Is it better to study wholly in the target language, using only kana and kanji, or is it more effective to rely on the prop of romaji (spelling Japanese words in Latin alphabet).
My old chum Olly, now a resident of west Tokyo, seemed to work by this rule. He worked heavily in romaji and this meant that he was often waiting for me to catch up when we studied for JLPT4.
On the other hand, Nigel, a friend from Japan (I met him there - obviously with a name like that he isn't actually from Japan), swears blind that you should work wholly in kana if you want to make the breakthrough.
On a personal level, I feel it is hard working with kana. Counter-intuitively, it became much easier for me once I started learning enough kanji. Kanji allow you to make sense of a sentence far more quickly than is possible in kana. Consider this simple line:
私は英国人です。The top line, with its kanji, has some shape and texture, and with a little familiarity with the few kanji are instantly recognisable. The second line is all very samey and this problem is accentuated by the fact Japanese doesn't have spaces between words (though often they are when using kana).
Watashi wa Eikokujin desu.
(I am British)
Below the kana the romaji interpretation on the other hand is instantly recognisable - three decades of decoding the characters means I don't have to think for one second what is being said. The act of reading does not present a barrier for me.
But does it help me "get in the Japanese frame of mind"? Moreover, would relying on the romaji slow up my development of the ability to read effectively in Japanese. I think the answer to this second question would overwhelmingly have to be yes - but it depends very much on what you are trying to achieve.
Nigel studied Japanese at university. His aim was academic attainment and he would be tested on his written as well as spoken ability. It was imperative that he develop his skills on all fronts. Olly, by contrast, had little need for written language skills - he needed the language to speak to his wife, or more importantly to his in-laws.
My situation, much as I fantasise about being able to take up a bilingual position in a Japanese company, is much closer to Olly's. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of his book (he is, after all, a PhD) and ditch the kana and kanji and focus on building the vocab the easy way.
I look forward to following Tony's progress and seeing how he does and how he begins to benefit from the intermediate boost when you start being able to apply more kanji. Maybe in a few weeks (at the rate he is learning) we'll see. I'm curious to find out.