Old, dead thread, I know, but I'm bored.
Even though my grandfather was a francophone and my dad grew up in a francophone community in New England, I did not have any real exposure to French as a child. I took German for four years in high school, and then I started learning French in college, the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years. I took a beginner's immersion class that summer with a French native, a French fencing champion and son of one of my uni's drama professors. He was a w e s o m e
and so much fun. Everyone ace'd that class because he was such an amazing teacher. Possibly the best language teacher I've ever had. But then my sophomore year I took a regular 2nd year French class at my uni with a typical non-native speaker teacher who just wanted to teach us verb conjugations out the wazoo. I did not do so well in that class and ended up withdrawing to avoid getting a bad grade on my transcript.
After that, I mainly used my meager A2-ish French skills to talk to French ex-pats, Cajuns and other francophones around campus and around Houston. Because I'm a franco-american and really look the part, it wasn't unusual for me to have francophones who were complete strangers walk up to me in grocery stores, bookstores, etc and start speaking French to me. I learned quickly to flub my way through conversational French. Of course my grasp of grammar was appalling but I could communicate.
I used French a lot in grad school, so my reading skills improved dramatically above the rest of my ability. But after grad school, I moved to a city with no significant franco-american population and so I was deprived of the regular francophone encounters I had back in Houston to keep my wonky French skills going. Eventually I started to study, self-learner style, on and off, as I would get frustrated and have to stop for a while. But fortunately, every time I came back to French it seemed I was picking up at a more advanced level than my previous reboots. Now I feel that fluency is genuinely an achievable goal for me and I'm hoping to get into a solid C1 level and beyond in the very near future.