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The Focus of this Lesson is the Top 5 Reasons to Study Hungarian


 

Background of the Hungarian Language

Hungarian is an independent language within the Uralic language family. Even though this language family has very few members in Europe, the most populous groups live here, namely Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. The Uralic language family has other members in Russia and Siberia, by today usually with very few speakers. The relationship between Hungarian and these languages is often debated, but currently the most widely accepted theory is that there exists a clear relationship between Hungarian and all the others. Since the sub-branching complicates this picture even more and distances Hungarian from the others, it means that even with fluent Hungarian, you won't be able to understand Finnish or Estonian at all.

The Hungarian people used the Hungarian script before 1000 A.D., but not many examples remained of that. In the tenth century Hungary adopted the Latin alphabet. The oldest surviving Hungarian text (and the oldest of the language family) is the Funeral Sermon and Prayer from the 1190s.

Throughout the centuries, Hungarian had been influenced by Turkish, Latin, Slavic languages, German and English, and through these countless others.

When trying to master the Hungarian language, some of the difficulties students face are the extended case system and corresponding changes in nouns (e.g.: from the inside of the house: házból; into the house: házba; onto the house: házra etc.) and the so-called vowel harmony, which means that the vowel of the suffix must be consistent with the vowel of the main word the suffix is attached to (e.g.: "into the house": házba but "into the bottle": üvegbe).

On the other hand, reading the Hungarian script is quite straightforward, you'll never get lost in the tenses (of which there are two), you don't have to worry about gender, tones and the politeness system is also not too complicated.

 

Where is it spoken?

The Hungarian language came to the Carpathian Basin over twelve centuries ago and is now spoken mainly in Hungary as well as neighboring countries such as Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria. Approximately fourteen million people speak Hungarian natively, of them, ten million live in Hungary. But it is also spoken in several different places in the world due to emigration, including countries such as Israel and the United States.

 

Why is it important?

The top five reasons to learn this language are...

  1. It's fun!
  2. By learning Hungarian, one can get a deeper understanding of European history and culture. Throughout the centuries, the Kingdom of Hungary had an often ignored pivotal role in the shaping of Europe, being on the border of Roman and Greek Catholicism and the Turkish expansion. When not an empire itself, it's been on the border of empires, cultures and civilizations for a millennium and stood in the sea of Slavic, German and Turkish languages, without losing his identity.
  3. Hungarians are extremely grateful when they see other people try to speak Hungarian. Make sure you pick up a few words, even if you only have a short visit in the country.
  4. To know Hungarian is to be a member of a very unique club.
  5. If you want an inexpensive vacation, go to Hungary!

 

Lesson Transcript

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INTRODUCTION
Simone: All about lesson 1. Top Five Reasons To Study Hungarian. Hi everyone! And welcome to HungarianPod101.com, This is lesson 1 in the All About Hungarian series, the Top 5 Reasons to Study Hungarian. I’m Simone, your friendly neighborhood guide to everything Hungarian.
Csaba: Sziasztok! I’m Csaba, and I’m here in this lesson to bear a part of my Hungarian soul to you.
Simone: That’s right! This lesson is all about your home and native land, Csaba.
Csaba: And yours too Simone.
Simone: Yes but I am sort of more of a part time Hungarian person. You can probably tell from my Australian accent.
Csaba: I guess there should be some kind of initiation or Write of Passage at least.
Simone: Yes like drinking a lot of brandy or something.
Csaba: Yeah.
Simone: Okay well that does it for me. No way I can get in.
Csaba: Well fortunately you can speak Hungarian. So you can impress a native Hungarian anyway.
Simone: Yes the Hungarian is a poetic beautiful language. Well okay going to a soccer match, it may not seem that way.
Csaba: Maybe but it’s truly a beautiful language.
Simone: Yes with a very long history and intriguing culture to match.
Csaba: Intriguing yes. Stick with us and we will introduce you to a side of Hungary that only an insider gets to see.

Lesson focus

Simone: Approximately 14 million speakers make for a lot of good conversation.
Csaba: Plus Hungarian is everywhere.
Simone: Tell me Csaba, where have you spoken Hungarian in your life besides Hungary?
Csaba: All over the world. I mean I can hear Hungarian in any country.
Simone: My favorite thing is listening for Hungarian outside of Hungary. I get to eavesdrop on conversations more often than you think.
Csaba: Yeah Hungarian immigrants are everywhere in the world though not as numerous as Italian or Polish immigrants. You can still catch a few Hungarian words every now and then.
Simone: Any way, how about a few words in general about this language?
Csaba: By all means, when studying Hungarian or even just listening to Hungarian, you will notice a couple of things.
Simone: Give us an example please.
Csaba: First it sounds nothing like you studied before.
Simone: Exactly. Hungarian is not really related to anything else in Europe.
Csaba: Only Finnish and Estonian but knowing those languages won’t help you much.
Simone: So it’s not an Indo-European Language. Instead it is from the Uralic language family.
Csaba: And with about 40 million speakers, it is the most populous in that group.
Simone: So any ideas on how it came to be. I mean how did Hungarian end up in Central Europe with the closest language up there in the north?
Csaba: There are many debates on that. When Hungarians were riding into Europe from Asia, I guess we took a left where the Finnish took a right.
Simone: That is possibly the simplest lesson on history I’ve ever heard. Any ways, no wonder Hungarians are so proud of their language.
Csaba: Yes there is a lot of pride attached to its unique nature.
Simone: Okay so move forward a bit in history.
Csaba: The original Hungarian writing system was lost and we adopted the Latin Script at about the same time when we adopted Christianity.
Simone: Yes in the 11th century. Since then, how has Hungarian been doing?
Csaba: Hungarian has received a lot of influence from neighboring Slavic languages, Turkish, Latin and German as well.
Simone: So basically no matter where you start from, you will find similar stuff in Hungarian.
Csaba: At least a few, I am sure about that.
Simone: Can you tell the listeners a few things about what to expect?
Csaba: Good news or bad news first?
Simone: Let’s go with bad.
Csaba: Well you will have to learn suffixes and conjugations. The endings of words change a lot in Hungarian. This is after all an agglutinative language.
Simone: Okay. We are seeing some of those. What else is there?
Csaba: There is a thing called vowel harmony where the vowels must surprise, surprise, harmonize.
Simone: That means the words and whatever suffixes we attach to them will have similar vowels.
Csaba: Pretty much at least generally speaking.
Simone: Now some good news please.
Csaba: All right, ready. No genders, only two tenses. The alphabet is almost completely phonetic and no big dialectal differences.
Simone: Good. That means that with some Hungarian, you will be fine everywhere in Hungary.0
Csaba: And don’t forget some parts of Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and some other places around Hungary.
Simone: Okay top 5 List.
Csaba: The top five reasons to learn this lovely language. #5, If you want an inexpensive vacation, welcome to Hungarian.
Simone: #4
Csaba: To know Hungarian is to be a member of a very unique club.
Simone: That’s right and #3.
Csaba: Hungarians are extremely grateful when they see other people try to speak Hungarian. Make sure you pick up a few words even if you only have a short visit in the country.
Simone: And #2.
Csaba: By learning Hungarian, one can get a deeper understanding of European history and culture. Throughout the centuries, the kingdom of Hungary had an ethnic Nordic pivotal role in the shaping of Europe. Being on the border of the Roman and Greek Catholicism and the Turkey’s expansion. When not an empire itself, it’s been on the border of empires, cultures and civilizations for a millennium and stood in the sea of Slavic, German and Turkish languages without losing its identity.

Outro

Simone: Phew! That’s a big reason and the #1 reason you should learn Hungarian.
Csaba: It’s fun.
Simone: Sure it is.
Csaba: Okay everybody. You know what to do now. Get your iPod and shoot up for some Hungarian lessons.