This question is in specific reference to this question about how well the JLPT test reflects ability. However, this could apply to any question about fluency or credentials.

Just to make clear my motivations, I also intend to take the JLPT 1 this year, and I am both willing and able to discuss the merits and demerits of the test at length. I could also engage in conversations about what constitutes fluency as I find it an interesting topic.

So I can sympathise with the poster in that I too ponder the same issues. Despite that, I just feel that this is not the place for that discussion.

I think this kind of question should be off topic for the following reasons:

  1. It is open ended and subjective. There is no "right" answer, just a lot of speculation and opinion. Unless I am mistaken (which often happens) the whole point of the Stack Exchange network is that questions be specific and verifiably answerable.

  2. Answering the question provides no actual learning of Japanese, nor even any indirect learning in terms of how might one pass the JLPT or earn fluency. It's simply an exploration of how people feel about the test, nothing else.

  3. It opens the door to the even broader topic of what is fluency, which is even more open ended and opinion based and branches further away into theory and away from practicality.

I am not sure how moderation works on this site, however, if it is possible to steer this site away from forum-like open ended discussions like this question, I think that would be a good thing.


3 Answers 3


I sympathise with the poster as well, but agree with your reasons and the fact it should be off-topic. I think the 'slippery slope' issue is the main problem: while a discussion of JLPT-relevance would be extremely close to germane, it would open the door to a 1000 questions about fluency and tests that have no place here...

Once a consensus is found on this particular issue, we may want to integrate it with: Should uniquely cultural questions be acceptable?

While this question does not necessarily fall under the "cultural questions" umbrella, it would currently be allowed by what is being deemed a consensus over there, i.e.: "cultural aspects related to the learning or usage of Japanese".

Basically, we have to decide. If JLPT/credentials-related topics are off-limit, then so should "cultural aspects related to the learning of Japanese" (talking about those that have no language content whatsoever, of course).

  • 1
    I'd then rather have JLU as a down-to-earth language related site only. For the rest, well, I'm pretty sure that there are already plenty of nice forums for other Japan(ese) related questions.
    – Axioplase
    Jun 30, 2011 at 5:30
  • @Axioplase - As has bee mentioned on the podcast a couple of times, why should one have to have to register for yet another forum to ask a one off question?
    – user51
    Jul 1, 2011 at 11:44
  • @Dave: because if you're a member of JLU, it's very unlikely you'll stick to one question on another site, supposing you're not already on one. One of the biggest French forum on Japan/Japanese even has a Japanese and an English section… Unless JLU is for people who'll only ask one question, I think it's not a sufficient tool for any on us…
    – Axioplase
    Jul 1, 2011 at 12:29
  • 1
    @Axioplase - That's kind of how the Stack Exchange network operates though. There is a "long tail" of people that don't ask that many questions or answer very many questions but there are enough of them to keep the site active. Likewise, there is a core audience who checks the site regularly to ensure that things are working smoothly and that the site doesn't get spammed.
    – user51
    Jul 1, 2011 at 12:32

First off, I should note that the question is not about the value of the JLPT as a credential but rather as a measure of your actual ability in the same line as TOEFL rather than a certification like a CompTIA A+ or MCP certificate.

Since I created the question, I should weigh in on it, so let me say that even with the growing focus on what is and is not off topic, I still think the question is on topic although likely a good candidate for community wiki status. The reasoning for my thoughts are as follows:

  1. The question fall firmly under the "Usage" clause of the "Japanese Language and Usage" in that the test is distinctly Japanese in the full scope.
  2. The JLPT has a significant influence on the way most students study Japanese and I'm sure that most of the students on this site have a number of books that are one way or the other tied to a given level of the JLPT so it has a major influence on how we learn Japanese (outside of native speakers). This in turn means that most of the students that I know have used the JLPT as a bar by which they measure their current progress in learning the language.
  3. Subjective questions are not necessarily off topic on a Stack Exchange site and will usually be changed over to Community Wiki as a bar against having too many subjective questions. So in someways this is more a bit of a "probe" question to get an idea of what is and is not going to show up in the FAQ when the site goes live.

All of that said though, I'm not really interested in debating the if the question is on or off topic or not though as I'm inclined to agree with Kdansky's response in the Who is our target audience? in that the direction that JL&U is taking is a direction that is largely unfriendly to people that are in the early stages of learning the language and is more in line with EL&U which is more for high level language questions.

If you go through most of the questions and answers, they expect a certain degree of fluency with the language that new students just don't have and even with tools such as Rikaichan it can be very difficult to read things due to the degree of Japanese being used. I'm still not sure if this is a by product of the format of the site, the topic of the site (from what I have seen, most learning oriented questions are unwelcome), or the people that are currently participating on the site, but it is what it is and the direction that things are currently going.

  • 1
    you have been voicing this opinion through the site a lot (and this is your right), but I honestly don't think it matches the reality: if we look at the first 5 questions currently on the main page, practically all are beginner-to-intermediate (with super-general questions like "difference between 行く and 来る"). Most of the typical beginner topics were already touched on, and answered gracefully. While nobody here wants JLU to go the way of a moribund site for language specialists, I just don't think there is any indication it is.
    – Dave
    Jul 2, 2011 at 3:46
  • 1
    On the other hand, the risk of it becoming just another hodgepodge forum filled with mostly irrelevant and highly repetitive low-level questions about Japanese-ish topics is very real (based on all such forums currently existing). Even assuming it was a desirable goal to you, it would be highly counter-productive, since it would likely chase away many of the core quality contributors, who do give this community its edge over many other less-structured sites. -- All that being said, that debate doesn't belong here: better to keep it all in the same place.
    – Dave
    Jul 2, 2011 at 3:49

I don't think that question is open ended or subjective, but some of the answers certainly were. I think there is a right answer but it did attract speculation and opinion. Answers like "the test reflects your book knowledge rather than your ability to communicate in the spoken language" would be an on-topic answer for instance.

I don't agree with you that each question should be only and specifically a vocabular or grammar question. It should be a question about learning and using Japanese. That question is a question about learning Japanese.

The issue of what is fluency is not the point and was not offered as an answer but just in the comments and that stuff belongs in the comments.

I think the only real question is how to keep such question and answers on topic. Why did off-topic answers get high votes or accepted, and what should we do about that. At least some of the other answers seem perfectly acceptable though.

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