10 Hungarian Lessons We Learnt From Making 10 YouTube Videos

For the past couple of months we have been making a Hungarian video every week. After making 10 YouTube videos speaking Hungarian, we have learnt 10 lessons and here they are:

1. The Hungarian Alphabet Is Hard

Okay, those big characters are from the Old Hungarian Alphabet, it's only really the normal ones that are used today - I just wanted to include it because it's so pretty!! 💓 It was mostly forced out and replaced with the Latin Alphabet by the Christian Hungarian kingdom. Don't get complacent though, the Hungarian alphabet is super hard. Why? Because there are still 44 characters!

Some, like B, D, F, M and L are pretty much the same as the ones we know and love. Others, like C and S are sounds we already know well - ts and sh respectively - it just takes a little practice to remember s = sh not s. But then comes the other characters like 'Gy' and 'Ny' in particular which have been super hard for us because they aren't really like any other sounds we know. As for the four 'O's and the four 'U's - if you know some German, these will be a walk in the park for you (they are the same). If you don't know them, I recommend a German boyfriend (or a Hungarian one)!

2. Once You Know The Alphabet, Life Gets a Lot Easier

Once you know the Hungarian alphabet you can pronounce or spell anythingggg because it's spelt like it sounds and it sounds like it's spelt (unlike annoying languages like English and French). This is fantastic news! I still can't spell properly in English (my mother-tongue) because you know what? THEIR OUR NO RULEZ. Hungarian is better, things are said as they are spelt. Yey.

3. 'Gy' Can Be Conquered

Ah yes, the good old gyík (lizard).

'Gy' may well be the Hungarian character you struggle the most with (we certainly did), and it's not one that you can just ignore (like I like to do with hard characters). This is because Gy comes up all the time: hogy vagy? (how are you?), vagyok (I am) and even Magyar (Hungarian). So how do you do it? We would never have known if it wasn't for the help from our Hungarian friends. Most said it sounds a lot like 'due' or 'during', which it does.

The second step was being told that it's a lot softer than we're used to saying DU, anddd it's said in the middle of the mouth (not on the lips) with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. If you're making noises like you've never made before, don't worry - you've nailed 'gy'.

4. It's Not Like Any Other Language in the World

Most languages in Europe are Romance languages (like Spanish, French and Italian), Germanic (German, Swedish, Norwegian) or Slavonic (Russian, Polish, Slovenian). Hungarian doesn't fall into any of these categories. Look at Hungary on this map, it's a little landlocked island surrounded by Romance, Germanic and Slavonic languages and it's not like any of them - isn't that awesome!

The first thing we heard about Hungarian was that it is similar to Finnish, quickly followed by the second thing we heard about Hungarian: it really isn't. Hungarians and Fins can't understand each other's languages.

5. But It Pops Up in Odd Places!

Despite the fact that they are very different languages, Hungarian and English do share a few words - namely words that originated in Hungary (like Paprika) and very modern English words (like iPod). There are even more common words in Hungarian and German though. Especially words like cake and biscuit which I think is because they were a big deal to the Austrian royalty during the Austro-Hungarian empire? But it doesn't just stop in Europe - Hungarian words pop up all over the world like in Sanskrit: kutya/kukkura, béka/bhéka and sárga/śãra; Mongolian and Turkish!

6. All This Is Linked to Its Ancient History

Like us, the Hungarians were nomadic! They went everywhere before settling in Europe, which is why their language is so foreign, but also pops up here and there. There's also evidence to suggest that the Hungarians went to Canada before Columbus!

7. There Are Some Super Funny Words

Our favourites being Titkok (secrets), puszi (kiss) and gyönyörü (beautiful) - that last one isn't rude, it's just fun to say.

8. They Sometimes Skip the First Person Singular "I"

Like Spanish and Italian, Hungarians skip the 'I' unless they want to really emphasis something - this is because the verb tells you that I'm talking about I. Instead of "én Angol Vagyok" (I am English) you can simply say "Angol Vagyok".

9. The Word Order Is Unusual

But it doesn't just stop at skipping "I", "Angol Vagyok" is a very strange order for us (literally English am) and continues with name: Laura vagyok (Laura am). PLUS the family name comes first in Hungarian - I would be Cody Laura, not Laura Cody. This gets super confusing when both your family name and first name could be first names - like mine!!  We get lots of (lovely) messages on Facebook from Hungarians, and find it super hard to know which is their first name - some of them stick to the Hungarian way of surname first on Facebook, but others opt to be more international and put their first name first... We're constantly accidentally calling Hungarians by their surname!

10. The Order Is Very, Very Unusual

Languages like English, French and Chinese follow the 'SVO' order - subject verb object, e.g. she loves him. Languages like Japanese, Latin and ancient Greek opt for 'SOV' e.g. she him loves. There are a few languages that do it the other ways - Biblical Hebrew and Arabic are 'VSO' - loves she him. But Hungarian takes it a step further - they have no fixed word order at all! It all depends on what you're emphasising!! Whaatt

Bonus: It's a Very Special Language

In the short time we've been learning Hungarian, we've learnt one thing over and over again: Hungarian is very special and we love it. We love that it's different from everything else and how it takes 'think outside the box' to a whole new level. We love how poetic it is and how beautiful some of the words are. The language is beautifully complimented by the lovely Hungarians themselves. We love how kind, enthusiastic, helpful and lovely Hungarians are. And are so grateful for all their help!

Wrap Up: Will We Carry On Learning Hungarian?

With it's crazy alphabet and grammar it would be easy to call it a day and give up. So will we carry on learning Hungarian? PERSZE!!! (of course). We're really enjoying learning Hungarian and will be carrying on and making YouTube videos about it each week - in case you're interested in learning this language yourself, here's a video I recorded with my new (Hungarian) bf Tamás! Enjoy :)

P.S. please leave a comment below with words of encouragement/ to let me know which bits I've got wrong :D

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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