Humor of Japanese Placement Exam

Humor of Japanese Placement Exam is adapted from a humorous book by David Sedaris: ‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames’, with this part about struggling to learn Japanese.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter The Smoking Section, pages 277-278:


(In Tokyo) I dropped by a Japanese-language school to ask about classes,

and the woman at the front desk suggested that as long I was there, I might as well take the placement exam.

“Why not?” she said. “This is as good a time as any!”

I hadn’t planned on staying that long, but I liked how fun and easy she made it sound. A test! In Japanese! I was thinking the exact same thing.

A minute later I was seated behind a closed door in a small white room.

Q: Ueno koen __ ___ desu ka?

A: Asoko desu!

It took a few minutes, but eventually I calmed down and realized that thanks to my instructional CDs, I knew quite a few of these answers, at least in the fill-in-the-blank section.

Then came the multiple-choice part, and I found myself blindly guessing.

Capping it all off was an essay question, the subject being, “My Country, an Introduction.”

“I am an American, but now I live in other places sometimes, I wrote (in Japanese). “America is a big country and not very expensive.”

Then I sat with my hands folded until an instructor came and led me back to the lobby.

My test was graded in less than a minute,

and when the woman behind the counter assigned me to the beginner’s class,

I tried to act flattered, as if there was a SUB-beginner’s class, and it had just been decided that I was too good for it.



Humor of Speaking Japanese Slowly is more from David Sedaris.

Humor of Japanese Vocabulary Cards is more from David Sedaris.

Humor of Japanese School is more from David Sedaris.

Humor of Speaking Japanese with Skill is more from David Sedaris.

Humor of Japanese Indirectness is more from David Sedaris.

Humor of the Last Day of Japanese School is more from David Sedaris.

Return to Humor of Language Learners.


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