Updated: Aug 24, 2020
I'm going to break down a very effective way to learn Japanese w/o a teacher and to save a lot of money. Some things I wish I did when I was younger and I regret now because of the inferior thinking of the group I was in before. "taking shortcuts" and not drilling as hard as I could have. Crippled me in learning as efficiently as I could have.
First off I'm going to tell you my mistakes and then I will give you a very thorough guide to study effectively.
1. I didn't study very hard in writing.
Not studying hard in writing was my biggest regret because I was very focused on speaking and reading rather than writing. We live an a era were we really didn't need to do a lot of writing. I thought I was smart at the time and I would only do like the bare minimum. You know for signing maybe a contract or signing a document. I would never do any real writing and because of that I can't recall characters as easily as I could have if I just practiced more. It's very strange I can read a lot of characters but I cant write as how much I know. It's quite embarrassing. But I regret it to this day therefore I really put a lot of time doing a lot of writing.
2. I didn't qualify who I was learning from
Now when I say this I do not mean I just talked to anyone. I actually spoke with Japanese people at language exchanges. This is really good practice but Japanese people are not teachers. I was speaking to various different types of people. But there were some people who did't like their country, was terrible at Japanese in school, and they had a bad understanding of Japanese. Which was really problematic. Not every Japanese person was like this but there were a few times. That I would sometime receive the wrong information about kanji and some origins of some places that I was interested in. Not everyone is going to be excited about Japanese as much as you nor really care if what their saying is true or not. My advice to you find the serious learner trying to learn English and always checks if they are correct or not. Build a relationship with that person this will be super beneficial for you. It's almost like an accountability partner but with Japanese\English.
3. Read more like a lot MORE
To some people or to the average person I'd say I read quite a bit. I reached a level in Japanese that I would watch reverse subtitles in Japanese. Then any word I didn't know it would be on the screen and I'd check my dictionary what it was. Even thou this was a effective way to learn Japanese. I was only watching stuff that was purely just words I might never use. Being able to say tons of ways someone should die. Really isn't helpful, cool but not helpful. Anyway read stuff that you are interested in and mine the words that you don't know. Also understand what area of words you want to learn. Maybe you should learn medical terms, Law terms, Anatomy, pick what you are lacking in and mine those words.
Now that I got that out the way I'm going to tell you my story via video then a breakdown.