I've been learning japanese using a site/course that's really helped me out called iknow.jp. It trains you on words and sentences. The idea I had is that before I start to try to talk to people I try to learn 1,000 words. I'm now running into some problems now that I've hit about 1,000 words in the course 6 months later.
When it comes to seeing kanji and hearing the Japanese word, I'm able to usually get what it means in English, either by looking at the Kanji and using my own kind of mnemonics in my head using the Chinese radicals that make up the kanji. As far as hearing the word in Japanese I'm able to identify what the English word is...Right now when I hear most any common Japanese sentence, I'm usually able to get about 50% or more of the words, without usually understanding the meaning grammatically.
So it has to a degree seemed to work for me so far, although here's the problem I'm having. I started to do tests in where I see the English word first, and then I have a hard time identifying what the Japanese word is. When I hear the Japanese word first it's much easier for me.
Now I'm concerned, because I almost feel as if I should have been testing myself with the English words first and then saying the Japanese equivalent. The reason for this is that when I want to say something to someone, I obviously as a native English speaker think of the English word in my head first and then think about translating that to the Japanese equivalent as best I can.
I'm considering starting over in the course and learning English to Japanese words and sentences, using only Hirigana for now and then learning the Kanji once I can speak to people, as the funnest part, the part that keeps me going with Japanese right now is having these rough simple conversations with Japanese people. I don't know why, but it's always really fun and exciting for me, so I figure if I keep that going I will eventually years down the line learn the Kanji after learning to speak, and I can always online use a furigana plugin in Google Chrome for chat software.
There's a second problem which I've heard can be common, and it's making me feel really dumb, and that's that if I take even a week off of learning I feel like I end up losing maybe 100-200 words that I was starting to learn. Is it absolutely a necessity to be studying every single day without missing a day no matter what? If so, how many hours should I be studying each day? I was doing 30 minutes a day, and I had been consistent almost every day up until about 2 weeks ago...It seems like even if I take a little time off of studying it's not a good thing if I want to get to a level in where I can understand most of what's being said most of the time, which is my true goal by next year.
Any help or advice you can provide will be much appreciated! Thanks!