QR Codes

By Michael Gakuran | | Other | 24 Comments |

Have you heard of QR (Quick Response) codes? I came across them in Japan but didn’t realise it was possible to create your own! You can store things like URLs, email addresses or phone numbers in these little barcode blocks, but reading them yourself is a bit of a challenge.

I was reading Nodehi’s blog post about it and thinking about the difficulties with reading QR codes. But in Japan, most mobile phones have a build in reader. You just take a photograph of the QR code with the phone’s camera and it’ll bring up the relevant information, like a website or something. Apparently you can download and install the Kaywa reader application on your mobile phone. Of course, I don’t think there is much reason to put one on one’s website (especially if it just contains a URL to your own website!), but they could be good for business cards and other flyers and such that you might want to give out. Still, go and give it a try and see what your own website address looks like in a QR code! Here’s the link: Create!

To those who haven’t been following my repeated twitter updates about studying, studying and… studying for JLPT, I’m taking level 1, the highest level. JLPT stands for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and is used by employers to determine a non-native’s Japanese ability. There is no speaking or writing sections, but there is a rather tough listening section and a solid reading section. To be frank, it isn’t looking good. The listening section has a nasty habit of tricking me into thinking that I actually understand the dialogue and am answering correctly, but then it cuts me down to size when I come to mark my answers and discover how many I have gotten wrong. I’m still only scrapping 69% on most of my tries, and the pass mark for the whole exam is 70%…

Reading is just bad. I have real trouble finishing the reading section in the 90 minutes given. Grammar takes about 20 minutes and then the remaining 70 minutes require intense, focussed power-power. There are several articles to read and questions for each. The type of questions that ask you ‘what is the author trying to say’. As if the texts weren’t hard enough! Working out what what the author is saying is hardly the most objective of tasks…

Still, I guess comparatively the JLPT1 test is still easy. Living and working in Japan are gonna require a lot more than JLPT1!

Anyway, I have to go for some last minute grammar revision!

24 comments on “QR Codes
  1. Mike says:

    Interesting story!

    I know what you mean about being all read and no speak. Too many people drill reading and kanji and think they’re fluent. Personally, I place value on clear, coherent speech with near-native pronunciation at the top of my list. Some people disagree and say that as long as you can speak reasonably clearly in a language, it’s enough not to sound like a native.

    I disagree. Not sounding like a native is one of the biggest factors in not fitting in in many situations. I don’t know of any evidence and this is just based on my own observations, but I find that it’s just very difficult to fully relax with people who do not speak your mother tongue with an accent similar to your own. This goes for different races brought up in the same society too.

    Of course, everybody does not have to sound *exactly* like everybody else in a society, but there seems to be a threshold where someone stops being an outsider and becomes an insider (when considering accent in isolation). Consider a Chinese-born British vs. a Chinese person who has come from China to live in Britain. Unless the latter has studied to an exceptionally high level and can pronounce the English alphabet correctly, with the correct emphasis on parts of words and clear, crisp syllables, I would feel less at ease with that person than the British-born Chinese who has been brought up in a British environment and speaks like me. It’s my aim to achieve that level of integration in Japan, and I believe speaking without sounding like a foreigner at all is crucial to doing it.

    Of course, some people have the opposite reaction of pulling back in fear of a foreigner who speaks their language fluently, but I suppose (and hope) that they are the minority.

    A bit of a self-righteous tangent there, but anyway! ^^;

    JLPT is all about reading, recognition and listening though. So kanji-crunching is paramount to success. I think it’d be better for you to hit 1 kyuu straight away, unless your employer wants 2 kyuu now.

  2. Mike says:

    Interesting story!

    I know what you mean about being all read and no speak. Too many people drill reading and kanji and think they’re fluent. Personally, I place value on clear, coherent speech with near-native pronunciation at the top of my list. Some people disagree and say that as long as you can speak reasonably clearly in a language, it’s enough not to sound like a native.

    I disagree. Not sounding like a native is one of the biggest factors in not fitting in in many situations. I don’t know of any evidence and this is just based on my own observations, but I find that it’s just very difficult to fully relax with people who do not speak your mother tongue with an accent similar to your own. This goes for different races brought up in the same society too.

    Of course, everybody does not have to sound *exactly* like everybody else in a society, but there seems to be a threshold where someone stops being an outsider and becomes an insider (when considering accent in isolation). Consider a Chinese-born British vs. a Chinese person who has come from China to live in Britain. Unless the latter has studied to an exceptionally high level and can pronounce the English alphabet correctly, with the correct emphasis on parts of words and clear, crisp syllables, I would feel less at ease with that person than the British-born Chinese who has been brought up in a British environment and speaks like me. It’s my aim to achieve that level of integration in Japan, and I believe speaking without sounding like a foreigner at all is crucial to doing it.

    Of course, some people have the opposite reaction of pulling back in fear of a foreigner who speaks their language fluently, but I suppose (and hope) that they are the minority.

    A bit of a self-righteous tangent there, but anyway! ^^;

    JLPT is all about reading, recognition and listening though. So kanji-crunching is paramount to success. I think it’d be better for you to hit 1 kyuu straight away, unless your employer wants 2 kyuu now.

  3. billywest says:

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry I didn’t catch your response sooner.

    Actually have never taken the test officially. I took a previous 2-kyu test a couple of years ago for practice and scored very high so now I don’t want to waste time or money taking the official 2-kyu test, but would rather go for 1-kyu. But, knowing too many people who hold 1-kyu without having the slightest mastery of the language at all, I’ve kind of lost my motivation. I mean, just a month ago, a co-worker was impressing me with his reading skills while on break. But then, he asked me to go with him to help set up his internet service at an internet sales kiosk. I mean, he honestly didn’t know much of what was happening in the conversation with the salesgirl.

    Plus, I will definitely have to hit the kanji hard if I’m going to pass that part of the 1-kyu test.

    I suppose I should bite the bullet and at least grab up a 2-kyu certificate just in case I’m in the market for job again anytime soon. Haven’t needed it so far, though.

  4. billywest says:

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry I didn’t catch your response sooner.

    Actually have never taken the test officially. I took a previous 2-kyu test a couple of years ago for practice and scored very high so now I don’t want to waste time or money taking the official 2-kyu test, but would rather go for 1-kyu. But, knowing too many people who hold 1-kyu without having the slightest mastery of the language at all, I’ve kind of lost my motivation. I mean, just a month ago, a co-worker was impressing me with his reading skills while on break. But then, he asked me to go with him to help set up his internet service at an internet sales kiosk. I mean, he honestly didn’t know much of what was happening in the conversation with the salesgirl.

    Plus, I will definitely have to hit the kanji hard if I’m going to pass that part of the 1-kyu test.

    I suppose I should bite the bullet and at least grab up a 2-kyu certificate just in case I’m in the market for job again anytime soon. Haven’t needed it so far, though.

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  6. Great content! I just came across your blog and actually read your posts! I wish you would post more often. It is hard to find good informative blog like yours! Thanks for the information. – Versa

  7. Mike says:

    That’s interesting Billy, thanks for your comment.

    I’ve heard in other places that 1 kyuu is not a necessity, but a very good thing to have when looking for work, especially for people like me who don’t yet have any marketable work experience outside of part time jobs.

    I just have to hope that my efforts were enough this time around. It’s not so much of a problem if I don’t pass, and all my revision really boosted my Japanese these last few months. So it’s mainly money that will be lost if I fail.

    Out of interest, do you hold any JLPT certificates?

  8. Mike says:

    That’s interesting Billy, thanks for your comment.

    I’ve heard in other places that 1 kyuu is not a necessity, but a very good thing to have when looking for work, especially for people like me who don’t yet have any marketable work experience outside of part time jobs.

    I just have to hope that my efforts were enough this time around. It’s not so much of a problem if I don’t pass, and all my revision really boosted my Japanese these last few months. So it’s mainly money that will be lost if I fail.

    Out of interest, do you hold any JLPT certificates?

  9. billywest says:

    Hope you’ve passed level 1!

    But, even if you didn’t, you will in the near future. Employers here usually look for at least level 2; beyond a level-2-or-better qualification requirement, they look for actual real-world ability. They’re practical enough to know that a level 2 holder with a high level of conversational fluency is much more valuable than a level 1 holder who can’t do much more than read and write.

    I think for the most part, once you pass level 2, the motivation to pass level 1 should mostly be personal. I know quite a few people working for Japanese companies, using Japanese in the workplace with level 2; I know only a handful with level 1.

  10. billywest says:

    Hope you’ve passed level 1!

    But, even if you didn’t, you will in the near future. Employers here usually look for at least level 2; beyond a level-2-or-better qualification requirement, they look for actual real-world ability. They’re practical enough to know that a level 2 holder with a high level of conversational fluency is much more valuable than a level 1 holder who can’t do much more than read and write.

    I think for the most part, once you pass level 2, the motivation to pass level 1 should mostly be personal. I know quite a few people working for Japanese companies, using Japanese in the workplace with level 2; I know only a handful with level 1.

  11. Mike says:

    Satoshii >> Ah, I remember now, yea. That’s where I read that most of the people sitting JLPT were Asian. Now that my test is over, I can confirm that this was not the case for me. In fact, it was a 70-30 ratio of Western to Asian examinees in my room. There were other rooms though.

    Chris >> Of course! I forgot since I just took it to be your logo. It kinda its the ‘note-taking’ theme for some reason. Maybe it’s the retro nature of the QR code? :p Changing it with fun messages is a great idea! I think I’ll put mine on business cards in the future too. If you have a phone in Japan, could you test my QR code and tell me if it links to my site? :D

    Tim >> Thank you! I hope the information was useful ^^

  12. Mike says:

    Satoshii >> Ah, I remember now, yea. That’s where I read that most of the people sitting JLPT were Asian. Now that my test is over, I can confirm that this was not the case for me. In fact, it was a 70-30 ratio of Western to Asian examinees in my room. There were other rooms though.

    Chris >> Of course! I forgot since I just took it to be your logo. It kinda its the ‘note-taking’ theme for some reason. Maybe it’s the retro nature of the QR code? :p Changing it with fun messages is a great idea! I think I’ll put mine on business cards in the future too. If you have a phone in Japan, could you test my QR code and tell me if it links to my site? :D

    Tim >> Thank you! I hope the information was useful ^^

  13. Tim Reynolds says:

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

  14. Tim Reynolds says:

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

  15. Chris Gaunt says:

    I have a QR code on my site, in fact it’s the logo. It’s pretty redundant right now as it just contains my site URL, but I plan to put it on a contact card eventually. I’ll also change it up on the site now and again and add little messages in it for fun.

    Good luck with the JLPT!

  16. Chris Gaunt says:

    I have a QR code on my site, in fact it’s the logo. It’s pretty redundant right now as it just contains my site URL, but I plan to put it on a contact card eventually. I’ll also change it up on the site now and again and add little messages in it for fun.

    Good luck with the JLPT!

  17. Satoshii says:

    *which is *in* about 2 hours

    …idiot :P

  18. Satoshii says:

    *which is *in* about 2 hours

    …idiot :P

  19. Satoshii says:

    He says he took JLPT1 ( http://www.gaijinsmash.net/archives/1kyuu.phtml ) but didn’t pass. Apparently the kanji got him :S

    Good luck on the test (which is about 2 hours!)

  20. Satoshii says:

    He says he took JLPT1 ( http://www.gaijinsmash.net/archives/1kyuu.phtml ) but didn’t pass. Apparently the kanji got him :S

    Good luck on the test (which is about 2 hours!)

  21. Mike says:

    Hey! So they are! I didn’t realise they were already in the UK.

    Yea, Azrael’s stories are really interesting. I’m not sure if he has taken JLPT1 yet though. Does he say he has?

    Alrighty, off to bed. Test in 12 hours!

  22. Mike says:

    Hey! So they are! I didn’t realise they were already in the UK.

    Yea, Azrael’s stories are really interesting. I’m not sure if he has taken JLPT1 yet though. Does he say he has?

    Alrighty, off to bed. Test in 12 hours!

  23. Satoshii says:

    Ah man, I know it’s hard, i’ve heard stories :P

    Been reading Azrael’s stories about JLPT1 over on GaijinSmash, sounds like some pretty hard stuff. If I ever take it, its gonna be the Kanji that gets me! :S

    Good luck!

    I’ve noticed those bar codes before, there was something in the mirror today with kelly brook and pepsi i think, erm i’ll try and find a link…

    Close enough:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1092405/Kelly-Brook-shows-amazing-curves-unforgiving-sequined-catsuit.html

    Looks like it’s catching on over here, I wonder how long it takes UK phone manufacturers to include the technology into their handsets.

  24. Satoshii says:

    Ah man, I know it’s hard, i’ve heard stories :P

    Been reading Azrael’s stories about JLPT1 over on GaijinSmash, sounds like some pretty hard stuff. If I ever take it, its gonna be the Kanji that gets me! :S

    Good luck!

    I’ve noticed those bar codes before, there was something in the mirror today with kelly brook and pepsi i think, erm i’ll try and find a link…

    Close enough:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1092405/Kelly-Brook-shows-amazing-curves-unforgiving-sequined-catsuit.html

    Looks like it’s catching on over here, I wonder how long it takes UK phone manufacturers to include the technology into their handsets.

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