With the goal of taking (and passing, fingers crossed) the JLPT N1 Level this year, I bought the entire set of Nihongo So-Matome (NSM) and New Kanzen Master N1 reviewers. I did an initial review and comparison of all the books from both series but this time, since I’ve already finished the entire 聴解/Listening Comprehension material, I am doing a full review of it.
NSM’s Listening Comprehension book is priced at 1600JPY which is a couple hundreds more expensive than the rest of the books from the series. If you were to get it from Amazon, like I did, it would be 1760JPY.
For this price, you will get a 63-page softcover book, a separate 44-page script slash answer key and 2 CDs that contain the audio tracks. If you would rather download the recordings online, on the front inside fold of the book’s cover, you would also get the link, QR code and serial code to do so.
The book suggests studying 2 pages per day. Doing so, you should be able to finish the entire book in 4 weeks.
The lessons are divided into five chapters, the title and topics of each are:
CHAPTER 1: PREPARATION CHAPTER
One lesson about practicing pronunciation-related listening techniques, 2 lessons about practicing grammar-related listening techniques, one related about conversational expressions. The last day is for a ‘summary practice test’.
CHAPTER 2: GETTING USED TO QUESTION PATTERNS
Lessons are: giving prompt responses, identifying the subject, understanding the point, giving the summary, providing the synthesis. Again, these is a ‘summary practice test’ to end the chapter.
CHAPTER 3: LISTENING TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONVERSATIONS
Here, you get to practice listening for certain information, instructions, explanations and the main point. The final day is still dedicated to a summary practice test.
CHAPTER 4: REMEMBERING VARIOUS VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS
In this chapter, you will be introduced to commonly used katakana words, expressions for paraphrasing, commonly used expressions. This section still ends with a summary practice test.
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY TEST
This is a long summary test to practice what you have learned over the last four weeks.
You start with a page or so of lessons (no more than 2) about that current day’s strategy to improve your listening comprehension. In some cases, the lesson also makes use of audio materials and the corresponding script to demonstrate the technique being discussed. Then, you get 2-4 recordings and related questions to practice the lesson.
The summary practice tests for each chapter are about 3 pages long.
All Nihongo So-Matome reviewers come with English, Chinese and Korean translations.
First of all, I like that you can download the audio materials online and that they made that process very easy to do especially when the New Kanzen Master contender makes you go through more hoops to get the recordings.
The one-month study schedule is also a nice way to motivate a lazy learner (a.k.a. Me). Starting out, I thought, “Woah, finishing this book 30 days from now? That sounds so easy!”. And once I did finish it, I felt like I was able to cover a considerable amount within the last month.
In my opinion, the lessons themselves are not bad either. The techniques and strategies taught were easy to follow and implement (on their accompanying practice tests, at least). The fact that the daily lesson materials were short and very easy to process also made self-studying not difficult.
The audio materials were clear and, as far as I can tell, natural-sounding in terms of pace and delivery.
I personally wish there were more practice questions for each lesson. Some of them only came with two and when I studied those, I always walked away feeling like I did not do enough that day.
Though at this point of my studies, it suited me just fine, I have a feeling that more advanced N1 test-takers would complain about audio materials being more on the easy side and made simple to really fit that day’s specific lesson.
Maybe it’s just me, but I also would prefer it if there were more variations to the voices (maybe even accents?) used. I think there were only 2 or 3 different voices that I could distinguish.
Overall, I actually enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it but NOT as an exclusive resource for improving your listening comprehension for the JLPT N1 level. Honestly, it suited me perfectly at this point in my studies where I’m just trying to get back on track and wanting to gradually get used to the level required for the JLPT N1.