05-20-2010, 01:59 AM
I'm new here too, and I'm sorry that this is a bit late, but I think there can't be enough stress put on listening. Listening is where your foundation for speaking comes from and writing/reading can sometimes impede on that. (I think romaji is dangerous in that your eyes and brain are used to deciphering English sounds from certain letter combinations thus slowing down or evening worsening your learning).
I think it helps to familiarize yourself with simple grammar and simple words, but opening a dictionary can also be dangerous. I think words in different languages, especially languages as different as Japanese and English, hardly ever completely overlap in their usage and meaning. That is to say, it might be helpful to think of words like a venn daigram. Sometimes you can use a word in the same instance in both language, but a lot of the time you cannot.
Another habbit I've seen in my own learning early on and in many of my students' learning of English is that we often try to take phrases from our mother language and turn them into our target langauge (in your case, Japanese). Your English I'm sure is already fully developed and your brain uses English to describe everything, including foreign languages. Appreciate that a word in English may be a verb while in Japanese it becomes an adjective-- things like this happen, so be careful of it. It might also help to not overthink things too much and keep things simple at first. Watching and listening to Anime may be a good tool for this. Learn when certain things are said and in what way they are said and almost try to mimic it. I would probably recommend immitating real life people over cartoons, though.
Lastly- culture and communication. Language is about communication and culture totally affects ways in which people communicate. Manners and etiquette are very important in any language. Knowing when to say things is just as important as knowing how to say things. It might help to pay close attention to reoccuring phrases that you hear in Japanese in TV shows when people are being interviewed. There are complicated levels of politeness in Japanese (I think they exist to a certain degree in English, too... but they are things not as often spoken about and are just ingrained in us having been brought up as English speakers). People write books on this stuff, and it may be something that you might want to look into in College if you have the chance or time (and can get credits for doing so).