Throughout my 3 years of teaching myself Japanese, I have learned quite a lot. To me, the grammar and vocabulary was not the difficult part since I am used to the subject-object-word sentence structure from studying Latin in High School. So far, I can understand most of what they are saying providing that I have a Japanese-English dictionary by my side.
For most people, the Kanji or rather Chinese Characters tends to be the hardest part of the Japanese language since it uses logographic characters (in addition to Kana) opposed to the traditional roman characters. People might be asking: why do we need it when we have ひらがな and カタカナ? I will answer that question along with sharing strategies I currently use to understand them.