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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Hungary - Speaking the Language
Magyar is the official language of the Hungarian people. The language is said to have originated from central Asia. As the Magyar people migrated from the Uralic region in Asia to settle in Europe, they interacted with different cultures along the way. Today, the Hungarian language borrows heavily from languages spoken by Turks, Germans and Slavonic people. Magyar also borrows words from neighboring countries such as Romania and Croatia, although the language sounds uniquely different from those dialects.
Expats from EU countries may find it a little bit easier to learn Magyar. This is because the Hungarian language is like some dialects from EU countries. Non-EU members can also learn the language, although it may feel difficult at first. However, once you learn the rules of the language, it becomes easier.
The Hungarian language follows the same alphabetic order used by the Romans. The only difference is that Magyar adds acute accents to form new letters. The acute accents are derivative of the English vowels, so are á, é, í, ó and ú. These are the longest vowels in the Hungarian language.
Phonetics in Magyar are quite straightforward. For example, sz represents the English ‘s’ sound while s alone denotes the English ‘sh’ sound. The ‘c’ sound is denoted by ts while cs represents the ‘ch’ sound. Zs denotes the ‘s’ sound too, but specifically the sound in a word such as ‘pleasure’. The j sound is represented by the letter y.
To form a word, you must learn how to include a suffix and prefix. For example, the noun szent is the Hungarian word for saint, which is also pronounced exactly as in English. We can change the same word to mean holiness by introducing the suffix ‘eg’ to make the word szentseg.
We can change the same word into an adjective by introducing the suffix ‘telen’. The word then becomes szentségtelen, which in English means sacrilegious or abomination. Finally, szentségtelen can be transformed into a verb by adding a prefix ‘meg’ and a suffix ‘it’. The word becomes megszentségtelenít, which means performing an abominable act.
Forming plurals is easier when speaking the language in Hungary. One only needs to add the letter k at the end of a word to show it is in plural. For example, the Hungarian word for kitten or kat is cica. By adding the letter k as a suffix, the word becomes cicák. Note that the end vowel is transformed into an acute accent. In addition, if we are talking about a small cat, the prefix ‘kis’ (meaning small) is added to make the final word kiscicák; meaning small cats.
Verb conjugation in the Hungarian language is just as straightforward as forming plurals. Unlike other European dialects, Magyar only conjugates verb tenses to express the past, present, and the future tense. The only element of conjugation that may feel hard is distinguishing between definite and indefinite verb conjugation. Hungarian is the only in the whole of Europe language to have this rule. However, practice eventually makes perfect and Hungarian people will not mind correcting you where you err!
Just like all other languages, the best way to learn Hungarian is to speak it daily. Form a habit of interacting with local people as much as you can, and you will pick the language up quickly. Fortunately, there are additional ways to learn Magyar while you’re at home or on the go as well.
Expats can learn Hungarian faster by joining language exchange programs. There are plenty of native Hungarians who are willing to help you learn their dialect. You can find a language exchange partner on Skype and organize a flexible timetable for learning Magyar. Listen to radio stations and watch TV channels in Hungarian. Local newspapers are also another great way to learn Magyar.
Purchase the Hungarian dictionary Sztaki to help you learn how to pronounce words correctly. A dictionary is helpful if you are reading a local magazine or novel by a Hungarian writer. Then have an open attitude towards the language itself. You can start by learning some of the local words that are directly translated from English. These include words such as asztrológia, kommunizmus, drama, stratégia, neutrális and taxi. Some will be written exactly as they are in English. Others will be written differently, but the pronunciation will be exactly as in English.
Learning Hungarian In Schools
Fortunately, expat kids can learn Hungarian while attending school. Public schools make it compulsory for all students to learn the native dialect as a second language. At secondary school level, expat students will be required to speak Hungarian at least 20 hours a week.
Expat students in private schools can enroll for Magyar classes in Hungarian learning centers. These are schools that are dedicated to teaching Magyar to both Hungarian people and migrants. You can enroll for classes at the International Language Centers in Budapest. A similar school that also teaches Hungarian is the Berlitz Language School.
Expats can also search for additional language schools by going online. Websites such as GoAbroad.com give a comprehensive list of available schools in Hungary that teach the local language. You can narrow the search to specific schools within your region and enroll online for Magyar lessons.
Ulysses Hungarian Language School
Address: 1111 Budapest, Bertalan Lajos u. 17.
Tel.: +36 70 210 99 78
Babylon Language School
Tel: (1) 269 553, (20) 368 1748
International House Language Center
Tel:(+36 1), 212 4010
Telefax: (+36 1) 316 2491
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