I'm actually progressing pretty well — I'm good with hiragana and katakana, I get the basic sentence structure and I've learned about 50 kanji so far (which is not in my school course), it's just speaking that trips me up. Afterwards I feel like my mouth has been using muscles it normally doesn't.
Well, I don't get much chance to do any speaking myself (unless I'm whispering to myself
), but it gets easier over time. I don't know if this will help or not, but it helps to "get in character"- try to sound like a Japanese guy talking; one thing that helps is shaping and pronouncing vowels at the back of your throat (rather than in the front of your mouth, like in English). The 'r' sound is also very tricky, but the only tricky sound in Japanese (some say the syllabic 'n' in 'fun'iki' is tricky, but I disagree). If you can say "ryuu" perfectly, while completely relaxed and without twisting your mouth unnaturally, that's a major accomplishment. Japanese isn't as hard to speak as, say, Mandarin or Cantonese.