I’ve been studying for what feels like a helluva long time, but if I crunch it down to useful, focused study it’d probably be about 2 or 3 years. I’m currently working on finishing N4 material - didn’t get higher than that probably because all my study was so scattered and unfocused.
- Japanese for Busy People: Personally, I hated this book, mostly because it’s boring. I only did the first few lessons back in about 2006, but it was the only textbook my local library had. On the other hand if the only reason for you to learn Japanese is for business, it might be good.
- Hakase (textbook): I don’t really recommend this one, either. While I’ve seen many people say that you have to be careful with Genki because it’s geared towards a classroom environment, this book has almost NO exercises meant to be done alone. This was used in the university class I took (more about that later)
- Yookoso (textbook): I don’t recommend this book either (lol). It’s pretty old, so you’d probably have a hard time finding it anyways. Ended up picking it up after my high school’s Japanese program failed.
- Physical dictionaries: Because I started in like 2005-06, there weren’t many (any?) good online dictionaries, so I have a couple Japanese-English dictionaries and a kanji dictionary. I absolutely LOVE having a physical kanji dictionary, but Jisho is much easier to use quickly (also, I tend to use Google Translate on my phone to write a kanji, then copy/paste that to Jisho). If anyone who reads this is interested in getting a physical dictionary, I recommend trying to find one that doesn’t use romaji. When the page index is labeled as “sake” and you’re not sure if it’s the English or Japanese section, it can get kind of annoying.
- University class: I took a year-long beginner class back in 2007-08. Unfortunately, because I already knew some basic things like kana, I ended up tuning out the very beginning and burned out towards the end. Largely because I like going at my own pace.
- Google Translate: Please don’t shoot me. As mentioned above, I use this to handwrite kanji to look them up. Sometimes I use it to get a second opinion on a sentence. I absolutely don’t use it to communicate by writing in English and taking whatever Japanese-ish sentence it spits out
- Jisho: Who doesn’t love Jisho? Example sentences, Wikipedia links, and some really interesting entries like 教えて君 that you likely won’t find in physical dictionaries.
- Genki II: recommended. Many of the exercises can be done solo, and many of the pair/group exercises can be reworked with some imagination. Alternatively, there’s plenty of people who use/have it, so it’s not hard to find someone to do the exercises with. One thing I didn’t care for though, was putting a bunch of grammar lessons in the front of each chapter and then putting the exercises in the back - I prefer lesson, exercise, lesson, exercise. Lots of flipping around the way I did it.
- I just got the first two volumes of the Japanese Grammar Dictionaries, and I’ll be getting the 3rd later when I approach actually needing to use it.
- I just ordered An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese and I may order Tobira soon-ish. No such thing as too many resources.
- Tae Kim’s Guide: I use this kind of as a portable grammar dictionary. Rather than do initial learning from it, I use it to look up things I forgot or am questioning if I don’t have my physical ones nearby.
- HelloTalk / Lang-8 / HiNative: imo, they all have strengths and weaknesses, so I use them for different things.
- NHK Easy: Hit and miss, sometimes the articles are interesting to me, sometimes not. News generally doesn’t interest me at all, which is becoming a problem
- Rikaikun: this is mostly for when I’m reading NHK Easy and am too lazy to copy/paste into another resource.
- A few various manga, most of which is pretty niche or is always recommended.
- The Little Prince (星の王子さま): I’d read this in French when taking that in high school, so I figured it was probably a pretty good practice book. It’s not bad so far - I struggled with it a lot last year, but I recently picked it up again and got myself a copy of the English version for reference. I use sticky tabs to keep track of which sentence I’m on so that I don’t feel pressured to finish an entire chapter in one sitting. My biggest frustration is when I don’t recognize a word because it’s written in kana instead of kanji. What a problem to have.
- Pokemon Moon (in Japanese, obviously): This was a decent option IMO because I’m already familiar with the general idea of a Pokemon game, I could ask my coworkers questions about story that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t have to import it or anything. Plus, I use Bulbapedia for move names since they include the originals in the article. I’m still trying to finish it though orz