Really this post is going to be a giant free ad for GenkiJapan.net. But I've been spending a lot of time on there recently, and I wanted to share with others who are seriously interested in learning a language but have no idea how to start.
Obviously the best way to start learning is to take a class and get some private, one-on-one help. I had a tutor for a bit in high school, but it didn't last long (she moved back to Japan D: ), and I pretty much forgot everything over the years except for how to count (and even then I always managed to switch #'s 7 and 8) and how to introduce myself in a polite manor.
However, a lot of places don't offer Japanese classes. I live in Southern NJ, and the only TWO places that offer Japanese classes are Drexel in Philly (which costs about $2,0000 a class) or Rutgers New Brunswick (which is too far to travel for class and has terrible flexibility). Really the best luck I could get is finding a Japanese person willing to teach me (for very little or no money), but the only Japanese people I know are out in California. People in my situation are basically screwed.
I got really lucky recently because I came across GenkiJapan.net by accident. I was surfing youtube for videos of Asakusa Tokyo (which is where the hostel I'll be staying at is), and came across one such video for Asakusa Shrine. I followed the trail of the user who posted the video, and the trail ended at GenkiJapan.net.
What luck! I can't tell you how awesome GJ.N has been for learning some really basic Japanese. I've already learned things like weather, temperature, counting, how to ask for cost of items and food, colors, age, and much more. I've been going at it for about four or five days now, only watching each video once and I've already memorized so much!
The site even has a free download info package with tips on how to teach yourself Japanese; tips that really have helped me along the way. It's so great.
It's not quite enough, however, to really be able to hold a conversation, so I've also ordered a great Japanese-language learning program that the website pushes (not made by the website, btw), and I was able to find it at Amazon.com for about $40! It's way better than shelling out $500 for Rosetta Stone (which I hear isn't all that great anyway). I have a 40-minute drive to and from work every day, so this will really help me to get up to that next level.
Check out the site here. And then let me know what you think!