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Learn Hungarian for beginners in Budapest


  • Peterjon Cresswell

28/08/2019 6.09pm

September means back to school – and for those poor foreigners taking the plunge and learning Hungarian, a frustrating maze of overly long words, bizarre vocabulary and strange new letters. But if all you need is enough Magyar to get by on a daily basis, you don’t have to drown in verb tables to post a letter or buy tablets from your local pharmacy. A German expat has set up classes geared for practical use – with affordable childcare on offer in the mornings.

Mechthild von Knobelsdorff, Maggie to all, arrived in Budapest two years ago along with her husband and young family. Keen to learn the local language to make daily life easier, Maggie enrolled in a class.

Photo: Hungarian For Expats Facebook

“I felt really uncomfortable not being able to speak Hungarian,” she remembers. “But I realised that the traditional approach was trying to teach me the language as a whole. Many expats are only here for two or three years and just need to reach a certain level in Hungarian. Something that can be applied on an everyday basis.”

In 2018, Maggie decided to set up her own classes, Hungarian for Expats, one-hour themed sessions for beginners, tailored to practical use. As well as hiring friendly Hungarian teachers, she arranged for a childcare service to help young mums also keen to learn. Now, a year on, Maggie is increasing the modules, the length of classes to 90 minutes, and introducing a range of user-friendly features.

Photo: Hungarian For Expats Facebook

Free initial sessions are being held next week, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 2-5 September, before six-week paid-for courses begin from Monday, 9 September.

“Feedback has helped us develop the material,” says Maggie, “but the basic concept remains the same. We found one hour to be a little short, so classes now run for 90 minutes. Each lesson, students learn ten to 20 new words within the framework of a story. At the end of each module, there’s a practical session when they can apply the material they have absorbed.”

Photo: Hungarian For Expats Facebook

Each of the three modules has its own time slot, Health on Monday mornings, Finding Your Way on Thursday evenings and Having Fun with the Boring Stuff on Wednesday mornings, staged at different venues, from leafy Buda to downtown Pest. Classes are given in Hungarian with English as the fall-back language.

“Top-quality teachers are vital,” explains Maggie. “People need to feel comfortable and overcome their fear of speaking Hungarian.”

Photo: Hungarian For Expats Facebook

This year, audio files and flashcards will also come into play. Looking ahead, Maggie is planning special classes for Chinese and French speakers, as well as organising Hungarian-language wine tastings and ice skating.

The first free session, an introduction to the Health Module, takes place at the Remíz restaurant in Buda at 10.30am on Monday, 2 September. Further introductory get-togethers follow on Wednesday, 4 September at 10am and Thursday, 5 September at 6.30pm, both in downtown Pest.

For all information, see here

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