Strange as it may seem, my first three languages were all oriental ones and so none bears any relation to a western language. Having said that, I mean I could speak and understand them but not write or think about important things in them.
English is the language that I use to think and dream in and also the one I can write, read and understand the best. Having had quite an expensive English education helps, I suppose!
I have always had a fascination for languages and, as a youngster, I could read and write Esperanto and I tried learning Japanese once but it was very complex and I wasn't that interested in things Japanese and therefore the motivation was absent.
Which brings me to the most powerful tool for learning a language and that is motivation.
French is special for us because we came to live here specifically with the aim of learning the language and the culture as we love French music.
I have a good smattering of Italian because I love opera and I play the piano.
I learned some Spanish for a year or two in later life and I surprised myself greatly when I remembered a fair bit when I walked in Spain last year.
Then, of course, having lived in Wales for a number of years, I know some Welsh. It's a very logical language and not as difficult as some people believe but then I didn't much like living there and so I never really made a lot of effort.
I have a good memory and a good ear for sounds and I learn through absorption, immersion, whatever you want to call it. I am quite an instinctive learner and the grammar rules and so on are only used to understand the language better after I can already use it.
When I lived in 17, I went to French classes and the teacher always despaired that I didn't want to "learn" grammar but she realised that I understood a lot and could say things in French so she soon put me up a class. I struggled in the new class for a few weeks and then I was as good as the others.
I am not telling you this, Chance and idun, to try and impress. I don't say I am good at all but I manage just fine and we have many French friends and neighbours with whom we can chat OK.
I do read quite a bit: newspapers, magazines, books so, although I only use a few of the tenses you mention, Chance, I can understand most of the others when I see them written down.
I could learn French formally if I wanted to (and OH wanted to pay for me to) and I considered it but then I decided I didn't mind taking time over learning and. after a few months here, I thought it would actually be more fun to learn it socially in everyday life.
Apprendre une langue, c'est faire un voyage différent chaque jour.
from Fle pour les curieux