Ok, I've been studying Japanese (self) for about 1 year now. I have read and understand all of Genki 1 & 2, Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, and A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar, and mastered both books of 2001.Kanji.Odyssey. (I've read a few other Japanese learning books for practice too in addition to these.) I have about 1800 kanji memorized according to Self Kanji Level Check, and about 8000 words. So, I consider myself about intermediate level. Now, I don't expect to be fluent yet, but having these under my belt, I wanted to try to tackle real Japanese, like novels, manga, video games, and etc.
I am able to understand most of the time, but it still seems that I still have to look up new words all the time! Or there are sentences that I still don't quite understand even if I know all the words. It's like, no matter how much I've learned and memorized, there are still 25845620475298 more kanji/words that I don't know! And then it's like I'm stuck in a Catch 22. I want to read material to reinforce what I have already learned, but I can't read anything without having to learn more new words and kanji. There's only so much new stuff I can memorize at a time, you know.
My conclusion is, "textbook" Japanese is much easier than real Japanese, or the material I'm choosing to read is still too advanced for me. I self-study, so maybe there are methods that I haven't thought of yet, does anyone have any ideas? Or does everyone go through this too?
So then what's the next step? I've been eyeing A Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar but it's so darn expensive...