Hungarians call themselves and their language ‘Magyar’, it belongs to the group of the Ugric languages and originated in the 16th century. It is spoken by approximately 14 million people- mainly in Hungary, but also in Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Slovenia, and Austria. Interestingly, it is an official language not only in Hungary but also in Berehowo (Ukraine), Slovenia, and Vojvodina (Serbia).

Discussions on origin

There has been a great deal of controversy on the origin of the Hungarian language. Since the 19th century, there have been discussions if this language is more closely related to Finnish (which it is today), or to Turkish or Japanese, and people tried to link it with many others. Then, Hungarian underwent a significant change because somewhere around 10,000 new words were added and a special institution was created to ensure its purity and the continuous formation of the next equivalents. Despite a lot of theories, nowadays linguists consider it to be a language of the Finno-Ugric family.

Alphabet and vocabulary

The alphabet based on Latin writing is used for spelling; it consists of 40 letters (14 vowels and 26 consonants). What makes Hungarian different from Polish are the sounds – some of them do not exist in our language, we also do not find letters like ‘w’, ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘q’, and the stress is always on the first syllable. What is also interesting, Hungarians form verbs from all words, that is why there are a lot of them. However, the Hungarian language does not have a verb ‘to have’ (to replace it they use linguistic constructions).

The next fun fact is that Hungarian have two words which describe red: piros (bright red) and vörös (ruby red). The first relates to inanimate, artificial objects, it is used to show indifferent or sympathetic attitudes, for instance a red crayon, red light. However, the second one concerns animate, natural objects, and it is used to show emotional involvement or seriousness, for example red wine, red sky.

They also have words which describe the age of siblings without adding any specific word like in Polish: öcs (younger brother), báty (older brother), húg (younger sister), nővér (older sister).

Learning the Hungarian language

A lot of teachers and linguists consider this language as complicated and involved because even the simplest constructions may be difficult. None of the words resemble English ones and they do not have anything in common with the other language, for example ‘yes’ is igen, and because of it, it is difficult to learn by association method. Spelling also can cause problems, and it differs significantly from the pronunciation. While travelling, people are not able to pronounce the word properly so they are not understandable, for instance ‘thank you’ in Hungarian is köszönöm, but it is pronounced ‘kesenem’.

The Hungarian language is so different from the languages of other countries, especially our native one. It does not mean that it is not popular, in fact it is quite the opposite. More and more people explore the complexity of Magyar for pleasure, the opportunity to travel, and exposure to culture in its natural environment. When we listen to Hungarian, often the first thing that comes to our mind is egeszege (good day). Taking into consideration that Hungarians are friendly and eager to communicate, they will appreciate the attempts to communicate in their language with a smile. However, we should use the correct phrase egészségedre. And how to <a href=””>translate</a> it? ‘Cheers!’

(translation K.K.)

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