I'm sure that every other person out there who loves anime, manga, and other various Japanese things wants to learn the native language of the art they love. I always have a good laugh when I hear some nerd saying things like, "I'm learning Japanese by watching anime! I'M STUDYING LOL!"
First off, most Japanese used in anime is very informal and is therefore rude to use in an everyday setting (unless you're going to be talking with very close friends). Second, this does nothing to teach you how to read Japanese, so if you're planning to go there, you'll end up being a very annoying tourist, asking everyone what a simple sign means. Third, if you're just learning on your own through anime, you are relying on your own inferring skills, so simply put, you're going to mess up someway somehow. There might be a grammatical rule that you don't understand, difficulties with pronunciation, amongst other issues.
Simply put, you are NOT going to learn on your own. Of course, the best way to learn is in an actual class where you have a helpful instructor. Another option is to use a well recommended software program like Rosetta Stone. But classes and other programs are both expensive and can be time consuming, and might be too much of an investment if you are just a beginner. Fortunately, there is a little game that should be helpful for beginners:
Enter My Japanese Coach. In all honesty, you get what you paid for, and if this $30 game surpassed Rosetta Stone, I'm sure more of us would have heard of it. It has its own flaws and bugs (like a lack of kanji, unclear training methods, amongst other things) but for a beginner this is a great start. It was the only way I was able to learn katakana and hiragana, and it helped some basic sentence structure. While you may not learn a lot of kanji, it will at least increase your vocabulary if you're a newbie to this language.
Beyond that, there's also Livemocha.com Most of the site is free-- the entirety of the Japanese section is unless you want a live tutor -- and is pretty awesome. The only problem is that in the beginning it focuses on simple words rather than helping out with syllables, which is the greatest trouble I had while learning Japanese. I recommend this pathway for people who know a little more. And I don't mean, "I know what yaoi and ohayo mean!" level of "knowing some Japanese," I mean knowing how to form sentences and need a little more vocabulary and grammar support.
But if you're already at the point that neither Livemocha nor My Japanese Coach can help you, and still are looking for a way to expand your Japanese, I sincerely recommend sucking it up and paying for classes or an expensive program like Rosetta Stone. You've already dedicated so much time to learning this language, so what are you looking to gain from a simple blog post about it?
I've covered most of the options that I think are helpful, but I'm sure there's plenty more out there. I'm actually still learning myself so I can't say I have the final word on it yet, haha.
So let me ask you:
What steps do you take when learning a foreign language?
Do you know more than one?
How long did you study?
Any tips for newcomers?
Hope this helped! See you tomorrow.