10 Quick Tips For Learning Hungarian

learning hungarian

So you're learning Hungarian? Welcome to one of the most beautiful languages in the world with some of the friendliest people!

Best Ways to Learn Hungarian

#1. Do what you naturally enjoy

One of the best ways to learn the Hungarian language (or any language in general) is by doing something you enjoy, but in that new language. Whatever you're obsessed with and can stay up all night doing, carry on doing it but in Hungarian instead. Here are some examples:

#2. Listen to Hungarian music

There's no other way to say it, Hungarian music is cool! You're extremely lucky that the European language you've picked to learn is Hungarian because quite frankly, most other European music is not great. Download some Hungarian music and listen to it 24/7 - in the car, on the bus, whilst you're making dinner, whilst you're working out. Boom you've just incorporated a whole load of language learning and cool music into your day. Our personal favourites include Halott Pénz, SuperStereo, Boggie and well, I wrote an entire post about it here: Hungarian songs you must hear right now.

And as with all language learning, make sure you check out your favourite Disney song in Hungarian - Disney songs are irritating and catchy; you'll be fluent in no time. Whilst we're on the topic of audio, allow me to introduce Catch Budapest's Smart Hungarian Audio Course, one of the best resources out there, by far! The course is recorded by native Hungarians and is complete with Hungarian transcript, English translation, words to learn and so much more! AND because I like you, I can offer you a 30% discount with WEASELS30 :D

#3. Watch TV shows and films in Hungarian

Think of TV shows and films you know so well in English that you basically know them off by heart: for me that's Friends, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Shrek (lol). Now watch them in Hungarian - if you can find it, feel free to use Hungarian subtitles as well, but don't use English subtitles - you already know what's going on and you don't need them.

#4. Read (fun) books in Hungarian

quick tips for learning Hungarian

Similarly to films and TV shows, read books in Hungarian which you already know off by heart - this saves a whole load of looking up words in the dictionary time. And is a good language skill - a lot of learning a new language is using logic to work out the words, not looking them all up in a dictionary. Shout out to my new best friend Martin for lending me Harry Potter in Hungarian :D

#5. Watch Hungarian YouTubers

We're biased of course, but we recommend you check out our struggles with Hungarian on YouTube :) We are learning it from scratch with the help of some lovely Hungarians. If you want to watch some Hungarian YouTubers who are actually good check out Csill és Luu, royalszabi and Chabinho!

#6. Find a Hungarian Buddy

All the progress we've made with our Hungarian is thanks to our Hungarian friends, they're very proud of their beautiful language and happy to help you with it. How do you find Hungarian friends? We recommend visiting Hungary. Budapest is our favourite city in Europe.

But there are ways to make Hungarian friends without leaving your country, or even your house! Essentially - meeting them online. There are lots of apps nowadays ready to connect you with foreign friends who are happy to swap language skills with you. As you are a native English speaker (or at least someone who can speak English well enough to read this awesome blog post), you're already in a great position: knowledge of English is one of the most valuable language 'currencies' - almost everyone wants to learn English or improve their English.

#7. Make Hungarian donkey bridges

learning hungarian

When you're learning new words, the best way to learn them is by making an 'Eselsbrücke'. This is a German word that literally means donkey bridge and refers to when you make a little story behind a word to help you remember it efficiently. Here's an example:

Mouse in Hungarian is egér. Egér (to me) sounds a lot like egg-ear. So my 'donkey bridge' that takes me from mouse to egér is this: I think of an egg in my ear, and inside the egg is a mouse!

Now this may sound like a pretty longwinded way to learn words, and of course it's hard to think of a bridge sometimes, but trust me this is the best way to remember words over time. - I have never forgotten that Wecker is alarm clock (a word I never use) in German because: an alarm clock weck-ers (wakes) you up!

#8. Learn the CORRECT words

I'm a big believer in only learning words that interest me or that I'd use in everyday conversation. We're not learning Hungarian to pass an exam or to read an newspaper, we're learning it to chat to our Hungarian friends, make YouTube videos and to get around Hungary a little easier.

In English you only need to know about 3000 words because these cover about 95% of common texts (source). So basically you don't even need to know all the words, so make sure the ones you're learning are useful to you!

#9. Starting with these words

Here is a list of 500 Hungarian words you should look at today. Why? Because they are very similar, if not the same, in English. If you know some German you're even luckier - there are lots of German words that come from Hungarian or Hungarian words that come from German (not 100% sure which way round that is).

#10. Start with learning the pronunciation properly

Instead of trying to wrap your head around all the vocab and the grammar system, we recommend first concentrating on some basic things (saying hello, thank you, good bye) and paying big attention to getting the pronunciation right for these language items. Less is more - they will understand if you do not speak the language and will really appreciate if you know a little - properly pronounced. There is relatively little variation in pronunciation in Hungarian (compared to all the dialects and variations of English, for example). So don't be put off if they don't understand what you're saying - you're simply pronouncing it wrong and the slightest mispronunciation may mean that you are saying a completely different word. Lol. Keep trying. Here's me keeping trying with Tamás (this is some advanced Hungarian, mind):

Hungarian is a phonetic language so that might prove to be hard for native speakers of English AND it is also a highly isolated language (their closest relative being Finnish!). In linguistic terms, Hungarians are the weirdos of Eastern Europe: everyone around them speaks either a Slavic or a Romance language. Hungarians on the borders very often grow up bilingual but most other Hungarians in the country are in linguistic isolation when it comes to geographically neighbouring languages. Note: many Hungarians, because of their ingrained racism, never fully appreciate that most of the Romani population in the country grows up bilingual, speaking the already really hard Hungarian and their own, beautiful native tongue, which is only Indo-Aryan language spoken in Europe. R.e.s.p.e.c.t. to them. Keep reminding white Hungarians of them if they are insensitive towards Romani people.)

Wrap Up: 10 Quick Tips For Learning Hungarian

So there you have it, our quick tips for learning Hungarian. Basically like everything in life, gravitate to those things that you're passionate about and everything else will fall into place (wow deep life advice there). And don't just stop at Hungarian - when travelling the world the least you can do is learn how to say thank you in different languages you can make someone's day with this simple word (and bonus: it can be your new party trick to say thank you in as many languages as possible). What's your best language learning tip? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Also, here is a video where Tamás helps me with (what we think are) the basic 15 Hungarian verbs an absolute beginner at Hungarian needs! :) With subtitles and all - enjoy!

P.S.: Again I highly recommend the Smart Hungarian Audio Course by Catch Budapest - use WEASELS30 for 30% off :)

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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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