As a self-taught polyglot, it is important for me to have very good materials from which to learn a foreign language. If you have a lot of enthusiasm but poor foreign language resources, you will probably not get very far and give up due to frustration. This is my experience when I was learning my first foreign language, Spanish. I seemed to be getting nowhere until I realized how important the quality of my Spanish books and other learning materials is. Once I understood this, I noticed I picked the language up more easily.
While the above advice holds true for any language you are interested in learning, I am here going to speak specifically about the wonderful book for learning Japanese, Essential Japanese, published by the respected Berlitz. This was one of the first books I got for studying Japanese and it is arguably one of the best. You need a book replete with example sentences (it is more natural to learn a foreign language in “chunks” instead of isolated words and grammatical points) which Essential Japanese has in spades.
Not only that, the Japanese scripts are not presented. Instead, all the vocabulary and dialogues are written in romaji, or the Latin alphabet. However, at the end of each chapter one kanji pair is presented with its meaning explained. As you can therefore imagine, this book is less than ideal for a more advanced student but for the complete novice, it is perfect. One of the key tripping points of most Japanese textbooks is the presentation of too many new Japanese letters and/or kanji which will frustrate the student. With Essential Japanese, you don’t have to worry about this as everything is very manageable.
Perhaps in the future I will review other, more entertaining books and materials for learning Japanese, but here I would simply like to bring to the aspiring Japanese-language student a really great resource with which to get started. It was my first Japanese book and I still regard it as one of the finest. So what are you waiting for? Ganbatte kudasai! (Good luck!)