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Lesson Transcript

Simone: All about Lesson 2, Cracking the Hungarian Writing System. In this lesson, Csaba and I are going to expound on something very important to your studies.
Csaba: Yes the Alphabet.
Simone: Hungarian has a written history of how long?
Csaba: Well there are examples of written Hungarian dating from the 10th century in the old Hungarian Script though not many of these remained.
Simone: Yes the Hungarian alphabet is in fact Latin extended somewhat to fit the language.
Csaba: The Latin alphabet was adopted in the 11th century right after Hungary became a Christian kingdom in 1000.
Simone: The oldest substantial text known today is the funeral sermon and prayer from the 12th century.
Csaba: It’s really amazing how it’s been preserved.
Simone: Yes especially if you think about how old the Tatas and the Turkish both ravages the country at some point.
Csaba: Indeed. Anyway, why not tell the listeners the 44 letters of the greater alphabet.
Simone: There is a lesser one too.
Csaba: Yes the greater alphabet has four extra letters Q, W, X and Y or in Hungarian, Q, W, X and Y. These very rarely show up in Hungarian words other than names in foreign loans. Even then, we prefer to change them to similar sounding other letters.

Lesson focus

Simone: All right then. Could you please start?
Csaba: Sure A, Á, B, C, CS, D, DZ, DZS, E, É, F, G, GY
Simone: Hang on. That’s a tough one. Can you say that again?
Csaba: Oh yeah sure. I think it is going to take a lot of practice to get to this one. GY, GY.
Simone: Okay keep going.
Csaba: H, I, Í, J, K, L, LY, M, N, NY, O, Ó, Ö, Ő, P ,Q, R, S, SZ, T, TY, U, Ú, Ü, Ű, V, W, X, Y, Z, ZS.
Simone: Well that’s a big list. To be honest, 44 seems like a huge number now.
Csaba: Don’t worry. Most of them are pretty easy to remember. I will start with a good news.
Simone: Good. So there is some in.
Csaba: Sure. Basically once you learn the alphabet and how to pronounce the letters, you are set. The whole system is very phonetic which means that most of the time what you see is what you read.
Simone: So far so good. Anything else we will be happy to know.
Csaba: Is it not enough already?
Simone: Well for me it is but you know how students like good news.
Csaba: Yeah okay. Here is another one. The consonants are very easy to write and remember coming from English. That means no….
Simone: Squiggly marks.
Csaba: Squiggly marks.
Simone: Right.
Csaba: You see sometimes two letters combine to represent one sound like in the case of the letter SZ which is an English S and the Z. Together though, they are pronounced like the first sound in the word Snake.
Simone: What would you pronounce an S then without a Z?
Csaba: That in Hungarian is a S like the first sound of ship.
Simone: Okay so what you are saying is that some sounds are represented by not one but two letters, that’s nothing new.
Csaba: Great. That covers the consonants.
Simone: So the catch is going to be at the vowels right?
Csaba: Yes and no. There are letters for vowels that are not present in English but they are not very difficult to remember.
Simone: Continue.
Csaba: Since they come in pairs of short and long, short and long.
Simone: How many of those?
Csaba: Seven pairs, 14 vowels in total.
Simone: Is that a lot?
Csaba: Well I think English has 5.
Simone: Oh so does that mean it’s?
Csaba: It doesn’t really mean anything. I just thought I’d mention it. Mind you, this is not the number of vowel sounds. It’s just a number of letters that are used to represent them.
Simone: And how is it with Hungarian? Letter to sound ratio that is?
Csaba: That’s the good thing about Hungarian writing I mentioned. While English has about 20 vowels, only five letters are used to write them which means that students don’t always know how to pronounce one. In Hungarian, 14 vowels, 14 vowel letters, consistent. You just have to learn them once.


Simone: Well I think that’s good now. We can wrap it up right?
Csaba: Just one more thing though. Using a keyword in Hungary is easy but extremely annoying for English speakers.
Simone: How is that?
Csaba: Well every letter is positioned at the same place in the two languages. That’s good but Z and Y are exchanged.
Simone: Why is that such a big problem?
Csaba: Well the key word lures you into thinking it’s easy to use, but in just about every second word, you will have to use backspace to get rid of unwanted Zs and Ys.
Simone: I can see how that’s annoying but did you have to ruin the mood right at the end?
Csaba: Sorry.
Simone: That’s okay.