- General information
- Varieties / dialects
- Learning with a background in other languages
- Grammatical overview
- Mutual intelligibility with other languages
- Literature / Media / Film / Music
- Learning material: Books
- Online material and links to information of interest
Hungarian (Magyar) is the official language of Hungary and is also the mother tongue of people of Hungarian ancestry living in neighbouring countries (e.g. Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, etc.). Because of immigration during the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, native Hungarian speakers also live in North America, Western Europe, Australia and Israel. All told, the number of Hungarian native speakers exceeds 14 million.
Linguists classify Hungarian as an Uralic language and linguistic relatives include Estonian, Finnish, the Saamic languages, and Nganasan. Most Uralic languages are spoken in northern Eurasia.
Hungarians are well assimilated into the Central European millieu and most modern Hungarians are physically indistinguishable from their neighbours despite the latter speaking Indo-European languages. The Hungarian Kingdom accepted Christianity in 1001 and its culture has adopted much of the Christian ethos.
Competency in Hungarian is useful in Hungary and areas where Hungarian is used by vibrant enclaves of native speakers (i.e. southern Slovakia, Transylvania in Romania, Vojvodina in Serbia, Bürgenland in Austria). Given the widespread level of ESL instruction in Hungary, many Hungarians younger than 30 do speak some English along with another foreign language (German and Italian are especially popular with young adults). Many older Hungarians do speak some German and/or know Russian. Understandably, many older Hungarians refuse to use Russian because of the Stalinist despotism of Mátyás Rákosi during the early 1950s and the Soviet-led crushing of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
Knowledge of Hungarian would acquaint the learner with features that are characteristic of Uralic (e.g. Finnish, Komi) and Altaic languages (e.g. Turkish, Mongolian). However, a prospective learner of Hungarian should realize that learning Finnish with a Hungarian base (i.e. both Uralic languages) is about as easy as learning Polish with an English base (i.e. both Indo-European languages) for example.
Varieties / dialects
The modern standard language is based on efforts started during the 18th century of incorporating eastern and western dialects. Dialectologists recognize 10 groups with the Csángó dialect in eastern Romania diverging noticeably from the other groups. Today, standard Hungarian is taught in all schools and colleges and this has limited the problem of mutual unintelligibility among Hungarians regardless of their native dialects.
Learning with a background in other languages
According to FSI, it takes approximately 1100 class hours to achieve professional speaking and reading proficiency in Hungarian. It follows that it has a comparable level of difficulty to doing the same in Estonian, Finnish, Georgian or Vietnamese.
Based on varying degrees of experience with Estonian, Finnish, Meadow Mari, and Saamic languages, I consider Hungarian to be somewhat easier to grasp or learn than these languages. This stands despite Hungarian being the first Uralic language that I began to study, and that I started studying other Uralic languages after I had gained basic knowledge in Hungarian and familiarized myself with characteristics and typological features common to Uralic languages.
For native speakers of an Indo-European language such as I, these are features that I found which caused the most difficulty at the beginning:
1) Conjugation that depends on the definiteness of the direct object, when applicable.2) Unfamiliar vocabulary 3) Word order
Stress is fixed on the first syllable while intonation is used in distinguishing between interrogative and non-interrogative sentences. There is also a distinction between voicing and devoicing that is not shown in spelling.
Azt hallottam, hogy… “I heard that…” Because the voiced z (with its ‘buzzing’ sound) in azt precedes an unvoiced ‘t’ (without a ‘buzzing’ sound), the preceding voiced consonant z is pronounced as s (the unvoiced counterpart of z)
Hungarian pronunciation is also affected by vowel harmony. Vowel harmony is the principle where back vowels (e.g. a, o, u) do not occur in roots which consist of front vowels (e.g. e, i) and vice-versa. In Hungarian however the division is not as binary as implied. A more accurate observation is that back vowels (i.e. a, á, o, ó, u, ú) do not occur in roots which consist of front rounded vowels (i.e. ö, ő, ü, ű). The front unrounded vowels e, é, i and í can however occur in any word regardless of the quality of its vowels.
In compound words, the principle of vowel harmony may appear violated, but analysis of a compound’s roots will show that each root adheres to the principle of vowel harmony.
There are three tenses (past, present and future), four moods (infinitive, indicative, conditional and subjunctive/imperative), and two numbers (singular and plural). In addition, there is no grammatical gender.
Verbs with a direct object account for the object’s definiteness by drawing on different sets of endings.
- Könyvet olvasok. “I read a book, I’m reading a book.” (indefinite)
- A könyvet olvasom. “I read the book, “I’m reading the book” (definite)- Egy almát adok a nővéremnek, de a piros almát adom az édesanyámnak “I give an apple to my older sister but I give the red apple to my mother” (i.e. I give some kind of apple to my older sister but I give the specific red apple to my mother)
Subtleties in actions can also be expressed sometimes by attaching prefixes to verbs.
- A könyvet olvasom. “I’m reading the book.”- A könyvet elolvasom. “I’ll read (and finish) the book.”
Postpositions are used instead of prepositions.
- Azt csináltam segítség nélkül “I did that without help.” (segítség “help”; nélkül “without”) Word order is governed by the principle that the most important element or focus of the sentence immediately precedes the main conjugated verb. Generally speaking, the placement of elements before the focused section and after the main conjugated verb varies on the speaker’s perception on the flow or relevance of information with newer information tending to be placed near the end of the sentence.
- Este az egyetemisták a könyvtárban tanulnak. “In the evening the university students study at the library.” (new information: studying at the library)
- Este a könyvtárban tanulnak az egyetemisták. “In the evening the university students study at the library.” (new information: university students)
- Csak este tanulnak az egyetemisták a könyvtárban. “The university students study at the library in the evening only.” (Adverb csak implies focus and hence a phrase beginning with csak must be placed immediately before the main conjugated verb (here: tanulnak “they are studying”))
- Ki tanul este a könyvtárban? “Who is studying in the evening at the library?” (interrogative pronoun ki? “who” is focused by definition and hence goes immediately before the main conjugated verb tanul “he/she is studying”)
- Este nem tanulnak az egyetemisták a könyvtárban. “In the evening the university students do not study at the library.” (negating adverb nem “not, no” implies focus. A phrase beginning with nem must be placed immediately before the main conjugated verb tanulnak “they are studying”)- Az egyetemisták nem este tanulnak a könyvtárban, hanem reggel. “The university students do not study in the evening at the library but rather in the morning.” (negating adverb nem “not, no” implies focus. A phrase beginning with nem must be placed immediately before the main conjugated verb tanulnak “they are studying”)
Spelling is largely phonemic, but has some surprises for those accustomed to Englisha pronounced somewhat like the ‘o’ in ‘pot’. á pronounced somewhat like ‘ah’ but longer c pronounced like the ‘ts’ in ‘bits’ cs pronounced like the ‘ch’ in ‘chat’. dz pronounced like the ‘ds’ in ‘suds’ dzs pronounced like ‘j’ in ‘jam’ e pronounced like ‘e’ in ‘met’ é pronounced somewhat like ‘a’ in ‘hay’ without the final ‘-y’ i pronounced like ‘ee’ in ‘sleep’ í longer version of ‘ee’ in ‘sleep’ gy pronounced like the ‘di’ in ‘studio’ ly pronounced like the ‘y’ is ‘yes’ ny pronounced like the ‘ni’ in ‘onion’ o pronounced somewhat like ‘o’ in ‘force’ ó longer version of ‘o’ in ‘force’ ö pronounced somewhat like ‘ir’ in ‘bird’ without the following ‘r’ ő longer version of ‘ir’ in ‘bird’ without the following ‘r’ s pronounced like the ‘sh’ in ‘ship’ sz pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘sip’ ty pronounced like the ‘t’ in ‘tube’ (UK English) u pronounced like ‘oo’ in ‘boot’ ú longer version of ‘oo’ in ‘boot’ ü pronounced like French ‘u’ in ‘une’ or ‘tu’ ű longer version of French ‘u’ in ‘une’ or ‘tu’zs pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘pleasure’
Despite much of its vocabulary deriving from elements of Uralic origin, Hungarian has borrowed much from German, Romance, Slavonic and Turkic languages, and more recently from English. Some words should thus be familiar to English speakers.
internet, menedzser (manager), fútbol, gól, televizió, rádió, szleng, halló Loanwords of German origin include:cél “aim” (cf. das Ziel “target”); sonka “ham” (cf. der Schinken); táska “bag” (cf. die Tasche) Loanwords of Latin or Romance origin include:iskola “school” (cf. Latin schola); oltár “altar” (cf. Latin altare); piac “market” (cf. Italian piazza) Loanwords of Slavonic origin include:csésze “cup” (cf. BCMS/SC čaša “(drinking) glass”); patak “stream” (cf. Slovak potok); szerda “Wednesday” (cf. BCMS/SC sr(ij)eda); szomszéd “neighbour” (cf. Polish sąsiad); vacsora “supper” (cf. Slovak večera) Loanwords of Turkic origin include:alma “apple” (cf. Azeri alma); kék “blue” (cf. Crimean Tatar kök “sky; azure, sky-blue”); korbács “whip” (cf. Turkish kırbaç); sárga “yellow” (cf. Uzbek sariq) Modern Hungarian has a relatively complex form of the T-V distinction.
At opposite ends are the informal pronouns te (sing.) and ti (plur.) versus formal ön (sing.) and önök (plur.) Somewhere in between are maga (sing.) and maguk (plur.). There’re also the pronouns kend and kegyed which occur in some dialects and correspond in formality roughly to maga / maguk.
To keep things simple foreginers are often taught to use ön or önök for formal address and te ti for informal address. Maga and maguk are also taught but rather for passive understanding given the subtleties in determining the appropriateness of maga and maguk as they imply more social distance (which can come off as indifference or even mild condescension), rather than respect between strangers..
The complex T-V in Hungarian also shows up in how one greets people with “How are you?” or “How do you do?”
Hogy (te) vagy? “How are you?” (informal singular - 2nd person singular) Hogy (ti) vagytok? “How are you?” (informal plural - 2nd person plural)
Hogy (maga/ön) van? “How are you?” (formal singular - 3rd person singular) Hogy (maguk/önök) vannak? “How are you?” (formal plural - 3rd person plural)
Hogy tetszik lenni? “How are you?” (literally: “How (to you) does it please to be?” - formal but somewhat affectionate singular/plural). One would usually see this structure of a conjugated form of tetszeni followed by the infinitive when addressing the elderly including instances of children greeting grandparents or great-grandparents or a middle-aged person addressing an elderly stranger.
Mutual intelligibility with other languages
Hungarian shows the most similarity to the endangered language of Mansi spoken in western Siberia but mutual intelligibility is low. Certainly speakers of better-known Altaic (e.g. Mongolian, Turkish) or other Uralic languages (e.g. Estonian, Finnish) would find certain aspects of Hungarian to be easier to grasp than would speakers of languages from other families yet Hungarian will be practically unintelligible all the same.
There are a few hints that learners can use to understand or at minimum partially demystify some aspects of Hungarian. The comparisons will rely primarily on languages that learners are more likely to know already, and so links with Mansi will be given little attention despite that language’s somewhat greater similarity to Hungarian.
1) An Uralic cognate that begins with f- in Hungarian often begins with p- in a related language (e.g. Estonian, Finnish, Komi, Saamic languages)
- félni (Hungarian) “to fear” (Cf. pelgama (Estonian); pelätä (Finnish); повны (Komi); poollađ (Inari Saami))
- fiú (Hungarian) “boy” (Cf. poeg “son” (Estonian); poika (Finnish); пи (Komi, Udmurt); пыг (Mansi))
2) An Uralic cognate that begins with [i]h- in Hungarian before a back-vowel often begins with k- in most Uralic languages apart from Khanty, Mansi and Samoyedic which can begin with h- or k (x- and к- in the respective Cyrillic-based alphabets).
- (meg)halni (Hungarian) “to die” (Cf. koolma (Estonian - dialectal); kuolla (Finnish); хăԓты (Khanty); кувны (Komi); колаш (Mari); ха-сь (Nenets); куодя (Nganasan))
- hat (Hungarian) “six” (Cf. kuus (Estonian); kuusi (Finnish); kutta (Inari Saami); хōт (Mansi); кота (Moksha); куать (Udmurt))
3) An Uralic cognate that begins with k- in Hungarian before a front-vowel often begins with k- in a related language.
- két / kettő (Hungarian) “two” (Cf. kaks (Estonian); kaksi (Finnish); кык (Komi); kyehti (Inari Saami); кит / китыг (Mansi); кафта (Moksha))
- könny (Hungarian) “tear” (Cf. kyynel (Finnish); koonjal (Inari Saami); -кыли: синкыли (Udmurt - син “eye”))
4) An Uralic cognate that has a non-initial -z- in Hungarian often corresponds to -t- in a related language.
- száz (Hungarian) “hundred” (Cf. sada (Estonian - original -t- has changed to -d-); sata (Finnish); čyeti (Inari Saami); сот (Khanty); сяда (Moksha - original -t- has changed to -d- (-д- in current orthography))
- vezetni (Hungarian) “to pull” (Cf. ветямс “to lead” (Erzya); vedama (Estonian - original -t- has changed to -d-); vetää (Finnish))
5) The Hungarian concepts behind using prefixes are somewhat reminiscent to those found in Germanic or Slavonic languages as the prefixes expand the basic meaning of verbs by introducing nuances for completeness, aspect or direction.
- hívni “to call”; meghívni “to invite” (Hungarian) (Cf. prosić “to ask for”; zaprosić < zapraszać “to invite” (Polish))
- írni “to write”; aláírni “to sign, put down one’s signature” (Hungarian) (Cf. schreiben; unterschreiben (German))
6) Hungarian partially resembles Eastern Slavonic languages and Turkish in that it does not use a copula for present tense in the third person.
- Én vagyok magyar. “I am [a] Hungarian”
- Az ember magyar. “The person is [a] Hungarian” (literally: “The person Hungarian”) (Hungarian)
- Я венгерец “I am [a] Hungarian” (literally: “I Hungarian”)
- Человек венгерец “[A/The] person is [a] Hungarian” (literally: “[A/The] person Hungarian”) (Russian)
- Ben macarım “I am [a] Hungarian” (literally: “I Hungarian-[personal suffix]”)
- Kişi macar “[A/The] person is [a] Hungarian” (literally: “[A/The] person Hungarian”) (Turkish)
7) Hungarian most frequently translates “to have” with a construction using “to be” that is conceptually similar to what is used in Estonian, Finnish and Turkish and reminiscent of the general tendency in Eastern Slavonic languages.
”I have a cat”
- Macskám van / Nekem macska van (Hungarian - “Cat-my there-is” / “Me-for cat there-is”)
- M(in)ul on kass (Estonian - “Mine-on there-is [a] cat”)
- M(in)ulla on kissa (Finnish - “Mine-on there-is [a] cat”)
- У меня (есть) кошка (Russian - “At mine (is) [a] cat”)
- Kedim var (Turkish - “Cat-my there-is”)
8) When postpositions occur implicitly or explicitly with a personal pronoun, Hungarian postpositons take on a personal possessive suffix like Finnish postpositions governing the genitive under the same conditions.
”In my opinion Ilona is pretty.”
- Szerintem Ilona csinos. (Hungarian - literally: According-to-[1st person singular possessive suffix] Ilona pretty)
- (Minun) mielestäni Ilona on sievä. (Finnish - literally: (Mine) from-opinion-[1st person singular possessive suffix] Ilona is pretty)
”May I sit beside you?”
- Ülhetek melléd? (Hungarian - literally: Sit-[ability suffix]-I beside-to-[2nd person singular possessive suffix])
- Saanko istua (sinun) viereesi? (Finnish - literally: Can-I to sit (yours) beside-to-[2nd person singular possessive suffix])
Literature / Media / Film / Music
Hungarian literature has its ‘stars’ such as Sándor Petőfi (poet), Géza Gárdonyi (author), Endre Ady (poet), Zsigmond Móricz (author), Attila József (poet), Gyula Krudy (author). While some of their works have been translated into several languages, a knowledge of Hungarian will give you access to the originals.
Hungarian cinema can also provide a useful diversion for someone learning Hungarian. Prominent directors include István Szabó, Béla Tarr and Miklós Jancsó while critically-acclaimed films include “Szegénylegények” (The Round-Up), “Szerelem” (Love), and “Az én XX. századom” (My 20th Century).
In music, a learner could take advantage of the stock of Hungarian vocal music starting from the classical musicians Ferenc Erkel, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. Erkel is considered to be the founder of Hungarian opera and his operas can provide challenging if not interesting practice for learners. On the other hand, Bartók’s and Kodály’s pioneering work in ethnomusicology yielded from each many choral and vocal compositions inspired by, if not drawn directly from, Hungarian folk songs.
More modern bands include Syrius (fusion jazz), Metró (rock), Omega (rock) Moby Dick (thrash metal), Locomotiv GT (rock), Illés (rock/beat). Groups such as Muzsikás and Csík zenekar cater to those into a sometimes modernized take on folk music, and can be entertaining opportunity for learners to hear Hungarian folk songs.
Learning material: Books
1) Teach Yourself Get Started in Hungarian (Zsuzsa Pontifex)
- It comes with one CD and a textbook. It costs approximately $25 US on Amazon.
- This is somewhat like a more in-depth version of the first half of “Teach Yourself Hungarian” / “Complete Hungarian” by the same author (see below).
- There are 10 units each containing a list of vocabulary, dialogues and exercises.
- For people starting to learn Hungarian, using this course before “Teach Yourself Hungarian” / “Complete Hungarian” may be helpful to get a solid grounding in some of the fundamentals of Hungarian. In this way, subsequently using “Teach Yourself Hungarian” / “Complete Hungarian” (or even “Colloquial Hungarian”) would be less daunting, and would address somewhat the problem of there being an insufficient amount of exercises in these types of courses.
2) Teach Yourself Hungarian (editions up to 2010) / Complete Hungarian (edition after 2011) (Zsuzsa Pontifex)
- It comes with two CDs or cassettes and a textbook. It costs approximately $40 US on Amazon.
- What I enjoyed about this course was that it had lively dialogues and useful grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter with answers at the back of the book.
- What I enjoyed least about this course was that its presentation of grammar was somewhat unstructured and could intimidate the learner at first. In the interest of keeping lively dialogues, it’s natural that the language used would have relatively complex structures for a beginner and some idioms. The grammar section of each chapter would focus on the grammatical aspects of each set of dialogues. It would have been desirable if the textbook had included more exercises.
3) Colloquial Hungarian (Carol Rounds and Erika Sólyom)
- It comes with two CDs or cassettes and a textbook. It costs approximately $50 US on Amazon. The audio is also downloadable for the 2nd edition of the course at Routledge’s website. See the subsection “Online material and links to information of interest” below for the URL.
- What I enjoyed about this course was that it had good dialogues which form a running story and useful grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter with answers at the back of the book.
- Compared to Pontifex’s course, ‘Colloquial Hungarian’ has a somewhat better presentation of grammar since the dialogues are designed in a way to emphasize the grammar or theme of a given chapter. Unfortunately, it would have been desirable if the textbook had included more exercises.
4) FSI Hungarian Basic Course (Augustus A. Koski and Ilona Mihalyfy)
- This course dates from the Cold War and is designed in FSI’s drab style with plenty of drills and dialogues and answers to some of the drills. It’s meant for those with plenty of motivation and discipline.
- Because of the course’s origination from the Department of State, it is held to be in the public domain in the USA.
- Hippocrene Books Inc. has reprinted the text for volume 1 and it sells for varying amounts of money from various booksellers as “Hungarian Basic Course”.
5) FSI Hungarian Graded Reader (Augustus A. Koski and Ilona Mihalyfy)
- This is graded reader meant to supplement a beginners’ course in Hungarian. One presumes that this was designed with the FSI Hungarian Basic Course in mind although any learner of Hungarian would find the graded reader useful.
- Because of the course’s origination from the Department of State, it is held to be in the public domain in the USA.
- It comprises 56 short texts or excerpts by Hungarian authors with each text followed by comprehension exercises and substitution or transformation drills that review some of the grammatical structures found in the text.
- Although the audio of only 24 sections is available for free download on various websites, all of the audio is available for purchase from 3rd party resellers and the US Government through its National Audiovisual Center.
6) Halló, itt Magyarország! (József Erdős and Csilla Prileszky)
- This course comes with 3 books and 2 CDs.
- Volumes 1 and 2 are presented entirely in Hungarian and each chapter consists of dialogues, illustrations, brief notes on grammar, exercises and lists of vocabulary. Each of Volume 1 and 2 comes with a CD. However, newer printings of Volume 1 do not include a CD but come with a password that allows the purchaser to download the book’s audio as .mp3 files from the publisher’s website.
- Volume 3 contains the answer key, more detailed explanations of the grammar taught, and a glossary in Hungarian, English, French, German and Italian.
7) Hungarian in Words and Pictures (József Erdős, Endre Kozma, Csilla Prileszky and György Uhrman)
- This is a textbook for beginners that is rather similar to “Halló, itt Magyarország!”. The audio for the course is available as a free download from Indiana University’s audio archive. See the subsection “Online material and links to information of interest” below for the URL.
- Each chapter begins with a dialogue or narrative, followed by tables, illustrations and example sentences to demonstrate grammar points. There is no English used apart from the word lists and instructions for the exercises.
- The answer key in the appendix covers most exercises.
- Given the lack of English in the book, it’s best suited for someone attending a class, although a particularly motivated student could also use this course with the help of a native speaker and a reference manual in grammar.
8) Learn Hungarian (Zoltán Bánhidi, Zoltán Jókay and Dénes Szabó)
- This is a rather old (1965) textbook published in communist Hungary that may be available for little or much money in second-hand bookstores.
- The textbook is rather usable by a highly motivated independent learner as each chapter consists of a short dialogue or passage or two, notes on grammar, cultural notes or a song, a list of vocabulary and exercises. One of the appendices includes the answers for most of the book’s exercises.
- Most of the assigned exercises are fill-in-the-blank, substitution or translation drills, while others lend themselves to learning with a tutor or teacher as they require the student to write short essays using what he/she has learned so far.
- In a pinch, the book can also serve as a reference manual of grammar as its coverage of grammar exceeds that found in newer self-instructional courses of Hungarian.
- As of September 2011, Indiana University’s Center for Language Technology and Instructional Enrichment hosts the recordings in .mp3 of the book’s dialogues and readings on its audio archive for Hungarian under “Learn Hungarian, 3rd Ed”.
9) Assimil Hungarian with Ease (Péter Balogh and Kristina Jilly)
- This course comes with 4 cassettes or CDs and a textbook. Its price varies from $70 US to $120 US depending on the vendor.
- This is a typical course in Assimil’s “…with Ease” series with 85 lessons divided into two waves - passive and active. Every seventh lesson offers more detailed explanations of grammar than the footnotes accompanying each dialogue.
- This is most useful for exposing learners to some humorous or interesting dialogues. However I found it lacking because of the very small amount of exercises in each lesson. Each lesson’s set of exercises consists of about half-a-dozen incomplete sentences requiring the student to fill in the blanks.
10) MagyarOK (Szilvia Szita and Katalin Pelcz)
- This is a new series with each volume geared to CEFR. The authors have planned to issue four volumes and as of May 2016, the volumes for A1 and A2 have been issued with the third volume for B1 scheduled for release later in 2016. Presumably the volume for B2 will be available starting in 2017 or 2018.
- Each volume consists of a textbook and workbook. The audio and answer keys for each volume are freely downloadable from the series’ website in .mp3 format and .pdf respectively. The website also hosts in .pdf the notes on grammar in languages other than Hungarian as the books themselves are in Hungarian only. See the subsection “Online material and links to information of interest” below for the URL of the website.
- Despite the books being in Hungarian only, and so best suited for use with a teacher or tutor, the provision of the answer keys, audio, instructions and notes on grammar as free downloads would make them useful for an independent learner. These books are similar to most on the market nowadays with their functional/communicative approach and colorful layout. However there are plenty of exercises - many of which are fill-in-the-blank, but some are slightly similar to substitution or transformation drills from FSI basic courses where the learner gives the answer based on the clues given.
- Each volume of a textbook and workbook costs approximately 7,000 forints (~ $25 US) and can be ordered from a Hungarian bookstore or from the series’ website.
11) Angol-magyar kéziszótár (ed. László Országh et al.)
12) Magyar-angol kéziszótár (ed. László Országh et al.)
- These may be difficult to obtain outside Hungary, but are readily available in Hungary for about 6,000 forints (approx. $20 US) each.
- These are excellent medium-sized dictionaries of English to Hungarian and vice-versa.
- Each dictionary has roughly 50,000 head-words and many entries include example sentences showing idiomatic use.
13) Angol-magyar nagyszótár (ed. László Országh et al.)
14) Magyar-angol nagyszótár (ed. László Országh et al.)
- These may be difficult to obtain outside Hungary, but are readily available in Hungary for about 20,000 forints (approx. $ 70 US) each.
- These are larger versions of the dictionaries listed in 10) and 11).
- Each dictionary has roughly 190,000 head words and like the medium-sized versions above, many entries include example sentences showing idiomatic use
15) English-Hungarian Dictionary (Hippocrene Standard Dictionary) (ed. Tamás Magay, Lajos Kiss)
16) Hungarian-English Dictionary (Hippocrene Standard Dictionary) (ed. Tamás Magay, Lajos Kiss)
- Each dictionary contains roughly 30,000 entries and also includes example sentences in many entries showing idiomatic use. They may be out of print, but they are sometimes available from sellers on Amazon Marketplace for about $20 US each.
- Despite their high quality they are merely Hippocrene Books Inc.’s reprinting of dictionaries printed originally by the Hungarian company Akadémiai Kiadó which publishes the aforementioned high-quality dictionaries edited by László Országh et al.
- In case you cannot obtain the medium-sized English-Hungarian or Hungarian-English dictionaries listed in 11) and 12), then these reprints by Hippocrene are serviceable alternatives.
17) Hungarian Practical Dictionary (Éva Szabó)
- This is a surprisingly decent offering published by Hippocrene Books Inc and costs roughly $25 US on Amazon.
- It has roughly 30,000 entries and is bi-directional between English and Hungarian. Some head-words show idiomatic uses of the word and this approach is a welcome change from most of Hippocrene’s other dictionaries which are little more than bilingual word-lists shorn of any examples of idiomatic use or indications of grammatical information.
- In case one cannot obtain the dictionaries edited by László Országh or Tamás Magay, Szabó’s dictionary will do in a pinch for beginners learning Hungarian.
18) Hungarian: An Essential Grammar (Carol Rounds)
- This is a handy and user-friendly reference guide to Hungarian grammar. It costs approximately $35 US on Amazon.
- It is part of Routledge’s series of descriptive grammars meant for students learning how to use the target language.
19) Hungarian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar (Miklós Törkenczy)
- This is a handy and concise reference guide to Hungarian grammar and costs approximately $10 US on Amazon.
- Despite Rounds’ book having greater coverage and providing more example sentences, Törkenczy’s is a suitable choice for beginners.
Online material and links to information of interest
Discussions, posts or longs on how-to-learn-any-language.com involving Hungarian:
- 0 to conversational Hungarian in 3 months
- B2-C1/C2 - what did you do?
- Estonian/Finnish/Hungarian “cheat sheet”
- Finno-Ugric languages
- Hříbeček’s TAC 2011 - Team Ő
- Hungarian Online Dictionary
- Hungarian and Rumantsch diary - Kisfröccs
- Hungarian OR Finnish - please help!
- January Hungarian Challenge (Everyone)
- Mostly Magyar - A Hungarian Journey
- Review with FSI Basic Hungarian Course
- TAC09 Russian & Hungarian (#lal) (+Nor.)
- TAC 2009 - DaraghM
- TAC 2010 Katie’s Hungarian
- TAC 2011 team Ő, to the South East…
General collections of links
- A wide-ranging site on many aspects of the language (e.g. grammar, education, professional organizations)
General treatment and descriptions of Hungarian’s learning difficulty
- Wikipedia’s article on Hungarian
- A website on language difficulty for native speakers of English
- Script, Grammar, and the Hungarian Writing System. from ERIC (compares the Hungarian script, grammar and writing system with those of English to show potential effects on foreign language learning)
- A Contrastive Analysis of English and Hungarian Sentence Prosody. The Hungarian-English Contrastive Linguistics Project, Working Papers No. 6. from ERIC (comparison of prosody in English and Hungarian)
- A Contrastive Analysis of English and Hungarian Grammatical Structure. Final Report. from ERIC (compares grammatical structures of each of English and Hungarian with special attention to features that would hinder most the efforts of an English-speaking learner of Hungarian)
- Essay “Grammatical Difficulties of Hungarian Students in Learning English” which may be useful in an indirect way by showing what English-speakers may need to be aware of when learning Hungarian based on analyzing the aspects of English that are difficult for Hungarians.
Dictionaries and other databases
- A database on various language families including Uralic (source of some of the etymologies)
- Online English-Hungarian/Hungarian-English dictionary
- Online dictionaries between Hungarian and several languages
- Online version of the Hungarian explanatory dictionary by Gergely Czuczor and János Fogarasi from 1862 (despite being only in Hungarian and its age, it’s still full of useful information and most head-words or roots are listed with some hints about inflection (i.e. grammatical endings))
- Hungarian dictionary of slang, Hogymondom (in Hungarian only)
Online courses or downloadable audio/textbooks/instructional videos
- Basic Hungarian Course by Aaron Rubin
- AFS Hungarian Course
- eMagyarul 1 and eMagyarul 2 (interactive courses that are in Hungarian only and may be better for brushing-up than learning from scratch)
- Hungarian in Hungary from Langmedia at Five Colleges Center for the Study of World Languages
- Le hongrois avec András (course for French-speakers)
- Let’s Learn Hungarian!
- Curs online de limba maghiară (basic online course for Romanian-speakers)
- Tanulj magyarul! (Lerne Ungarisch!) (notes on Hungarian grammar for German-speakers)
- “Spoken Hungarian” from ERIC (textbook only)
- English-Hungarian phrasebook from ERIC
- FSI Hungarian Graded Reader from ERIC
- FSI Hungarian Basic Course Vol. 1 from ERIC (textbook only)
- FSI Hungarian Basic Course Vol. 2 from ERIC (textbook only)
- “A complete practical grammar of the Hungarian language; with exercises, selections from the best authors, and vocabularies, to which is added a Historical sketch of Hungarian literature” from 1853 and hosted on archive.org (likely on account of it being in the public domain).
- Magyar nyelvi gyakorlatok kezdőknek és haladóknak (sets of exercises in grammar for beginning and intermediate students - in Hungarian only)
- Audio for “Colloquial Hungarian” courtesy Routledge.
- Audio archive of Indiana University holding audio in .mp3 format for “Learn Hungarian!” and “Hungarian in Words and Pictures”.
- Website for the “MagyarOK” series (contains ordering information and downloadable supplements such as audio, answer keys, and notes on grammar).
Literature and authentic
- Hungarian electronic library which has online texts from Hungarian literature and should be suitable for learners wanting to tackle authentic literary material.
- Collection of texts sorted by author at Digital Literary Academy from the Petőfi Museum of Literature
- Online collection of Children’s literature from the International Children’s Digital Library - includes texts in Hungarian
Bookstores in Hungary
- List of bookstores in Hungary
Stores outside Hungary that deal in Hungarian books or have material of interest to learners of Hungarian
- Bay Foreign Language Books Ltd.
- The European Bookshop
- Otto’s Import Store & Deli
- Pannonia Books
- Lists of radio stations and television stations in Hungary (stations’ websites have content that is playable as a stream).
Credits: Edited by Senior Forum Member Chung.
This is a modified version of my Hungarian profile in the “Collaborative Writing” subforum last edited on Mar. 20, 2015 at how-to-learn-any-language.com.