their records, so that you don’t have to supply them again the next time you take another JLPT exam at a higher level, for example. So you are advised to prepare these documents beforehand.

If you are in Japan, like me, you need to go through the JEES itself. But here is the thing: they do not accept inquiries by e-mail!JEES JLPT inquiries: no e-mail!

In this case you’ll have to ask someone to call them for you, or fax them that you would like to receive the special arrangements request form at your specified home address.

When I took the test in 2007, there were three sections: the vocabulary section, where your kanji reading and knowledge of the vocabulary are tested; the listening section where your listening and comprehension abilities are tested; the reading comprehension and grammar test where you’d have to read blocks of texts, and answer questions about them, and where your grammar knowledge is also tested. I was exempted from the listening test, so I had a long break between the first part which was held in the morning, and the third part which was held some time after 2pm.

Now, they have changed that. When I took the tests in Japan, there were sections testing your kanji reading, knowledge of vocabulary, grammar knowledge, and reading comprehension, all in one part. The listening test came afterwards, but I could just go home. So that is one issue well done.

Did you take any JLPT tests? What was your experience with regards to your disability? And if you haven’t taken any yet, which level are you planning to take? How do you feel about it?

What are your thoughts?