Why do some expats struggle to learn Hungarian?
When you hang out with a group of expats you can always spot the new arrivals. They’ll be the ones proudly saying they’ll be speaking fluent Hungarian within a few months. You’ll probably laugh to yourself and remember that years ago you’d told yourself the exact same thing. Then you’ll wonder why it is you still can’t do much more than politely greet your neighbour on the stairs at home. You’re not alone – Hungarian is a very difficult language and it can be hard to grasp the basics let alone master it, but you’ll be glad to know it’s not impossible!
What’s so hard about it? Well there are 18 cases for a start and they’re made by adding extra bits to the end of the words, meaning they get long pretty quickly. But there are some easy bits as well. For example plurals just need the letter ‘k’ at the end. Also, there are no genders in Hungarian and just two tenses; past and present. The US Foreign Services Institute says it takes about 1,000 hours to learn Hungarian, so it’s not impossible, it’s just you’ve got to put in the hours.
This example is maybe an exaggeration, but pronouncing Hungarian correctly is difficult and just a little mistake can leave the word meaning absolutely nothing to a local. And even if they do understand you, they may well choose to answer in English in an attempt to be helpful. This can lead to feeling like it’s impossible to practice the words that you have mastered and fearful of rejection should you wish to try your skills.
But take Ausztrál Tom (“Australian Tom’s”) for example, he’s an Australian guy who’s taken his language-learning to a whole new level in his series of YouTube videos, see this one below where he practices his grammar by writing song lyrics. He’s an inspiration to language-learners everywhere!
Ask around, check cafe noticeboards, ask in some expat Facebook groups, or use a service like Learn Hungarian Now to find a teacher. Just be sure to check out their experience first. Being able to speak a language doesn’t mean they can teach it. The other option is a language school. You’ll pay more but you’ll have the structure of a class to keep you committed in the long term and people around you for mutual encouragement. We’ll be writing about the various language schools soon.
So don’t let another year pass saying the dog ate your homework, Hungarian is a beautiful language and you can do it!