I think we all learn differently honestly… I’m on year 3 of Japanese (yes I am very slow). My first year was mostly spent learning about how I learn… it’s honestly hard work to self study but it also helps you realize your strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. I tried out a ridiculous amount of resources (I have about 15 physical Japanese textbooks, 30 digital textbook and readers, 5 apps, a couple of websites… you get the picture) and through that I really came to discover that each resource does well in some things, and poorly at others.
If you want to slowly ween yourself into reading Japanese, the “Japanese from Zero” series does a pretty good job slowly introducing characters, but not so great a job at explaining things. If you want a book that does a good job at explaining the basics of Japanese but can kind of overwhelm you, I really am enjoying the Genki Japanese textbook series. If you want a fun/more practical look at Japanese grammar and phrases to add on your knowledge, “Japanese the Manga Way” is really great for visual learners.
I have been slowly updating a post on tumblr with my reviews on different resources as I finish them, including difficulty and what they’re useful for… I’m not sure about the forum’s “links” policy so I won’t post the link to it unless told how but ya, I’m totally okay with lending it out. I still have a lot more resources to come on it.
As for stinking… I’ll be completely honest with you… the reason I STARTED learning Japanese was because way back when I was in high school, I tried to continue taking French into my second year (in Canada you are required to take French from gr 4-gr 9) but after that year was told to stop trying because I had no head for languages. I had originally chosen Japanese because it bugged me still years later that I had given up, so I thought if I could master such a hard language than any other language would seem easy. Since then it has grown into “Because I’ve really come to appreciate Japan and love the people in it” but all that to say, I understand what it’s like to be bad with languages… yeesh 3 years into this and I can just manage to hold a conversation for a few minutes.
I once read somewhere that as long as you try you can only grow. We focus so much on trying to get 100% that we miss the point of studying and learning. Even if you score 5/100 on a test, those are 5 facts you would have never known if you hadn’t tried. Be proud of that. You’re a better person for it.
I’ve really found that to be a huge encouragement through this.
Understand the culture -> learn the words -> grasp the grammar
It’s hard to suggest which to hit first because they are all so connected. The words tell you what to fit into the outline of grammar. The grammar tells you how to be understood easier, and communicate clearer. And the culture is the ever changing thing that allows you to understand how to think in Japanese and understand WHY you are saying things the way you are saying them. They are all important, an each one will help you with the other two.
Best of luck to you though! We are all here trying to do our best! And I think as you learn you’ll find it surprising just how easy it is to get started. (You’d be surprised how far you can go with the classic “A は B です。” sentence structure) Japanese is amazingly simple in some ways, and ridiculously difficult in other ways. But it is definitely worth learning! The best advice will always be to NOT give up! YOU CAN DO IT! がんばりましょう！