Okay, so you are probably asking yourself right about now, What?!?! I have to write an essay for the test? Well, no you don’t have to write an essay, but being able to write one and use the proper connectors is incredibly important because you will be reading essays on the test that you’ll have to answer a few comprehension questions about.
Also, the third grammar section of most of the tests has a text that you must fill in the appropriate grammatical item. Being confident of what item goes where will really help you to answer these questions quickly and smoothly.
It will probably be a bit daunting at first to write an essay in Japanese. Remember to start small and write longer and longer essays as you get more and more confident with your writing skills. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either, that’s how you learn.
If you want to get really into it, you could even start up a blog with your essays. It’s great to be able to share your ideas and thoughts with others and who knows, you might get some comments and be able to practice your Japanese with some native speakers.
Again, like comprehension reading, I wouldn’t recommend this as an every day activity, but it might be useful to do this a couple of times a week or a couple of times a month.
How I usually practice this is I try to summarize a TED talk that I watched. These talks are usually about academic topics and are generally pretty interesting. I’ll try my best explaining the talk to my wife and work out the details with her, then put pen to paper.
1) In order to write an essay, you’ll need to have a topic first. This can be a little tricky the first couple of times. Think about something you can react to, like a news story, a movie, a book, or even something that happened to you.
Another thing you can do to get some ideas is to find some random images and try to form a story from them. For example, you could visit Flickr.com, they have the most interesting images from the last 7 days you can look at for ideas. Or if you are really in the mood for something nutty, you can try out random plot lines to write stories from.
2) Once you have an idea to write about it’s time to start writing. The easiest place to do this is on a computer. You might want to try that the first couple of times before writing on paper just to get started. A computer will help you by giving you the appropriate kanji so that you don’t have to worry about that.
3) Keep a grammar textbook nearby to peek at every once in awhile to see if you can add anything to your writing from it. You don’t want to try to force the language too much. Don’t worry about making mistakes either.
4) Don’t be afraid to try out a FEW new words. Don’t jam the essay full of everything you possibly can. If you DO add a few words (that are new to you), be sure to add them to your flashcard system.
5) After you are done writing the essay, either submit it to a website like lang-8.com for review or have a native speaker look it over and proofread it.
6) For an extra challenge have your native speaker friend point out WHERE the mistake is, but not WHAT the mistake is. Then, try to correct it yourself.