I am trying to learn Japanese from the start. I live in Penang, Malaysia. We have the Penang Japanese Language Society (PJLS) here but before I join, I would expect some basic course or level that I can fit into. Also, what are the hierarchy of the levels for Japanese language learning?
Much depends on your enthusiasm. You can start taking courses for the Japanese Language Proficiency Tests (JLPT), which is a standard proof of knowledge in the language. It has an hierarchy of N5 to N1, with N5 being the most basic course.
Now you can ask your PJLS how they go about with their courses or you can buy book and/or self study with help of online resources. You can even choose to ignore the tests altogether and learn from books which are not targeted for JLPT. For example, I have heard Japanese from Zero is quite a good series to learn from (haven't read it myself).