“Budapest is the capital of what European country? “ – This was one of the questions on the popular TV show, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”, a question that almost knocked the contestant out of the competition. She is not the only one who does not know about this small country, with a funny name, tucked away in the Eastern corner of Central Europe. Hungary, however, is a proud nation with an interesting history and a truly unique language: Hungarian.
No, Hungarian is not like Russian, nor any of the Slavic languages. In fact its closest “living relative” is a distant cousin, Finnish. Hungarian is only understood by those who speak it, so there is no chance for overall mutual comprehension with the Finns, as when a Spanish speaker is able to communicate with Italians, or Russians are able to get by just fine in Slovakia.
There are many theories on the actual origin of the language since linguists have found similarities in grammar or vocabulary with about 40 spoken languages, including Quechua and Basque. The actual root still remains a mystery, so the current scientific consensus among linguists places Hungarian in the Uralic family of languages.
If you are Hungarian, you will likely have to learn another language so that you can actually communicate with the rest of the world. If you are a foreigner who has decided to take upon the seemingly impossible task to learn this language – well, good luck! Your efforts will be greatly appreciated as Hungarians almost never expect foreigners to be able to speak their language and applaud any effort of doing so.
They say that language defines personality - if this is true, it is no wonder that Hungarians are so persistent; their language has survived centuries of occupation and isolation; it is no wonder that they are so well-versed, Hungarian has been influenced by various languages and cultures from which it borrowed a great deal of vocabulary, and it is no wonder that so many talented individuals (scientists, musicians, poets, etc.) come from Hungary. The language itself is complex and functional, the variety of vocabulary is exceptional and its musicality helps to beautifully describe a wide range of emotions and experiences.
Lastly, let me share some interesting facts about Hungary:
- Rubik's cube, ball point pen, dynamo, were among the numerous Hungarian inventions.
- The word “coach” comes from the Hungarian town’s name, “Kocs” where the vehicle was invented.
- In the all-time total medal count for Summer Olympic Games, Hungary ranks 8th.
- 13 Hungarians have received a Nobel prize, i.e. more than Japan, China, India, Australia or Spain.
- And my personal favorite: There are approximately 500 places in the country where thermal water occurs, and there are 150 thermal spas throughout the country where you can enjoy the benefits of this warm water.
Why not visit Hungary for a truly unique language and cultural experience!
- Kornelia Kiss-Lasluisa
Team of Hansa One Directors, Trainers and Instructors sharing experiences and interests on all things cultures and languages.