Basic Hungarian

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Free BASIC HUNGARIAN Help
For English Speakers
Welcome to Basic Hungarian - A website created for English speakerswho are currently living, staying and/or working in Hungary (or will be in the near future), perhaps with a Hungarian partner, whereby they want/need to learn basic butuseful, everyday, Hungarian words and conversational sentences with the focus on Hungarian pronunciation (syllable-by-syllable) and basic, useful, grammar.

For those looking for more advanced grammar: Take a look at the YouTube videos, official grammar books, Hungarian language apps and other useful resources I have mentioned, reviewed and/or linked to on this website.

Basic Hungarian - Is It Difficult?

Although it's said that Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages to learn, especially its grammar and pronunciation, I would say within a few months of practise you should begin to realise that a good percentage of Hungarian (around 60%-70%) is actually pronounceable and easy to learn; especially as many of its syllables (phonetic sounds) are in the English language and therefore easy to pronounce.



I would also say that basic Hungarian grammar is not particularly difficult, but more a case of 'remembering it all'.
At the end of the day, as with any language, you need to immerse yourself in Hungarian. Start off by doing the following:

  • Memorise Hungarian words via apps such as 6,000 Words and Duolingo. The basic words (colours, body parts, fruit, veg, doctor, shopping, travel, stand, sit, walk, etc) will be covered within the first 400 words.
  • Listen very carefully to each spoken Hungarian syllable. Syllable pronunciation is key to the learning process.
  • Associate each Hungarian word with something. Examples: Blue is Kék (Cake) - A blue cake. Enemy is Ellenség (El-Len Shayg) - Mrs Helen Shayg is your worst enemy. The Family is Család (Choh-Lad) - The C family loves salad. Six is Hot (Hot) - Six is very hot. Face is Arc (Ohrts) - An arched face. Even how silly your word associations seem, if they help you to remember.....
  • Write down your shopping list in Hungarian.
  • Practise for at least 1 hour a day.
  • Practise on Hungarians in the street. Ask them what the time is, even if you don't understand their reply. This is a great way to build up your speech confidence.

If you practise Hungarian every day between 30 Minutes up to 1 Hour, while speaking the Hungarian syllables and Hungarian words slowly at first (to get comfortable with them), you should find yourself speaking, reading and writing basic Hungarian within a year; depending on your learning ability, time and dedication. And you could become fluent in 3-4 Years.

Examples of Basic Hungarian words and sentences are:

  • Péntek - Friday - PAIN-TEK
  • Holnap - Tomorrow - HOLE-NOP
  • Kettő - Two - KEHT-TUR
  • Tegnap - Yesterday - TEG-NOP
  • Jó Reggelt - Good Morning - YOE REHG-GELT
  • Mi A Neved - What Is Your Name? - ME OH NEH-VEHD
  • Mennyi Az Idő? - What Is The Time? - MEN-NYEE OZ E-DUR
  • Egy Óra Van - It Is One O'Clock - EH-JA (Edge) OR-ROH VON

In contrast: If you want to learn Hungarian on a more advanced level you will find it extremely difficult, mainly due to its more complex grammar and awkwardness of rolling the much longer words off your tongue, but this does not mean Hungarian is 100% difficult. Even with some of the really unpronounceable and non-English syllables, you could still learn around 60% (if not more) of the Hungarian language.

Even within your first year you should be able to do the shopping (order meat, ask where an item is and understand the amount to pay), buy tickets, order things from a café, attend parties whereby you can make sentences in a conversational way and much more.

Basic Pronunciation - Is It Difficult?

Do NOT stress about Hungarian pronunciation - Hungarians will know you are "Foreign" and will therefore not expect you, as an English speaker, to speak perfect native Hungarian; just as you and I would not expect a "Foreigner" learning English to speak perfect native English.

They might correct you, in a helpful way, and/or ask for clarification of your wording (by repeating your words, so they are sure they have understood you) but this is normal behaviour in many cultures; including English culture. This is a good thing because it means you will be forgiven for your imperfections! MENNYI is an example:

Its correct pronunciation is actually MEN-NYEE, but you can get away with MEN-YEE; especially when used with Be (BEH) simply because Mennyibe (MEN-NYEE-BEH) sounds similar to MEN-YEE-BEH and can therefore be understood as, or at least be accepted as, Mennyibe. This is especially true when used with Kerül (KEH-RULE) - Mennyibe Kerül? / How Much Is It? Saying MEN-YEE-BEH KEH-RULE will still be understood, heard and accepted as MEN-NYEE-BEH KEH-RULE.

Hungarian - Words And Sentences

The Hungarian words, sentences and pronunciation notes on this website have been compiled by me, John Cairns (native English), and translated and checked over by my native Hungarian wife, Tünde, with the aim of creating useful words and conversational sentences that you could and would use in everyday Hungarian life; as opposed to creating stupid border control scenario questions for example and useless never-used phrases (as found in tourist phrasebooks and inside language apps).

Furthermore: I have tried, where possible, to create sentences that are shorter and/or easier to pronounce while still using words that are in everyday use.

Composed By An Englishman And Hungarian Wife

As well as taking tremendous time to translate and spell check the list of Hungarian words (standard dictionary words) and everyday sentences I wanted compiling, Tünde also made sure those words and sentences were translated in the way a Hungarian would write, speak and ask them; as opposed to just doing straight forward word-for-word translations.

In other words: Most of the sentences for example are written whereby you would know the other person/people and therefore speak to them in a informal way; everyday way (common way).

This means many of our compiled Hungarian sentences will not be found inside a tourist phrasebook, on other language websites or in language apps simply because those medias do not cater for someone wanting actual everyday life, useful, conversational sentences.

Spoken By An Englishman And Hungarian Wife

Now that I have finished the example words and sentences I wanted to put on this website, words and sentences I feel will be useful to a beginner both practise-wise and grammar-wise, I have since recorded speech for many of those words and sentences.

With me speaking mainly syllable-by-syllable (so you have slower pronunciations whereby you can clearly hear how each syllable should sound and be pronounced) and Tünde speaking in syllables, words and sentences (many of which she has purposely slowed down for you), you should get a feel for how an English "Foreigner" would attempt to speak Hungarian while hearing correct Hungarian pronunciations and speech from Tünde.

It must be stressed that I have purposely over-stressed and/or made louder and/or slowed down some particular syllables and/or whole words and sentences in order for an English speaker not to get lazy by fading out endings or not stressing a syllable clearly enough (such as the rolling Hungarian Rrrr and double T words). Fizettek is an example whereby an English speaker will not pronunce the first T, so they end up saying Fee-Zeh-Tek instead of Fee-Zeht-Tek.

The Audio Files - Improving The Sound Quality

Recording and editing speech (.mp3) files has been time consuming and laborious, taking months to achieve, especially as we re-recorded most (if not all) of the .mp3 files using better audio and laptop equipment.

Furthermore: As we cannot afford to buy or rent out a professional sound recording studio and because my recordings are 'average priced laptop' amateur recordings, I recommend you use earphones when listening to the recordings so that you are more focused and hear the recordings better.

The Audio Files - Equipment Used

The original audio recordings were recorded with a cheap £6 microphone, but have since been re-recorded with a £30 Creative HS-720 USB Headset on a Lenovo IdeaPad laptop.

I convert each .mp4 recorded file into a mp3 file using Leawo Video Convertersoftware before enhancing and/or editing each .mp3 file with the Audacity Audio Editor software. I then playback each .mp3 file, via Audacity, using my Sony MDR-XB550AP On-Ear Headphones, to make sure the overall sound quality of each .mp3 file is clear and loud enough.

A Huge - THANK YOU

This website is dedicated to my Hungarian wife, Tünde Cairns, whose tremendous contributions (grammar help, pronunciation help, speech help and her rerecorded speech files), all of which have taken a lot of time and energy, have been and always will be invaluable to me and much appreciated by me. THANK YOU VERY MUCH Tünde.


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