RE: How I challenged myself to learn JAPANESE in less than One Year!
A little different from how I learned and much faster. I started in 2001 or so, before there were so many tools available on the net. So I did paper Flashcards, audio CDs, plus lived in Japan for a year and a half. Then ended up going back to school and majoring in East Asian Studies. But by the time I started I was already conversational and could read most kanji, so that helped make the classes a breeze.
And you're so right about most of the language learning industry. It seems like every company just puts out some introductory course to make a few bucks. You have to just go past that and dive into genuine materials. I started trying to read newspapers, books, and magazines soon after I had enough kanji down. I didn't care if it took me a whole day to read a single page. Same with listening practice.
And to think I had no interest whatsoever in learning the language the first time I lived in Japan. It all started on the train home from work, looking at the train line map, and comparing kanji to the romaji. I happened upon two towns that had the same kanji in them, so I could see how they were pronounced. And I thought to myself, "This doesn't seem that hard. " Went to the bookstore the next day and bought a set of kanji Flashcards, got addicted to them, and was on a totally different life path without even realizing it.