Close

Magyarul: The Hungarian Language

Let's talk about Hungarian the language here! Grammar difficulties, new words, study techniques, good schools, good textbooks, whatever.

One of the first things I learnt in Hungary was a tongue twister:

Sárga bögre, görbe bögre - Yellow Mug, Curved Mug

It's a great idea but the moderators usually complain about Hungarian being posted as they don't understand it.

Just to be clear, this isn't a thread for discussions in Hungarian, but a thread for those interested in the language to discuss study approaches, textbooks, schools and tutors, raise questions about puzzling words and grammar, and such. Any Hungarian language text posted would be short and incidental.

zif :

Just to be clear, this isn't a thread for discussions in Hungarian, but a thread for those interested in the language to discuss study approaches, textbooks, schools and tutors, raise questions about puzzling words and grammar, and such. Any Hungarian language text posted would be short and incidental.

I know what you mean (fingers crossed).

Ok, here's a question: 

Why do I have to always add a -t on the end of Hungarian words?

You don't always have to add a -t at the end of course. But you do have to add a -t if the word is acting as a direct object. In English we do something like this for pronouns: it's "I saw her" not "I saw she." But it's just "I saw Lisa."

In Hungarian, though, you have to mark out every direct object, whether pronoun or not, using a -t. So if the Hungarian rule applied in English, it'd be "I saw Lisat."

Of course what's considered a direct object for this purpose can sometimes be different in Hungarian and English.

fluffy2560 :

It's a great idea but the moderators usually complain about Hungarian being posted as they don't understand it.

It's fine, provided that accurate translations are also posted with it so everyone can follow the discussion.

"T" is called "tárgyrag", or object suffix. It marks the object(s) of the sentence. This makes it possible to have anything as an obejct.

Also, "tt" is the suffix of past tense, you can find at the end of the verbs.

zif :

Of course what's considered a direct object for this purpose can sometimes be different in Hungarian and English.

"Direct object"? Hu? What is that?

Unfortunately, you just lost most American English speakers.  ;)

Formal grammar is -- or at least, was -- taught in American schools. Doesn't anyone remember diagramming sentences?

That said, I did learn more formal grammatical concepts studying foreign languages than studying English.

Anyway, you will note I avoided mention of transitive verbs. At this point.

zif :

Formal grammar is -- or at least, was -- taught in American schools. Doesn't anyone remember diagramming sentences?.

I only learned about diagramming sentences when I went to private school. When I later transfered to the public school system, I was the only one who had even heard of diagrams, or knew what a transitive verb was.

Foreign speakers of English tend to know all the grammar terminology better than natives. I personally never heard of a transitive verb until I moved to Hungary.

Brian32 :

Foreign speakers of English tend to know all the grammar terminology better than natives. I personally never heard of a transitive verb until I moved to Hungary.

I still don't really know what it is.  I've just had to look it up.  Hungarian has a special mention: Transitive Verb Hungarian

The notion of a transitive verb isn't all that difficult. It's a verb that takes a direct object, a verb that sort of works on something else. An intransitive verb doesn't.

So these sentences all contain transitive verbs:

I bought a movie ticket.
I like ice cream.
I gave Janet a gift.

And these don't, the verbs are intransitive:

I came home early.
I slept soundly last night.
I awoke around noon.

A lot of verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on how they're being used. Look at how the verb "walked" changes in these two sentences:

I walked to the store yesterday.
I walked the dog yesterday.

In the first sentence, "walked" doesn't take a direct object, it's intransitive, but in the second it does -- you're out there walking that dog -- and becomes transitive.

Transitive verbs are a big problem when learning Hungarian. Hungarian conjugations are complicated enough for intransitive verbs, but they're double trouble in the case of transitive verbs, because every transitive verb has two sets of conjugations: one used when the direct object is something specific, the other when it's not.

So following Hungarian conjugation, it'd be something like "I readek a newspapert every morning" but "I readem the Guardiant every morning."

And that's just the first-person singular present tense conjugation.

Nothing like a look at a Hungarian verb table to make you throw up your hands and decide to study Chinese instead. (No conjugations in Chinese.)

zif :

The notion of a transitive verb isn't all that difficult. It's a verb that takes a direct object, a verb that sort of works on something else. An intransitive verb doesn't.

So these sentences all contain transitive verbs:

I bought a movie ticket.
I like ice cream.
I gave Janet a gift.

And these don't, the verbs are intransitive:

I came home early.
I slept soundly last night.
I awoke around noon.

....

For the technical grammar terms ignorant, the word(s) (in)transitive already threw me.

I thought it was something to do with motion.

I can stretch the remaining brain cells to a simplified/plain English version like "object dependent verb"  and "object independent verb".

I think Zif missed the point.

I think English grammar terminology is alien to most native English speakers. Hungarians are experts on it because they learn English using the grammar translation method which is still very popular here in Hungary.

Quote from Zif: It's a verb that takes a direct object, a verb that sort of works on something else. An intransitive verb doesn't.

Would your average native speaker understand what the above means? Probably not. When Hungarians explain the Hungarian language to me they always use complex English grammar terminology which i am unfamiliar with as a native speaker. Some of my friends in Budapest have had the same problems.

Hungarian grammar is fairly straight forward if explained in proper everyday natural English. Both Hungarian teachers I had could not explain anything in everyday English because of their unnatural way of speaking. They over complicated things using complex English grammar terminology. When explained by my partner who speaks naturally and who is not familiar with such terminology things were a lot more clear.

Brian32 :

....Would your average native speaker understand what the above means? Probably not. When Hungarians explain the Hungarian language to me they always use complex English grammar terminology which i am unfamiliar with as a native speaker. ..... Both Hungarian teachers I had could not explain anything in everyday English because of their unnatural way of speaking. They over complicated things using complex English grammar terminology. When explained by my partner who speaks naturally and who is not familiar with such terminology things were a lot more clear.

I had the same problem in German with German teachers.  They use technical words I have no feeling for but that they (the teachers) were quite familiar with.   

We could only get on with understanding by using lots and lots of examples and plenty of practice (and I still don't quite get it).  What's obvious to a native speaker just looks like an incoherent muddle to foreigners.

Strangely I didn't have the same problem with Dutch which is much more natural to an English speaker even though it's like German without the fuss.

Brian32 :

Would your average native speaker understand what the above means? Probably not. When Hungarians explain the Hungarian language to me they always use complex English grammar terminology which i am unfamiliar with as a native speaker. Some of my friends in Budapest have had the same problems.

Grammatical concepts are not the largest part of grammar education (or at least wasnt, when I was 6). First it was focused on the alphabet/nice handwriting/behaviour of consonants, and later on reading. Oftentimes it is not even separated from hungarian literature.

If my memory serves me right, the mentioned verb conjugation charts, among many others, were part of the curriculum, but since sentence formation by the age of 6-7 comes naturally, only the really unfortunate children have problems with them, but they generally have problems in everything, and get put into "slower" classes.

I dont remember being taught hungarian like I was taught english. There werent any "fill the blank with the correct form" type questions, or to construct sentences in a given way. I think it was more about explaining why are we forming sentences and words as we do.
For example, vowel harmony was the subject for 1 hour. I still remember the tip by the teacher, the vowels of "nagyháború" are all low, while "teniszütő" are all high.

I think the ideal Hungarian teacher would be someone who is both a native English and Hungarian speaker. They would know how to explain things well in a way that an English speaker could understand and remember. Using terminology like infinite conjuctions etc. just complicate things and leads to confusion.

I had two Hungarian teachers who over complicated things with unnecessary terminology. This was even further confusing when you they were teaching it with poor unnatural (Hungarian Style) English.

Brian32 :

....
I had two Hungarian teachers who over complicated things with unnecessary terminology. This was even further confusing when you they were teaching it with poor unnatural (Hungarian Style) English.

Ok, it's not a Hungarian anecdote, but I had this weird experience that my German teacher was telling me:

Ich fahre in die Stadt - I drive in the town

Ich fahre in der Stadt - I drive to the town

Now, mix that up with Der, Die and Das and you have recipe for total bafflement from both of us - me for not fathoming why die Stadt suddenly switched gender to der Stadt and her not understanding why I couldn't work out why the word changed.   

In the end I had to learn the rules myself in my own way.  When I explained to her how I saw it she was unable to grasp it - so programmed with the set teaching method.  I've subsequently had the same discussion with other German speakers and they cannot either.   Guess it works both ways and depends on your original starting language to get it into an understandable context.

fluffy2560 :

Ich fahre in die Stadt - I drive in the town

Ich fahre in der Stadt - I drive to the town

Hm.....

Ich fahre in die Stadt = I drive into the town

Ich fahre in der Stadt (herum) = I drive within the town

And it is die or der depending on declination (I know, declination is not something English speakers know too much about -- but that is the basic answer).

I think you need a new (cough) more competent (cough) German teacher. :)

klsallee :

.....I think you need a new (cough) more competent (cough) German teacher. :)

It was 1992 and obviously I only half remembered it. 

Anyway the change for Die to Das is weird, that's the point - it's not the same Der as in Der, Die and Das.

For English speakers we don't have that declination thingy as far as I can recognise.

fluffy2560 :

For English speakers we don't have that declination thingy as far as I can recognise.

Surely you learned declination in Latin class at school.  ;)

klsallee :
fluffy2560 :

For English speakers we don't have that declination thingy as far as I can recognise.

Surely you learned declination in Latin class at school.  ;)

Oh yes, I forgot. 

That was between the Polo and Deportment lessons don't you know, eh, what, old chap. Then we had high tea in delicate cups then moving onto singing God Save The Question before lights out.

Only declination I know about is either credit card rejections (sort of) or navigational poles.

fluffy2560 :

That was between the Polo and Deportment lessons

I did not mind the Polo lessons so much (being poor, we used brooms rather than horses -- I guess we were playing Quidditch before it was popular (and without the flying bit)), but I still to this day wake up in a cold sweat from Latin class nightmares. Puella, Puellae. Feminine. First declension......  :o

klsallee :

...Puella, Puellae. Feminine. First declension......  :o

My preference is for Paella too.

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Hungary

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Hungary

Moving to Hungary

Find tips from professionals about moving to Hungary

Travel insurance in Hungary

Enjoy stress-free travel to Hungary