How proficient do you expect the Russian course to make a person starting from scratch?
I'm not starting Russian completely from scratch, but I'm only slightly past plurals and I'm already a bit overwhelmed by it. I'm definitely going to move forward, and push myself to learn the language, because I think it's a wonderful language and Russia in generally is very interesting to me.
However, I'm curious. Has anybody started completely from scratch and made it through a large portion of the course? If so, how do you fare when speaking with natives?
I don't think that's a straightforward question to answer. It depends on how well the individual learns the material, not just getting through the lessons.
I'd estimate that someone who thoroughly learned the tree would have a good grammatical basis and could be fairly proficient in reading and writing, but would really need speaking practice and probably more listening practice than the tree can provide, and ideally would want to be increasing their vocabulary beyond what the tree can cover.
As foundations go, I think it will be a very good foundation if well learned, and I think with supplementation, it will stand you in good stead.
I think realistically, at some point you're going to have to find a Russian person (or at least a Russian speaking person) to talk to, and ways to practise writing, otherwise your understanding is going to be quite passive.
That may be great for reading books or watching movies in Russian, but you might find yourself stymied if you want to have a conversation with someone. and also in my experience active understanding sticks better than passive.
Even if you only want passive understanding, and don't care about using the language productively (writing or speaking in it, particularly extemporaneously), if you actively know and understand the vocab and grammar, it's going to be more part of you than if you just consume it.
Learning to proficiency alone? It depends what you mean by alone, I suppose, and also honestly depends what you mean by 'proficient'. If your aim is to be able to read books or watch movies in Russian, your standard of proficiency is going to be different to someone who wants to live in Russia, or write essays in Russian, or give talks in Russian, etc.
And I mean, not necessarily better or worse, just different. You need an entirely different set of vocabulary as your basic survival kit for reading a Russian novel versus being able to feed yourself in the middle of a Russian city :) You could certainly learn to survive in Russia without necessarily being able to read a novel, and I should imagine one could learn enough passive understanding of Russian to read a novel without necessarily having the instant recall of the phrase to ask to buy a loaf of bread ;)
This is why it can be useful to know what your goals are, for yourself, so you have something concrete to aim for.
Well, I'd like to be able to converse, and I do have Russian friends who help me and correct errors. I've got 3 russian friends and 2 of them only speak Russian, so they're good at correcting me and introducing me to new vocab etc.
My other friend and I are doing a language exchange. I'm helping him with his English and he's helping me with my Russian! :)
I learned the alphabet a long time ago, and was like that for a little bit myself.
If you want a great practice for reading, go into Google maps, and plot yourself right in the center of Moscow, or anywhere in Russia, and start reading the signs. You won't understand it, but you can then put the words into a translator, and see how close your pronunciation was. It helps to fix pronunciation, and really helps you get a grasp on any kind of nuances in pronunciation.