This it’s such an excellent question and one that has a multitude of different facets. Certainly, my tenure in public school French classes ( grade five to twelve) did not help me become even functional let alone fluent. Although to their credit they did help me somewhat when traveling in France, Quebec and St. Pierre & Miquelon.
Of much more use in my present post elementary teaching life and lifestyle is Spanish and I only started learning this widespread language during my first snowbird winter in Ajijic and Guadalajara, Jalisco. I became aware of a highly successful Spanish program for mature learners called the Warren Hardy Approach.
Starting with just 100 high frequency verbs I was able to quickly navigate the daily requirements of living in a small lakeside Mexican village albeit one with a significant foreigner population. After two winters there I moved onto San Miquel de Allende, another place with about a ten per cent gringo population. And now I’m happily settled in Oaxaca a larger city with even fewer foreigners.
In this almost immersive environment coupled with additional Spanish language instruction after Navidad I should be able to break out of beginner espanol and speak not only in the present tense but in the past and future as well.