Fungarian Hungarian Frolics in Budapest

No romantic city break in Budapest is complete, in my humble opinion, without a foray into the almost unfathomable Hungarian language and so, on our recent trip, Iain and I booked a one hour introduction class with Miklos, Director of Fungarian (as seen on Channel 4 Travel Man).

Iain and I had high hopes for our hour with Miklos looking to master some essential Hungarian survival phrases and we were not disappointed. Miklos has been teaching English since the 1980s and in the last decade has been teaching Hungarian to enthusiastic language lovers through Fungarian and, more recently, is offering language and cultural tours of Budapest that link to the school curriculum for students through Ed Tours Hungary.

I admit I was very apprehensive attempting to speak what is considered by many as one of the most difficult languages to learn, but Miklos put us at ease, reminding us that ‘Budapest is an open air classroom’ and teaching us some of the basics to get by. 

During the hour we learnt that Hungarian:

  1. Is a Uralic language.
  2. Is a phonetic language.
  3. Does not have genders.
  4. Is agglutinative.
  5. Has 18 noun cases.
  6. Uses gemination, or consonant elongation with pairs of short and long vowels.
  7. Has vowel harmony with rules over which group of vowels can be used in the same word
  8. Always has stress on the first syllable
  9. Puts important information at the start of a sentence or phrase as in “English I am” so good for channeling your inner Yoda.
  10. Talks about people as having one eye, one ear, one hand and one leg. To hear something with ‘half an ear’ is to hear a rumour.

We quickly discovered that vowel length can be a bit of a minefield and that there are some ‘false friends’ that can cause some blushes / giggles when misused by the unsuspecting foreigner. We have it on Miklos’ good authority that the following words are always tricky for native English speakers:

  • Busz (English: bus) pronounced with a short vowel means “f**k”
  • “Pussy pussy” is used by some women when greeting each other to mean “kiss”
  • “Egeszsegedre!” (English: cheers!) can be transformed into “to your whole arse” if your vowels are out of place!

With all this fun, how much Hungarian did Iain and I actually manage to learn in an hour? Quite a good amount and I now feel I can confidently say the following key phrases below. Check out videos of us speaking some Hungarian on the Lingua Centra YouTube channel.

  1. Szia = hi!
  2. Jo Napot! = hello!
  3. Köszönöm = thank you
  4. Kösz = thanks
  5. Igen = yes
  6. Nem = no
  7. Út = road
  8. Utca = street
  9. Busz = bus
  10. Angol vagyok = I am English
  11. Skot vagyok = I am Scottish
  12. Clare vagyok = my name is Clare
  13. Magyar = Hungarian
  14. Hol van a mosdó = where is the toilet?
  15. Egészségére = cheers!
  16. Nem értem = I don’t understand
  17. Beszélsz angolul = do you speak English?

Both Iain and I really enjoyed our time with Miklos learning Hungarian outside the Great Synagogue in central Budapest and our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend getting to grips with those vowels!

We would highly recommend a Fungarian session to any language lovers visiting Budapest, so make sure you book your session today!

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