But around those same years I started to listen to rock music mostly in English. I would occasionally look up a word or two (very often completely misunderstanding the message) but mostly I was perfectly fine with just "singing" the songs — technically in gibberish — without understanding. Still, slowly I picked up more and more words. Then, when I’d spot the English version of my favorite book in a store, I couldn't help but buy it. Since I’d read it already about a million times in Hungarian, I just sat down and read the book in English despite the significant gaps in my language skills. And I enjoyed it. After that, I started to read other books in English, simple ones, very slowly, just for fun. I was still not considering it learning. I only took classes in English for about 6 months to get myself prepared for a language exam, which was required for my graduation. I passed the exam easily.
Then I went to Taiwan and made some English-speaking friends. They were musicians, and I would just hang out with them at the riverside while they were rehearsing, just listening to their conversation, and occasionally singing with them. They were the first native speakers I knew, and for a while it was really difficult to understand them. They spoke fast, they used slang, and I didn't get any of the jokes or the cultural references. So I was just quietly sitting around them for weeks and months, listening, before actually starting to talk to them. But then slowly, all those countless sentences from the songs I listened to years ago started to come back to me as a sense of grammar. Interestingly, I started to speak like a native speaker in certain ways — I could "feel" if a sentence was not correct, even if I couldn't explain why, or if I wouldn't know how to make it work. And the words just found their places in a sentence. I might have had to think about a specific word, but rarely about word order. I was very aware of my grammar mistakes, because they didn't sound right to me, even if I couldn't figure out the correct way.
Now I tend to forget that English is not my native language (but thanks to my accent, there's always someone to remind me). I read it just as easily as Hungarian, I write professional correspondence, and make and understand subtle jokes. I speak English at home, and I speak English at work. I use my first foreign language to teach my second foreign language.
What this has taught me was that traditional classroom teaching is very likely not the most efficient and/or natural way to teach language, and that it leads to proficiency for only a small percentage of students. It seems to be more reasonable to harness the brain's natural capacity of piecing the language puzzle together without explicit grammar instructions or drills. Our brain is wired to do this work; we just need to feed it with enough material — that is the core idea of Comprehensible Input — and acquisition will happen effortlessly and naturally.