and thanked the staff for the lovely meal as I left the restaurant.
Progress! Whenever I kick myself because I can't remember a phrase or I mangle a word so badly that it's incomprehensible, I remind myself that one month ago I was limited to "yes", "no", and "thank you."
Do I have a Grand Plan for learning Japanese? Not really. Let's call it a flexible framework instead.
For me a flexible framework is one that has a general structure but is open to adjustment and fine-tuning. This means making mistakes, realizing that this isn't the way to go, and moving on without a lot of self-condemnation or regret.
I have made quite a few course corrections in the past month. I followed recommendations, bought books, spent a lot of time on the Internet and did other things that didn't necessarily work for me (but they might work for you, so don't take my experience too seriously).
Here are a few things that didn't help this beginning language learner:
A standard beginner's Japanese textbook. I'd read a chapter and would get lost and frustrated halfway through. Worse, the Kindle version did not have links to individual chapters so I had to keep bookmarking sections I wanted to review and that was just irritating. I won't name the book here but I'll whisper the title in your ear if you stop by the apartment for coffee.
Heisig's Remembering the Kanji. This one came highly recommended and it looked good (it is certainly complete) but it was too much, too soon for me. Not to mention that trying to get any kanji into my head before mastering the hiragana was like trying to eat too much of the elephant at once - too much to swallow. This one has been set aside for the time being.
Jumping from website to website to find vocabulary, phrases and the correct grammar to use in standard situations like restaurants or stores. There just wasn't enough context to help me remember what I read and my list of favoris grew to a ridiculous length which made it hard to find that one website about ordering drinks. I've since deleted all of them.
What is helping right now:
A Japanese tutor. A real live human being who comes to my house twice a week for 3 hours. It's loosely structured around scripts and vocabulary lists. Once I have the script down, we play with it and she explains the grammar as we go along. Most importantly, it's a safe place to speak - to try things out, to ask questions and to make mistakes. This is the first time I've used a language tutor and so far the experience has been outstanding.
JapanesePod101 "Survival Phrases". This is a really well done series of about 60 short, very digestible Japanese lessons. It covers useful phrases and vocabulary for a number of common situations like taking a taxi or ordering in a restaurant. Each session is limited to just a few sentences and they go over them many times very slowly. I'm enjoying this one a lot.
Dr. Moku. To start learning the hiragana.I went through several sites with different methods and quizzes for learning the simplest writing system. This is one I decided was best for me. Nice interface, good pop quizzes, It's still a struggle but I don't mind logging on and working at it every morning, perhaps because there is something almost playful about the site.
One final element - not an obvious one and you won't find it advertised anywhere - that has been making learning Japanese much much easier on me: the people in Osaka.
Everywhere I go I find patience, understanding, and encouragement. I have not had one critical remark, nor has any request for help gone unanswered. I try to speak and they are incredibly patient, waiting until I get as much of the sentence out as I can and then they gently correct or supply the missing word.
Now I'm sure that are impatient people here, and I will undoubtedly inadvertently offend at some point, but so far it has been so pleasant to have one's efforts rewarded. From my reaction, you might gather (correctly) that this has not been the case elsewhere. So....
Want people to learn and use your language well?
What a concept.