It's always interesting to pick up something I had struggled on previously, only to discover a few months later that - lo and behold - I can now understand and enjoy this thing! There was a time when I had some naive notion that, by the time I could read and enjoy Berserk, I'd probably be at a pretty damn decent level of Japanese and all would be swell and I'd never need to study Japanese another day in my life again. Imagine my surprise the other day when I flipped through several pages of Berserk with a surprisingly decent level of comprehension...
Whereas in the past I had to rely on katakana words in order to vaguely navigate my way through RPGs while ignoring most of the story, I can now understand the vast majority of plotlines and very rarely get lost since I can follow the directions of the NPCs with few problems.
And the list goes on and continues to go on - it's a really nice feeling, and sure beats worrying about where I should be or could be with my Japanese level.
I still find listening to be difficult, though, and generally find reading pure kana quite tricky as well. Perhaps I've grown a little too acquianted with the contextual power of kanji (and o, how powerful it is), and no thanks to the massive amount of homophones in Japanese (indeed, 日本語 puts the "homo" in "homophone"...), but I often find myself returning a blank stare to these tricky things. I think this is also due to having not yet "internalized" a lot of the vocabulary I've learned. Exposure is really the only solution, and exposure I'm getting - I try to average 2 hours of watching unsubbed (or Japanese subbed in the rare situations when these are actually available) drama/anime/movies/TV a day, and as much passive listening via podcasts (again, I love TBS Life) as I can cram in.
Another thing that keeps me motivated is the concept that, while there may be a heck of a lot of kanji, there is a finite amount of them. I'm constantly learning the readings of more and more kanji, and eventually there just won't be many left to learn, save for the obscure ones (which I particularly enjoy learning). When you think about it in that way, fluency doesn't seem too far fetched at all, does it?
Slow and steady wins the race, this much I'm sure of.
At any rate, I hope to be bloggin' a little more frequently in the near future. I have plenty of interesting music, drama, anime and movies to discuss and share, and really, aren't these things part of the reason why we're learning the language in the first place? Exactly.