I am convinced that the best way to learn another language is to either have it spoken by your parents as you are growing up, or to do some kind of "total immersion"; living in a foreign country for a number of months. I have not had the benefit of either of these options. My Japanese language ability is not very good. I study in spurts. I do watch Japanese programming to keep the sound of Japanese in my ears. But this is not a curriculum to expand vocabulary or be in situations which require comprehension. (However: through watching NHK's Taiga dramas--year- long weekly presentations of fictionalized history--I learned much about Japan's past, and Japanese people I meet have told me that I know more about Japan's history than most Japanese do, which is kind of awesome.)
Before going to Japan the first time in 1982, I hired a tutor for 6 weeks and applied myself so I was able to read hiragana and katakana, the two written forms of Japanese language. Speaking Japanese was out of the question, but I could communicate by finding words in the dictionary and writing them down and/or having people write words for me in hiragana and I would use a dictionary and find the English word. It was a tedious process.. I could, though, speak pretty good Sushi Japanese: "maguro o onegaishimasu" (I'll have tuna please). There were no Apps. then, no Google with technically incorrect, but nevertheless helpful translations.
Looking for language programs, I bought a Rosetta Stone program, but it just didn't live for me. A friend once gave me his copies of Pimsleur's Japanese, which was very helpful, but not interactive as I might like. The best language program I have discovered is Japanesepod101.com.
They advertise: "Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101! No more dry, out of date textbook story lines! Here at JapanesePod101, you'll learn Japanese with fun, interesting and culturally relevant lessons that are easy to listen to. But not only are they fun - they're effective too! Join the hundreds of thousands of people already learning Japanese through the power of our mobile apps, desktop software and website with free Japanese lessons released every week!" Podcasts and audio and video lessons, pdf lessons, line by line audio, flash cards, word banks, 100 core words and usage, etc. etc. (I am sounding like Peter, the host, now) are really creative and enjoyable, and I can bring them up on Iphone and Ipad whenever I am in themood to study [*NOTE: you really DO need to apply yourself regularly, though, to learn to speak any language].
I enjoyed Japanesepod101 so much that the last time I was in Tokyo, I made an appointment to interview the creator of the on-line program, Peter Galante, in his offices in Akasaka in Tokyo. He was harried, as he was awaiting the birth of a first child, putting in extremely long hours, and moving to larger quarters for production, post-production, administration. His business was really was taking off. That was in 2009. They have delivered over 200 million lessons in various languages world wide now!!! The format is amazingly comprehensive.
To anyone interested in rapidly learning another language"on their own", I highly recommend you check out Innovative Language Learning. For Japanese, specifically: www.japanesepod101.com. * My real test is coming up soon, as I step into the wonderful, complex Japanese culture once again in less than 2 weeks!