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The 10 Most Common Mistakes in Learning Hungarian

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Today, you’ll learn about the ten most common Hungarian mistakes that learners of the language make and how to avoid them. From incorrect pronunciation to improper grammar usage, we’ll outline the most common Hungarian mistakes you should watch out for.

We won’t lie to you, these are pretty hard to overcome. Hungarian has many sounds not found in other languages, and its word order confuses many English-speaking learners. However, once you’re aware of these issues and have spent enough time practicing, you’ll be able to fine-tune your accent and communicate like a native! We’ll also show you an example of each mistake so that you’re fully prepared for your visit to Hungary.

And at the end of this article, we’ll reveal the biggest Hungarian mistake of them all!

Are you ready to learn about the most common Hungarian mistakes? Let’s get started.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hungarian Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
  5. Formal vs. Informal Speech
  6. The Biggest Mistake in Hungarian
  7. Conclusion: HungarianPod101.com Helps You Reach Your Full Potential

1. Pronunciation Mistakes

The most important aspect of effective communication in every major language is the pronunciation. In some languages, mispronouncing a word can change its meaning entirely; in others, incorrect pronunciation can simply make your speech difficult to understand. It might even get you into trouble, and that’s the last thing you want to do in a foreign country!

That’s why we’ve included common Hungarian pronunciation mistakes first on our list. 

1 – [A] vs. [Á]

Hungarian accent mistakes are very common, especially where these two sounds are concerned. We’ve already mentioned that Hungarian has many sounds that no other (or very few) languages have, and [á] falls into this category. Let’s see an example:

  • Micsoda?
    “What’s that?” / “Pardon?” / “Sorry?”

Learners often pronounce this word as [mit͡ʃodá] instead of [mit͡ʃodɑ]. The mispronunciation of the sounds [a] and [á] is quite common as the sound [á] does not exist in English.

2 – Diphthongs

The hardest things for native English-speakers to pronounce in Hungarian are dipthongs. In particular, foreigners struggle to pronounce [ɲ]. For example, they often pronounce the word above as [bárán] instead of [báráɲ].


2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

Vocabulary mistakes are easy to make because Hungarian has many words that can mean different things depending on the context. For example, a given word may serve as a verb in one context but as a noun in another. The Hungarian language is tricky, but if you pay attention and familiarize yourself with the homonyms, then you should be fine.


 Fal

In Hungarian, the word fal can have two different meanings: 

  • “Wall” [noun]
  • “He/she engorges” [third person singular verb]

 Levél

The word levél can also have two meanings: 

  • “Letter” [noun]
  • “Leaf” [noun]

As you can see, it’s a noun in both cases. Also, while the meanings are different, the two nouns are correlated!  


One Asian and One Black-haired Man Discussing Something Shown on a Laptop

3. Word Order Mistakes

Hungarian word order is a bit tricky. Although Hungarian has no strict or specific rules about how to order words in a sentence, it’s still possible to make mistakes here.  

Hungarian typically uses the S-V-O word order, but again, this can vary. The Hungarian sentence structure is based on these three basic rules:

1. Priority of word. The important words, the ones you want to emphasize, should be at the beginning of the sentence. In speech, these words might be stressed as well.

2. Priority of negation. Negating words, if any, are always at the beginning of a Hungarian sentence.

3. Focus of the sentence. The focus of the sentence is usually the word before the verb.

Now that you know these rules, let’s see some of the common Hungarian mistakes regarding word order.

“You are beautiful.”

  • Te vagy gyönyörű. X
  • Te gyönyörű vagy. O

Keep in mind that Hungarian generally drops the pronoun in a sentence like this, but we’re using the full expression to better explain how the word order works. 

Now, don’t let the English auxiliary verb “to be” fool you. While it comes after the pronoun in English, doing this in Hungarian is a big mistake.

“They are here.”

This sentence only makes sense when you mean that it is them who are here. But if you want your emphasis to be on ‘here,’ you would need to use a different word order:

‘Here they are.’ – ‘Itt vannak.’

In this case, the emphasis is on ‘here,’ so ‘itt’ is at the beginning of the Hungarian sentence.

Asian Woman in a White Dress Smiling

4. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Before we start, there’s some good news: Hungarian does not use genders for the third person singular! 

However, there are still some common Hungarian spelling and grammar mistakes that learners make every now and then. These include misspelling and conjugation problems. 

Spelling Mistakes

We’ll begin with a very common Hungarian spelling mistake:

“Stork”

  • Gója X
  • Gólya O

Even native speakers struggle with knowing when to use j vs. ly, as they sound identical to each other. It’s only by tradition that either of them is used in Hungarian words. 

However, there’s one rule that’s easy to remember:

All words starting with the sound [j] are written with the letter j, except in lyuk meaning “hole” and its derivatives.

Conjugation Mistakes

Now, onto conjugation errors! 

“I am too old.”

  • Én lenni túl öreg.
  • Én túl öreg vagyok. O

The conjugation of the Hungarian auxiliary verb “to be” is of great importance. This is because it’s spelled completely differently for each of the three tenses in Hungarian (past, present, future). 

Above was an example of a sentence with incorrect word order that also used the infinitive instead of the conjugated, proper form of the Hungarian verb “to be” (which is vagyok in present tense). Below are examples of how to write this sentence correctly in the past and future tenses.

  • “I was too old.”
    Én túl öreg voltam.

The Hungarian verb “to be” in the past tense is voltam.

  • “I will be too old.”
    Én túl öreg leszek.

The Hungarian verb “to be” in the future tense is leszek.

5. Formal vs. Informal Speech

This is more of a cultural mistake, rather than one concerning grammar or pronunciation. But, here it is: 

If you want locals to respect you, learn to respect them yourself. This applies mostly to elderly people or other adults you don’t know very well. Of course, you can use a less formal tone with people you don’t know as long as they’re around your age; this also applies to kids, friends, and family.

Our point is: Watch how you speak. Use a different tone and conjugation depending on how well you know the person you’re speaking with. However, even when you want to be polite, one of the common mistakes in spoken Hungarian is saying maga instead of ön.

Here’s an example of a simple sentence you could use with an elderly person:

  • Ön sorban áll?
    “Are you waiting in line?”

If you pay attention, you can see that ön (and maga, for that matter) works as the third person singular when conjugating verbs. However, the conjugation changes when you address the same person in a different context (like if they’re your friend); in this case, you would use a different tone and conjugation. 

Bear with us… Here’s the impolite version of the polite version:

  • Maga sorban áll?
    “Are you waiting in line?”

Now, let’s see the friendly/informal version:

  • Te sorban állsz?
    “Are you waiting in line?”

In this case, you asked the same question from the same person, but used a different tone. And see how the conjugation changed?

A Mother and Her Son Discussing Something That Is Shown on a Laptop

6. The Biggest Mistake in Hungarian

It’s nice and all that we covered all of these Hungarian mistakes, and we hope we’ve given you the tools necessary to speak Hungarian with confidence. However, there’s still one mistake we haven’t talked about yet: 

The biggest mistake you could ever make is being afraid to make mistakes.

When you’re in Hungary and around locals, they appreciate nothing more than seeing that you’re making an effort to learn such a difficult language. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself with a mistake. Hungarians are going to be nice to you and correct you, especially if you ask them to. They won’t hold a grudge against you. We promise. 

Go out there and dare to speak!

Blond Woman Raising Her Hand in Class and a Teacher Pointing at Her

7. Conclusion: HungarianPod101.com Helps You Reach Your Full Potential

Now that you know the ten most common Hungarian mistakes that language-learners make, you can buy your tickets online and travel to Hungary straight away. We’ve talked about typical Hungarian mistakes ranging from mispronunciation to incorrect word order and beyond, so we do believe you’re ready to hit the road! 

Although we said at the beginning that it won’t be easy, you’ve made it through to the end of this article. We hope that, if you don’t remember anything else, you’ll never forget the very last and most important mistake we mentioned. Never be afraid of speaking and/or making a mistake. Get out there, give it your all, and see that people will appreciate your effort.

If you would like to read more articles like this one, join the HungarianPod101 family. We’ll help you through any hardships you encounter on your language-learning journey.

What was the most surprising Hungarian mistake we covered? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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