Thought I would blog a bit about a popular subject: how to learn Japanese. Being a high-level beginner of sorts, I could suggest techniques that have helped me learn Japanese while living in Japan. These are also suggestions that other people have given me or ways that even Japanese have told me help. While these methods may not work for everyone, they worked for me so far.
1. Buy some flashcards
To learn hiragana, katakana, and kanji there is no better way than using flash cards in my opinion. White Rabbit has a good series you can find on Amazon or elsewhere. Use the flash cards daily to keep yourself on the up and up and also write down what you learn in a notebook of sorts. I learned most of the kana (hiragana and katakana) within about a month of studying them everyday.
There are also tons of websites to get flash cards online. I won't list them here as you can find all that pretty easily with a search.
2. Make Japanese friends
I'm not listing these in order, but making Japanese friends would probably be number 1 in my book. In my case, my wife is Japanese so it makes learning certain words and phrases a lot easier for me. However, be careful when learning from people. If you're a man, try not to learn too much Japanese from women because then you'll sound like a woman. Vice versa for women.
This has been one of the top ways friends have said that they've learned tons of Japanese in shorter amounts of time. Plus, it's a good way to learn slang and phrases you won't learn from textbooks. There are resources and such for slang online, but finding a good book couldn't hurt either. I have a book called Dirty Japanese which is helpful for certain things, but I wouldn't recommend using it unless amongst friends you're comfortable with.
3. Buy a good text book
A lot of people say "Japanese for Busy People" and "Genki" are both nice books to use. I personally haven't used either one. I have several books myself, but I can't think of any that have been really mind blowing or that I can recommend. The guy who runs YesJapan.com has a series called Japanese From Zero which I would recommend without even reading it, because his info and videos on his website is excellent in my opinion.
4. Study everyday in some capacity and immerse yourself whenever possible
Watch Japanese shows. Read Japanese books. Talk with Japanese people. And study. At least for 30 minutes to an hour everyday. I fall in and out of my study habits and have had mixed results with my improvement. I don't speak to my wife in Japanese often (not as much as I should) but I do pick up things by constantly going to restaurants, stores, and being around Japanese people at almost all times.
If you can get the ratio of Native Language: Japanese to 50:50 or even higher in the Japanese range, you will see a noticeable improvement in a quick amount of time.
5. Don't give up
Seems simple enough. Just be consistent and steady with your studies and you'll get better over time. A good solution for doing anything.
And below, here are some resources and such I use:
www.livemocha.com (good for language exchange and learning)
www.textfugu.com (good resource for everything)
Youtube videos where they speak Japanese (I like Japanese for Morons channel)
Tae Kim's Japanese Grammer guide (www.guidetojapanese.org)
White Rabbit flash cards
Minna no Nihongo text book
Other books people have recommended: Japanese From Zero, Genki Japanese, Japanese for Busy People, Barron's Japanese Grammar/Barron's Japanese Vocabulary)
Other text recommendations here: http://thejapanesepage.com/w/index.php?title=Selecting_a_Japanese_Textbook