Can anyone share their learning experience?
I'd be interested to hear what strategies, or definitive focuses on studying may have helped you get from a very basic level of just being able to use basic phrases to being able to have a conversation in Russian?
What sort of path did you use to reach an intermediate or advanced level of Russian, what were the biggest things you did that helped you learn?
I was getting good with conjugations, genders, and cases about a year ago and I felt like I was really close to being able to create my own sentences but, when work got busy, I stopped studying for a bout a year and I've nearly lost it all, hopefully I can pick it up quickly again.
I don't know how relevant my experience would be; I don't think I've ever had that much trouble forming sentences in Russian as long as I knew the words. I studied French before Russian, and I think that "think in a foreign language" ability largely just transferred over, with the significant caveat of stifling vocabulary strictures, which are thankfully abating over time.
I mostly learned the grammar sometime ago, and the biggest hurdles I had yet to scale when I started Duolingo were vocab gaps and just reading anything like comfortably (clearly these many times were the same problem). The now-defunct Immersion system helped me tremendously with that. It's too bad it's gone, but there are things that will serve the same purpose: exposure to authentic written content in a learner-friendly format just allowing you to slowly but surely work through texts, seeing the grammar in action, looking up the words you don't know so that you learn vocab in context.
Namely I refer to LingQ, Bliu Bliu, 3ears, and, hopefully soon (when they get around to adding Russian) translatihan.com (designed I believe explicitly as an Immersion-type system by former users). And for practice composing Russian, the reverse tree(s), but you can also do a lot with the "forward" tree, either on the web or the app just by trying to do the translations into Russian before looking at the multiple-choice options or the word boxes.
Resource sites that will help immeasurably: Wiktionary (for most declensions and just looking up words), http://www.morfologija.ru/ (for conjugated / declined forms that surpass Wiktionary's search abilities, often participles), Reverso Context (for fixed expressions and short snippets).