A very important (and often underrated) aspect of Japanese that will help you communicate effectively is good pronunciation.
Getting your tongue around a new language can be hard work, but the reality is that proper pronunciation is essential to speaking.
If you can speak clearly, you will be understood - even if your grammar and vocab aren't perfect.
The opposite is not true, however, as perfectly formed sentences mean nothing to a person if they can't understand the sounds coming out of your mouth.
Good pronunciation can also greatly improve your confidence, which means you’ll be more willing to put yourself out there and speak as often as possible.
Like all physical skills, the key to good pronunciation is simple...
You can't train your tongue to shape the right sounds by reading about it. The muscles need to be developed, and your ears need to be trained to identify the subtle differences too.
Although this does generally get harder with age (part of the reason immigrant kids usually have much better pronunciation than their parents), with practice, it can still be learnt.
Quite simply, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more natural you will sound.
Below is my detailed guide to Japanese pronunciation. It includes a thorough explanation of all the different sounds in the language, as well as audio for each sound and a few useful words to practice with.