Like most anime/manga/JRPG fans, I've been trying to learn Japanese for a long while. Only recently have I actually gotten serious about it enough to start making any progress.
I suppose the first thing that really helped is finally convincing myself that Learning Japanese is Not Impossible
. For an incredibly long time I had convinced myself that I was too old (27) to learn, that after a certain age your language centers of your brain solidify and become impossible to improve or change.
While I'm nowhere near the point where I can read Japanese, I'm infinitely further now than I was. Once you get past the idea that you can't do it, it becomes a lot easier than it appears.
Japanese is written in 3 alphabets -- Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana is the closest thing they have to our A-Z. Katakana is primarily used for Foreign Words and for Emphasis, the best description I have heard is that Katakana is a form of Japanese Italics. Kanji are loaner symbols from Chinese writing, and are for outright words.
(There will be more here once I get an idea of how I want to phrase some of this stuff.)
Books:Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each (Manoa) (Paperback)
-- This book is what I used to memorize the Kana (Hiragana and Katakana). It is the best one I've found so far. Heisig is somewhat controversial, but he made a believer out of me in this book. The general idea is that instead of rote memorization (doing drills et all) you make up pictures in your mind for each kana, and memorize THOSE instead of the kana themselves. The Katakana section isn't as great, but that's partially because there are about 25 Katakana, and about 18 of them all look like the same symbol with an extra dot.Remembering the Kanji Vol 1
-- This book follows up from the Kana book. Heisig's theory is that using imagination to memorize the kanji works much better than rote memorization -- he bases this on the idea that the Chinese people in his Japanese class were able to pick up Japanese extremely fast as they already knew what the Kanji meant (but not how they were spelled, read, etc). Some people swear by them, others think he's a quack. Those that believe in him almost universally state that you have to follow all three books, and several of them have told me not to attempt any other learning while working through his system, as it will confuse you.Japanese For Busy People: Kana Edition
-- The Kana part is the important part, nothing will screw your Japanese learning up more than using Romaji (US Letters for Japanese words). Goes fairly slow but apparently is a very basic textbook -- quite a few people I asked for advice hate this particular book.Genki I
-- This textbook seems much more comprehensive than Japanese 4 Busy People, and has come recommended by several people. I am going through a sample PDF I found on some bookstore, and I like it. Somewhat hard to find.
Dictionaries:Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese (Hardcover)
-- Rather than expecting you be able to find a word using it's Kanji, this book uses Furigana (those little kana hiding next to Kanji in some books). This makes it an excellent book for looking up words.The Kodansha Kanji Learners Dictionary (Japanese for Busy People) (Paperback)
-- This dictionary uses the SKIP system, which is by far the best way of looking up Kanjis I've ever found. I'm sure someday I'll want to learn how to use Radicals, I'm sure, but for now, SKIP works great.The Compact Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary [ABRIDGED] (Paperback)
-- A smaller version of the big blue brick, this is considered the definitive J-E dictionary by everyone I've spoke with.
Links:The Mnemosyne Project
-- The Mnemosyne project is a combination software flashcard system and a study in memory. It is a great system of flashcards that are timed -- you rate how well you remember them and they pop up more or less often based on that.Reviewing the Kanji
-- A fansite/studying site for Heisig's book, this website has study guides, suggested images for the kanji (Heisig only offers example images for the first half of his book), and a flashcard system.JQuickTrans
-- Essentially a frontend for the popular free edict data file, this is a great kanji lookup tool and dictionary. $10, shareware. Uses every method possible for looking up Kanji including SKIP.
time to crash, the dawn is up, the sun gleems out glorious ps4 sunbeams and i can trade those sunbeams and do whatever i want with them.