In previous posts I have talked about how great it would be to do this and that to learn Japanese, but so exactly where do we start?
Read a textbook
This is generally what schools do, but AJATT does not recommend it at all. However, I do recommend it to start things off, to get the general gist of things.
Its quite expensive since its a textbook, so I would just download it here:
Japanese for Everyone (I have this book): http://www.amazon.ca/Japanese-Everyone-Functional-Approach-Communication/dp/4889962344/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246499544&sr=1-1
Absorb some general vocabulary, learn the basic grammar workings, and you’re sort of set.
Reading and memorizing all of the Heisig Remeber the Kanji 1 (~2000 of them) is recommended to make things easy. You don’t really need to do this if you’re Chinese and you know your characters well. The easiest method here is searching for a Heisig RTK deck for Anki and then doing as many as you can per day with decent retention.
Now you just want to expose yourself to Japanese as much as possible, daily. JapanesePod101 is decent, but most of it is in English, and the learning pace is fairly slow. Great to start off with the newbie lessons, but a bit too slow-paced, especially because natives don’t speak that slow and formal.
TV: I am currently watching TBS (東京放送) as much as I can whenever I’m on the computer. Note that I’m just sort of listening, but not really paying attention. It helps.
Music: anything Japanese basically… search up the lyrics to your favorite ones and learning the vocabulary is a very good way to put them into your brain, since you will listen to the song over and over in the future.
Reading: manga, novels, news. Manga would be the most interesting of course. I have seen some raw manga at http://www.hongfire.com, so give that a try.
Movies/Drama: Don’t use subtitles. If you have to, use Japanese subtitles if they’re available, or watch something you’ve watched before. You will NOT learn if you have English subtitles on, end of story.
Okay, so http://SMART.FM works too as a memory retention tool, but I like Anki better. Smart.fm is a little slow, but it is very well done, so I would give it a try; its basically like Anki, except it goes over the material you need to learn slowly, then quizzes you continuously throughout the lesson. You can easily import other people’s lists and try them out yourself and learn something. Anki has a synchronizing capability, so I can access my decks on other computers and on the goal.
Importantly, you should make the change to 100% Japanese flash cards once you feel comfortable. That means your definitions should be in Japanese as well. Maximizing exposure is the key.