A Japanese Embassy Near You
Depending on where you are located, it may be possible to contact a Japanese Embassy for helpful information. Certain branches of the United Nations, diplomats, and ambassadors should be able to direct you to different Japanese organizations around the country. Universities, too, may have a foreign-language department with professors willing to provide assistance.
Culture Clubs and Classes
The Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., has connections with various organizations that host cultural workshops for people preparing to travel, live, or work abroad. Daylong sessions with brief introductions to language, food, customs, and etiquette may supplement your studies and provide hands-on, interactive opportunities to practice what you have learned.
Of course, different people may interpret Japanese culture in different ways. Experiences within Japan are sure to vary with each instructor, traveler, or student. Try to avoid allowing someone else's viewpoint to entirely color your expectations. Remember to reserve a space in your mind for your own upcoming adventure.
Immersing Yourself in Japanese
Locating a place where Japanese is spoken naturally and parking yourself within that space for a few hours a week is a great way to expose your ears to various pronunciations, dialects, intonations, and vocabulary. Just as in the United States, Japan is full of dialects, colloquial phrases, and localized idioms.
Lots of listening is the first step in learning a language. Eventually, you will be able to distinguish individual words. From that point, you begin speaking it yourself. Words you have read over and over again on paper will slowly come to life. Once you start recognizing those words in conversation, their meanings become clearer. This is how your vocabulary expands. This is also where abstract rules of grammar begin to make sense.