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That awful hungarian language


György Tibor Szántó, historian, publisher, translator, “godfather”


When you tire of the constant traffic noise and the window shopping which is inevitable on Erzsébet körút, you might want to find some peaceful island nearby with benches for tired walkers. Rescue is at hand! Please turn to the right at either Barcsay or Wesselényi utca (with your back to Blaha Lujza tér) and go one or two blocks. You cannot miss Almássy tér, a triangular “square” that serves as a playground for the young and the youthful, and as a green park for the elderly. The parkgoers must all live in the picturesque surrounding late-19th/ early-20th century apartment blocks that were built in styles ranging from mock-Gothic to art deco. The man who gave his name to this surprisingly colourful and well-proportioned, small-town-like square is Pál Almássy (1818 – 1882), who was a hero typical of the 19th-century landed gentry. The statue in the middle of the square, however, is of Antal Csengery (János Csiszér, 1822 – 1880), another hero of that same ardent period. He is regarded as the father of public schooling in Hungary. He brought education to the lower-middle-class, that is, the young people who had to start work at the age of 18. Take your time looking around Almássy tér. Note the houses once designed for petty bourgeois families in this definitely working-class neighbourhood. If you happen to find an open gateway, take a peek at the pretty, hundred-year-old staircases with wrought iron railings and amazingly shaped floor tiles (even on the circular foyers popularly referred to as “gangs”). Each house is subtly different from the next. The smell that comes from the kitchens, though, is identical throughout and must also be a hundred years old. The southern part of the square is, in fact, a short pedestrian street (Almássy utca) with wooden benches and some thirsty-looking greenery in graffiti-covered containers. The pavement here is for children to draw on.  

That awful hungarian language


language into that flatter tongue, English, and give it strange, lunar resonances”. Do we? The only good news for the very obstinate is that there is no gender for nouns and that word order is quite free (or, as experts say, “fluid”). A word will carry slightly different meanings in different positions, however. This freedom, needless to say, is due to the unusually rich morphology of the language. If you take a closer look at any Hungarian book you will see very long words, most of them divided at the end of lines. Believe me, Hungarian is not an ugly language. Here is the list a great Hungarian poet, Dezső Kosztolányi (1885 – 1936), made of what he thought are the most beautiful words in our language: láng (flame), gyöngy (pearl), anya (mother), ősz (autumn), szűz (maiden), kard (sword), csók (kiss), vér (blood), szív (heart), sír (grave). Interestingly his favourite words were the short ones in this language where words tend to be three syllables long.

The Most Important Hungarian Words Yes








Nice (in most sentences)


Can I Have a Glass of Water?

Kérek egy pohár vizet

Red Wine


White Wine




in particular. Students with an English background will find it strange that the imperative is the most complicated business to put together. For most foreigners, Hungarian is intriguing, if not barbaric in sound. Eva Hoffmann, an American author, talks about the “utterly perplexing sounds of the Hungarian language, with its Bartókian syncopations and sensuousness.” She continues: “Even when they speak English, Hungarians manage to transport some of the off-rhythms and softness of their own

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2011.04.20. 15:49:06

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