10 Advanced Japanese Words to Memorize for the JLPT N1 and Fluency
Took a hiatus from studying Japanese and looking to get back in the saddle?
Don’t despair over the fact that you only remember how to say a couple simple phrases offhand, or can only respond to questions with: ちょっと。。。分かりません。
But here’s some good news: you might remember more Japanese than you’d expect.
- A Sampler of Advanced Japanese Words
- 1. 間柄 (あいだがら) — a relationship or relation to somebody or something
- 2. 合間 (あいま) — time period, stretch, interval
- 3. 曖昧 (あいまい) — vague or uncertain
- 4. 仰ぐ (あおぐ) — to look up to someone or respect someone
- 5. 赤字 (あかじ) — deficit, debt, shortage
- 6. 上がり (あがり) — to yield more, gain income, advance on something financially
- 7. 上がる (あがる) — rising or climbing
- 8. 諦め (あきらめ) — resignation, departure, acceptance
- 9. 灰汁 (あく) — astringency, puckery juice
- 10. 欺く (あざむく) — deception
- How to Memorize Advanced Japanese Words
- What Is the JLPT N1 and Why Does It Require Knowledge of Advanced Japanese Words?
A Sampler of Advanced Japanese Words
The words below are challenging because, even though some are quite short, they aren’t often found in everyday conversation.
Fitting them into the correct context can be difficult, so make sure you use the provided sentences to see how they’re actually used in conversation!
1. 間柄 (あいだがら) — a relationship or relation to somebody or something
間柄 is a noun that specifically indicates the word “relationship.” This can be used when describing or asking about a relationship to a person, company, object or anything else.
彼女とはどんな間柄ですか? (かのじょとは どんな あいだがら ですか?)
What’s your relationship with her?
2. 合間 (あいま) — time period, stretch, interval
The word 合間 can either be used as a noun or adjective. It specifically indicates “spare moments” or “spare chances” as well as breaks and pauses between actions.
It can also be used when talking about intervals in time or intervals of a specific, ongoing action.
勉強の合間に私は雨を見た。(べんきょうの あいまに わたしは あめをみた。)
I watched the rain while I was studying.
3. 曖昧 (あいまい) — vague or uncertain
This dynamic word can be a verb, an adjectival noun (also known as a quasi-adjective, which are commonly found in the Japanese language) or a regular noun. 曖昧 stands for things that are ambiguous, vague or obscure in nature.
It’s commonly used to describe someone or something’s behavior or relationship with another person. As you see below, it can also be used to describe content.
その冊子には曖昧な点が多い。(そのさっしには あいまいな てんが おおい。)
That brochure is full of ambiguity.
4. 仰ぐ (あおぐ) — to look up to someone or respect someone
仰ぐ is a verb. There are many different words in Japanese to describe ascension or admiration, but this specific word is used to denote the utmost respect and admiration for a person, figuratively “looking up” to them.
It can also be used to express dependence on someone or something.
彼らは彼を父親として仰ぐ。(かれらは かれを ちちおやとして あおぐ。)
They look up to him as their father.
5. 赤字 (あかじ) — deficit, debt, shortage
As a noun, 赤字 means literally “written in red.” This term is commonly used to describe a deficit or debt in business or economics.
It’s similar to the English term “in the red” that’s used to describe a bank account debt. 赤字 can also be used to describe corrections on school assignments.
同協会は赤字である。(どうきょうかいは あかじ である。)
That same association is in a deficit.
6. 上がり (あがり) — to yield more, gain income, advance on something financially
上がり is a noun that’s mostly used to describe a rise in income or earnings in business or personal finances.
It can also be used to describe the act of standing up or “ascending” to a higher place, either physically or metaphorically.
She stood up.
7. 上がる (あがる) — rising or climbing
上がる is very similar to 上がり, but there are some notable differences.
上がる is a verb that can be used to describe a wider range of actions, such as literally and figuratively rising, entering a building, arriving to a place or being promoted at work.
It’s also used to describe the act of catching fire or “flaring up.”
I am going up the stairs.
8. 諦め (あきらめ) — resignation, departure, acceptance
Also written as 諦める, this verb describes the acts of abandoning a task or giving up. It usually has negative or desperate connotations.
私はめったに諦めない！(わたしは めったに あきらめない！)
I rarely give up!
9. 灰汁 (あく) — astringency, puckery juice
灰汁 is used to describe a very specific substance called “puckery juice.” This substance is essentially lye or foamy scum that floats on the surface of cooking water when boiling particular foods.
Lye is used in soaps, so you’re also likely to find 灰汁 in sentences about washing clothes.
Please skim the scum off the top.
10. 欺く (あざむく) — deception
This verb denotes trickiness and deception. 欺くusually has negative connotations and may not be used to describe playful deception, but rather a real betrayal.
彼らは他人を欺くようなことはしない。(かれらは たにんをあざむくようなことは しない。)
They will not deceive others.
How to Memorize Advanced Japanese Words
Here are a few effective ways to learn advanced Japanese words and memorize them for life:
Try to think in Japanese as often as possible.
Once you get close to the tail-end of the “beginner” stage of learning Japanese, you’ll notice that you’re thinking in Japanese more often. Use this! Actively try to think in Japanese as much as possible.
Thinking in Japanese will help you find (and fill) gaps in your vocabulary. As you use the language, you’ll discover words you don’t know. Look them up and add them to your arsenal—and since you learned them through use, they’ll also be easier to remember.
Utilize your study tools.
This is basic advice, but it’s still very true. Stick to your courses, study reading and writing daily and speak Japanese with a language buddy or to yourself as often as possible.
Continuing your language education sets you up to learn more and more advanced vocabulary.
Use Japanese words daily.
Work your vocabulary words into everyday life. Stay mindful of the world around you and actively translate things you see into Japanese. Pick a few words to learn and use them as many times throughout the day as you can. Again: Context aids memory!
Invest in a set of Japanese flashcards, watch Japanese films and use every other Japanese-learning resource you can think of to activate the language portion of your brain.
Listen actively: Be aware of words you don’t know and make sure to learn them. This is the natural way to add more advanced words to your vocabulary.
Create your own Japanese mnemonic for new words.
If you can associate a particular word with a poem or abbreviation that you can easily remember, then that new word will definitely stick.
Immerse yourself in the language.
One of the best ways to learn advanced Japanese words is to come across them in context, in real conversation. If you’re not actually surrounded by Japanese, you can mimic immersion by consuming authentic learning materials.
What Is the JLPT N1 and Why Does It Require Knowledge of Advanced Japanese Words?
So, let’s talk about what the JLPT is.
The JLPT is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test created by the Japanese Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services Organization.
This test is a reliable way to evaluate and certify non-native Japanese learners at five levels of proficiency.
N1 is the most difficult and advanced level of the JLPT that one can pass.
The test covers several main points of linguistic fluency:
- Vocabulary, including kanji and kana
- Proper grammar
- Reading comprehension
- Listening skills
This test is used by everyone from employers in Japan to college courses to the Japanese government.
It’s used to officially designate a Japanese learner’s level of language proficiency, which can earn the learner a ton of benefits. These benefits include more job opportunities, educational options and even preferential treatment if one wishes to immigrate to Japan.
Even if none of the above benefits tickle your fancy, being able to pass any level of the JLPT, especially N1, is a rewarding and validating way to figure out where you stand in fluency.
Now that you know these odd words and how they fit into actual conversation, you won’t be stumped when you come across them!
Do you feel a little more fluent now that you have an arsenal of advanced Japanese words? A bit more prepared for that looming JLPT?
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.