You’ve got to have goals, right?

I think that’s something I’ve been lacking since law school started. Through elementary school and high school and undergrad, there was always something I was shooting for. An academic award, a prize, finishing a cross-country race in less than 10 million minutes, a certain GPA, whatever. There was always something that I wanted to achieve.

I didn’t really aim for anything in law school though. I recognized very early on that although I could put up average to above average grades across the board, there was no way I’d be getting any awards – not without devoting my entire existence to schoolwork, anyhow. I did a basic cost-benefit analysis and decided that it just wasn’t worth it, and so I spent three years without any goal other than “pass” and “get a job”.

Now that I’m done with school, I think it’d be good for me to have something to aim for again. Unfortunately, there’s not much to aim for within the articling process other than “pass the bars” and “get another job once this one is over”.

Here’s where my renewed Japanese study comes in. It’s so easy to have a goal when it comes to learning a language. In fact, it’s easy to have tons of goals. Being able to order food in the language of your choice could be a goal. Being able to read a particular book or short story could be another.

As for myself, I think the ultimate goal would be to become as strong with Japanese as I once was with French. Not fluent, but strong enough that if I was in a situation where I had to speak to someone in that language, I could do it and the other person would understand me in spite of grammatical errors.

That’s way down the line though. I mean, I studied French for a dozen years. Granted, for less than an hour per day, and only three days per week, but still. I don’t expect to get that far with Japanese for years, if ever.

As a more immediate goal, I like the idea of taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) in December. It’s a standardized test which is held in dozens of countries worldwide to evaluate non-native Japanese speakers.

There are five levels of the test, ranging from N5 (basic) to N1 (near fluency). I’d be attempting the N5 in December, unless I progress faster than expected and feel ambitious enough to attempt the N4. Since the test is only held once per year in Toronto, I’d rather pass the N5 than fail the N4 and have to wait a year to retry, so I’m likely to err on the side of caution on that front.

Whether I actually go through with this or not remains to be seen. Two weeks in I’m still pretty gung-ho about this Japanese thing, but that enthusiasm could fade over time. For now though, the JLPT is something to aim for, and that’s more than I’ve had in a while.