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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What languages are similar to Hungarian?
Boglárka: And are they universally intelligible?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Willa Washington is confused about a word she learned. She asks another student, Daniel Dudas,
"Is the word "uborka" Hungarian?"
Willa Washington: Az "uborka" szó magyar?
Willa Washington: Az "uborka" szó magyar?
Dudás Dániel: Igen, de szlovák eredetű.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Willa Washington: Az "uborka" szó magyar?
Michael: "Is the word "uborka" Hungarian?"
Dudás Dániel: Igen, de szlovák eredetű.
Michael: "Yes, but it's of Slavic origin."

Lesson focus

Michael: In this conversation, we hear Willa and Daniel discuss word origins in Hungarian, and, in turn, languages that may be similar to Hungarian.
Michael: First, we hear Willa Washington ask,
Boglárka: Az "uborka" szó magyar?
Michael: which means "Is the word "uborka," Hungarian?" In response, Daniel Dudas says,
Boglárka: Igen, de szlovák eredetű.
Michael: which means, "Yes, but it's of Slavic origin."
Michael: To begin, Hungarian, or
Boglárka: magyar
Michael: is a Finno-Ugric language, or, in other words, belongs to the Uralic language family. In many ways, Hungarian is distinct from other European languages. However, don't let that discourage you, as a new language learner! The good news is that Hungarian also utilizes many loanwords from neighboring languages. This makes learning and implementing vocabulary much easier to do.
Michael: In particular, Hungarian uses many Slavic and Turkic loanwords. In the dialogue, we hear Willa Washington say,
Boglárka: Az "uborka" szó magyar?
Michael: which means, "Is the word "uborka" Hungarian?" We find out that the word
Boglárka: uborka
Michael: meaning "cucumber" is used in Hungarian but of Slavic origin. Other Slavic loanwords include the Slovakian word for "skirt," or
Boglárka: szoknya
Michael: in Hungarian.
The Slavic word for "plum" is also identical to the Hungarian equivalent
Boglárka: szilva,
Michael: to name a few.
As we see, Hungarians often borrowed agricultural- and clothing-related vocabulary from Slavs and adapted these words into the language by slightly changing the pronunciation over the centuries.
Michael: Interestingly, however, even the names of some weekdays were borrowed from Slavic languages. For example, the Proto-Slavic words for "Wednesday," "Thursday," "Friday," and "Saturday" are maintained in Hungarian in the forms of
Boglárka: szerda, csütörtök, péntek, szombat.
Michael: All of these are almost identical in Hungarian and Slavic languages.
Michael: Hungarian also utilizes many Turkish loanwords, like the word for "apple" or
Boglárka: alma
Michael: in Hungarian.
Michael: Another example, we can use is the Turkish word for "small" that is very similar to
Boglárka: kicsi
Michael: in Hungarian.
We even sometimes see loanwords from other languages, like German.
The word for "a pair," in German, for example, translates to
Boglárka: pár
Michael: in Hungarian.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: As we have mentioned earlier, Hungarian is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family
Boglárka: finnugor nyelvcsalád
Michael: which includes languages like Finnish,
Boglárka: finn,
Michael: Estonian,
Boglárka: észt,
Michael: and over a dozen smaller languages that are scattered all over the Arctic region and the Ural mountains in Russia. The ancestors of all these nations used to live together around the Ural mountains thousands of years ago. However, there are extremely few similarities between Hungarian and these languages due to their long isolation.
One of these rare examples is the Finnish word for "water," which sounds very similar to
Boglárka: víz
Michael: that means the same thing in Hungarian.
Michael: A specific trait of Hungarian (and other Finno-Ugric languages), as opposed to most Indo-European languages, is that Hungarian is a strongly agglutinative language.
Boglárka: agglutináló nyelv
Michael: This means that the meaning of words is primarily influenced by the attached suffixes instead of prepositions and other morphemes as we have in English. For instance, "house" in Hungarian is
Boglárka: ház
Michael: while "my house" translates to
Boglárka: házam
Michael: and "in my house" is
Boglárka: házamban.
Michael: This phenomenon, once again: called agglutination, is one of the most important principles of Hungarian grammar. Interestingly, it is also a very common trait with Turkish and other Turkic languages as well as with other Finno-Ugric nations that lived side-by-side with Hungary in the distant past; influencing one another, that can still be found in these languages today.
Michael: Despite all these similarities, unfortunately we can't say that these are universally intelligible. However, discovering these similarities if you are speaking any of these languages will surely make your Hungarian learning experience more interesting and exciting.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Boglárka: Viszontlátásra!
Michael: See you soon!