I wrote a while back about the Japanese textbook Minna no Nihongo and how I was getting along with it. Update: I’m still getting a lot out of it. I’ve ordered the second book from America (so it should be here within the next 3 months or so) and, *ahem* “found” the companion audio tracks lying around unguarded on the internet. *ahem* (They’re very useful, if not exactly morally upright.)
But I didn’t say much about italki, the website through which I found my Japanese teacher. I was introduced to the site after I read this post by Benny the Irish polyglot months and months ago, but I didn’t act on it until recently. He gives a very thorough review of the site, so I recommend you read it if you would like to find out more.
I myself find italki extremely easy to use. And it’s great for me especially given my current circumstances: stuck in the backwaters of Somerset (it’s not actually that bad!) with no car and no driving license (okay, that actually is quite bad). It was fine when I was focusing on teaching myself. But even though I had been interested in taking Japanese lessons formally, I felt like I had no options. I know of one Japanese school in an inaccessible part of Bristol (one of the two nearest cities to here) – it would have been far too expensive just to get there each week, and I prefer private lessons anyway.
So, italki removed the barrier to finding a Japanese teacher. I tend to get a lot of funny looks when I explain that yes, I have a private Japanese teacher and yes, she lives in Japan. But it’s such a great situation for me. I don’t have to pay any extra time or money for transportation and I get to take private lessons from a native speaker (whose English, as it happens, is brilliant).
Anyway, that’s my opinion. I would like to arrange speaking practice sessions with people, but as of yet I lack the confidence for that. Baby steps, you know.