Hungary in Europe
This website is designed for those who are looking for a Hungarian language teacher. Some of you have learned this language before but others need to start from scratch for some particular reasons without knowing anything about the language. Very often it happens that language learners realize only during the first free trial lesson, what an interesting and different language it is. I tried to describe some of the most important features of Hungarian language below.
Hungarian language – Magyar nyelv
Who speaks it and why is it unique?
Hungarian language is spoken by the approximately 10 millions inhabitants of Hungary, as well as lots of other people in neighbouring countries and those scattered around the world - altogether 12 millions. Hungarian is a unique language not only in Europe, but in the whole world. When talking to representatives of any other European countries, they often start conversing about the nature of languages – they suppose just the way they understand each other (a Pole can maintain a conversation with a Slovak while both of them talk in their own language, Italians can learn Spanish in an instant and so on) Hungarians might understand Finnish. Well, if until now you were of the same opinion, I have to disappoint you, unfortunately. Finnish is much farther from Hungarian than let us say Russian from English (and yet both Russian and English belong to the Indo-European language family). If you want to learn something different then I can assure you Hungarian is a perfect choice!
The origins of the language
So let,s see where this language comes from. There are continuous disputes about this, but let me introduce you the classification that is accepted by most Hungarian linguists and scientists at the moment. I will not go into other possible theories... and also, let me separate the language from our genes, because some may argue that our language is Finno-Ugric /apart from disputes/ while we might be of other extraction – so in order to forego any jarring notions, I am talking only about the language here as accepted by most: Hungarian language belongs to the Ugric group of the Finno-Ugric language family. Thus Finnish language is not directly related to Hungarian. Speaking an Ugric language, we don,t have relatives in Europe apart from the not only geographically far Finns and the maybe even farther Estonian language. These languages have similar grammar rules, although Finns and Estonians may also understand some words talking to each other. Most closely related languages to Hungarian are Mansi and Khanty in Siberia.
Hungarian grammar - a brief insight
Hungarian is an agglutinative language what means that words (word forms) are built by joining morphemes (,gluing, them) one after the other. A morpheme is the smallest component of a word with a meaning. Indo-European languages, English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, Russian, Polish and so on are all inflecting languages. Words in these languages consist of 2 main parts: the stem and the ending – the forms of the ending are to sign meaning (semantic relations) that depends on the context and thus the syntactic structure. Such an ending in inflecting languages is able to include several pieces of information, e.g. gender, number and case in Slavic languages. At first glance it might seem weird, but English has its endings too: just think about plural of nouns, past tense or the third singular forms of verbs. Syntactic structures and semantic relations between words are expressed by means of prepositions in the English language. If you learn Hungarian, you have to forget that you can adapt this knowledge. We have no such prepositions (Finnish language does). Let me show you an example:
Ház – house
Házak – houses
Házam – my house
Házaim – my houses
Házaimban – in my houses
(a is just a linking vowel)
Do not let it confuse you! It is not that difficult
There are 3 kinds of suffixes in the Hungarian language:
1. suffixes to form a new word (képző), eg. ír (to write) --> író (writer), telefon (phone) --> telefonál (to make a phone call)
2. suffixes /endings/ that give some kind of new meaning to the word without changing it into another one and without expressinf relations between words (jel), eg. the sign of plural: anya - anyák (mothers), the sign of past tense: áll - állt (he was standing), the sign of possessives: telefon - telefonom (my phone)
3. suffixes /endings/ that are used to express relations between words in the sentence (rag), eg. location: ház - házban (in the house), asztal - asztalon (on the table). These relations are expressed with prepositions in English.
The order of the suffixes are always as above:
1. író (writer)
2. írók (writers)
3. írókról (about writers)
Thus, types of endings in Hungarian have their orders. For example, in the words above you could not change their order: a word like *házbanaim is not proper to express in my houses.
We have plenty of cases but there is no need to be afraid: these are endings, that we ,glue, to our words to express these cases (3rd type of suffixes above).
The Hungarian case system (expressed with the following suffixes that are not even that difficult to learn
Hungarian language has no genders, it may be good news for you. We have definite (a/az) and indefinite articles (egy) and their use is kind of similar to the use of articles in English. What we have and what may cause problems for foreigners is the indefinite and definite conjugation of verbs. Let me illustrate this too:
Látok egy házat. – I can see a house (indefinite, I do not know this house).
Látom a házat. – I can see the house (definite, it is a particular house that
might have been mentioned earlier).
A very important thing in Hungarian is the vowel harmony. We have back vowels (a, á, o, ó, u, ú) and front vowels (e, é, i, í, ö, ő). Adequate endings that you ,glue, to the words are always chosen according to vowels that they contain. If you need to install a Hungarian keyboard, please read this post in my blog.
Verb conjugation is similarly complex, but it is not impossible to learn it! But you have to put a little effort in it
Hungarian has 3 tenses but very often present tense is used to express future and anyways, future is built up the way present is. So if you know 2 tenses, you know how to make them all
Very often people think Hungarian syntax (sentence structure) is easy, because there is a free word order. Well, that is not the case at all. The meaning of the whole sentence can change just by reordering words in it. I would say: everything before the predicate in a sentence has a strict order, but everything after the predicate in the sentence can have a free word order.
As you can see, some features of Hungarian may be more difficult than those in English, but on the other hand some others are a lot easier.