EASTER MONDAY IN HUNGARY
Michael and his friends spent Easter in Hungary and were delighted to learn about our originally pagan custom of sprinkling girls on Easter Monday. They even tried to learn the sprinkling poem:
Zöld erdőben jártam,
Kék ibolyát láttam.
El akart hervadni
Linda’s daughter, Joanne, has a keen interest in linguistics and was impressed with the nuances of the phonetic system and structure of the language. Hungarian is still little known in Britain but it’s flattering to experience that more and more British people discover Hungary as a cultural destination. The Hungarian Cultural Center in London at 10 Maiden Lane in Covent Garden is doing an excellent job in promoting Hungarian art and culture. It’s worth following their programme – every week there is something interesting. More at http://www.hungary.org.uk .
A family of six Americans living in Germany took a Fungarian class with Emese, our teacher specialised in drama pedagogy. John’s idea to choose this program was hopefully very rewarding. Since learning languages comes easy for kids the best way for an adult to enroll the child for a language class and learn the pronunciation from them. Learning together can even strengthen family bonds since children can enjoy that they progress must faster than their parents.
Jen, Scott and their son, Andrew came from America (Philadelphia) and were heading to Romania. Meanwhile, they were planning to make a stop in Székesfehérvár. I was born in Romania and went to school in Székesfehérvár, so it was good we met. Andrew wanted to learn a new language and decided to learn Hungarian. ’Learning Hungarian is easy.’ I’ve told them and they wouldn’t believe me. However, their favorite word was hat (6 -hot) and tíz (10 -tease), but they really didn’t like nyolc (8). I couldn’t stand to tell them the story of Transylvania as they were crossing that region by train on their way to Bucharest. They were lucky to have the whole day visiting Budapest too. The sun was shining. I hope they had a great meal in the Main Market, a wonderful walk on Margit Island and Scott tried out some Tokaji wines near the Danube. One thing is for sure: they wouldn’t mistake Budapest for Bucharest.
Three ladies from England decided to spice their Budapest stay with some Hungarian language learning, and they were excited to see how different Hungarian is from any other European languages. No matter how hard it was, they worked even harder and acquired a lot from the basics!
Paul came to Budapest for some dental treatment, but he also took his time to get a deeper insight into the language, culture and the way of life of the people of this exciting city. I advised him to have a lunch in one of the restaurants where locals – such as me – often eat, and he proved to take my advice seriously, since we accidentally met there the other day!
Ian and his wife were interested in some shopping terminology and the way how to be polite to locals, even when entering an elevator. They were really open to experience the local culture as well during their first Budapest visit.
Michael Lee from Atlanta had a keen interest not only in the language but in Hungarian history too. He turned out to be a born talent to pronounce Hungarian words correctly. He was surprised to learn that many Hungarians still associate Atlanta with Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller. The popularity of this otherwise mediocre novel was owned to the fact that it was banned in Communist times, which was the best possible advertising for any work of art (books or films). The cultural policy of the regime was based on the principle of three T’s (tiltott, tűrt, támogatott – banned, tolerated, promoted). According to the official argument Gone with the Wind was not publishable because ”its world view was incompatible with the ideals of Socialism (i.e. Communism)”. The paradox of the thing is that after the change of system in 1989 it became compatible far too much. A lot of historical parallels could be drawn between the occupation of the American South in 1866 and the arrival of cowboy capitalism in Hungary in 1989. The coming decade was a paradise for carpetbeggars of the day and hundreds of Scarlet O’Haras were produced by the new times while the majority of the society had no choice but remember with nostalgia what was gone by the wind of changes.
We were happy to learn that Italians (olaszok) also discovered Fungarian as a way to start their trip in Budapest. Davide and Mirco from Torino were surprised to know that for Hungarians their city has the association with the Hermit of Turin, i.e. Lajos Kossuth who lived in their city from 1860s until his death in 1894. The City of Torino commemorated our national hero by placing a marble plaque on the house of his residence at Via dei Mille 22. The inscription says:
«Luigi Kossuth, gia governatore d’Ungheria esule per la liberta in questa casa ebbe longa dimora e mori il 20. marzo 1894.»
There is also a street called Corso Luigi Kossuth in Torino. I am just wondering if the locals know he was.
Our Danish guests very soon turned out to be not only enthusiastic but most talented learners of Hungarian. No Hungarian sound was difficult for them to pronounce clearly, including ’ö’ – actually ’ø’ as they chose to mark it in the Danish alphabet. This similarity, however, does not shake the Finno-Ugrian theory of linguistic relatedness.
Amanda and her friend flew over to Budapest for the weekend to have a change. Hopefully wise decision, in spite of the fact that they had pre-purchased MALÉV tickets. The bankruptcy of our national airline earlier this year stirred sentiments in the Hungarian population. We felt we were deprived of another Hungarian ”unicum”. Nevertheless, we still have some unique products and specialities that make worthwhile coming over for a well-deserved relaxed weekend, including the baths, the poppy-seed strudel or chicken paprika with noodles and sour cream. For people with interest in art and history we can recommend the #1 Hungaricum: the skill of surviving history against all odds. Apart from our major Hungaricum, of course, the Hungarian language. You can find more info on “definitely-not-made-in-China” products here:
Noel and John were eager to know some greeting phrases since they were to meet their Hungarian business partners later this week. Soon we realized that ’Nice to meet you’ is pretty easy to pronounce as compared to ”Örülök a találkozásnak.” It was also useful to learn how to read Hungarian letter combinations since they were heading for Pécs. Buying a ticket to ’pex’ you might end up at Paks famed for its excellent fisherman’s soup and the nuclear plant. Pronouncing ’p’ voiced as ’b’ however you end up in Vienna (Bécs). Also important how to show “two tickets to Pécs” with your fingers. If you show the cashier 2 the English way you will get three. The tragic consequences of ignoring this rule were shown in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in which an English army officer posing as a German SS captain ordered three whiskies without using his thumb in the count. This faux pas gave him away and frantic shooting followed.
Kelcey and Mike arrived for an evening class and though the Café was quite busy by then we could find a quiet corner. The pronunciation of ’viszontlátásra’ bemused Mike and was adamant to try time and again. Being a student of international relations Kelcey was very interested in life under Communism. She was well-informed and knowledgeable on the issue, nevertheless I could add some first-hand experience about the days when people had less freedom but more time to socialize. It’s a strange kind of nostalgia – remembering the good things but wanting it never to come back. More info here.
Sandy and Ron are great friends of Hungary. In their case the ambassador of Hungary to project a positive image of the country is the favourite companion of the Hortobágy sheperds, the Puli (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk0nwScF7Lw). Sally’s motivation to learn Hungarian was so strong that she turned out to be a self-learner knowing a lot of exotic words like ’csahos’ (barking) or ’lélek’ (soul). You can learn about this most loveable and loyal creature at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puli.
Fiona and Matt flew over to Budapest for a short weekend. First of all we learnt how Hungarians would pronounce Matt’s name, which in Hungarian means mate, as in sakk-matt (check mate). In Hungarian media you often hear English names mispronounced. In the same way foreigners have difficulties in how to pronounce Hungarian names like Géza, Csaba or Enikő, not to mention surnames like Széchenyi, Batthyány or Kőrösi. All you need to know is the one letter one sound principle, though sometimes the one letter is actually two (gy, ly, ty, sz, zs, cs). Moreover, when there are two of the same consonant, you should pronounce it long as in Matt.
Conclusion: to be able to use a phrase-book you need to know the proper pronunciation of the letters, otherwise locals won’t understand what you want to say. Beware of phrasebooks anyway – see Monthy Python’s classical Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04S03wDrtSo .
Take FUNgarian instead.
Right from the airport, Hannah and Susan were tired but enthusiastic about their first Hungarian class. The two ladies enjoyed learning how different Hungarian from English was, and showed their language talent with the tongue-twisting (in Hungarian: ’tongue-breaking’) words. Since they are vegetarians, they were happy to hear about the various traditional vegetarian cuisine here in Hungary. Well-armed for their 4-day stay with Hungarian basics, they set off happily to use them.
Brenda and Keith from Kanada were adventureuos enough to try to cope with Hungarian sounds. Apart from the notorious ‘gy’ sound everything went fine. They were heading for the Opera that evening and asked for advice how dress for the opera in Budapest. I was not sure whether I gave a proper answer so I asked friends and regular opera goers and the question stirred unexpected reactions. Here are a few, take your pick:
”The nice thing about the opera in Hungary, is that you don’t have to dress up a lot- just nice slacks and shirt, and for the lady, a dress, but not a ball gown. I have worn a simple black cocktail dress and it was perfect.”
”If you want to look like an ignorant westerner, go in jeans. Oherwise, dress smart/ smart-casual.””I would say that this is one time when you can dress to the nines if you so desire, as I see many Hungarians out in front of the Opera House dressed up quite fancily, and seeming to enjoy the opportunity to do so – however, I think it’s acceptable to simply wear nice clothes (a shirt with a collar and slacks or chinos), but I wouldn’t wear blue jeans or t-shirts or sneakers…””Elegant. In harmony with your own style.””Not an easy question. It depends partly on how expensive your ticket is. If you are upstairs on the 3rd floor, people dress as they are in the street. If you are downstairs in the Stalls, or in a Box (paholy), then people sometimes get dressed up – usually the women. For men a tie looks more formal. But for younger men a jacket without tie is now the fashion, it seems. Of course in the warmer weather, ‘smart’ is just a shirt and trousers (rather than jeans and T-shirt). Older people in Hungary still like to dress up. Modern and younger people just wear what they feel comfortable in. So you can choose these days. (The result is a bit of a mess – you can be in jeans sitting next to a lady in evening dress…..)”
Last Friday Niamh and her friends from Ireland attended our one-hour Fungarian session as a start for their Budapest weekend and enjoyed getting to know some basic language items and getting their questions answered regarding the local party culture. It was not difficult to make them laugh at the strange ways Hungarians express themselves.
On Feb 4 our guest for FUNGARIAN was Chris, who came from Upstate New York to explore Hungary. We were bemused to look at English from a Hungarian point of view and vice versa. Chris thought Hungarian sounded like Finnish, the mother tongue of his father. Another little contribution to prove the Finno-Ugrian theory which was initiated originally by János Sajnovics, a Jesuit, who back in 1769 pa…rticipated in an expedition to Lapland. After comparing Hungarian and Lapp he came to the conclusion that the two languages were related. He published the results of his research in his Demonstratio idioma Hungarorum et Lapporum idem esse (1770), which was a breakthrough in the study of Uralic languages.
Today Kwon Ah Leum from Korea from was our guest. Very soon we could make lots of similarities between the two languages (e.g. no gender). She could produce Hungarian sounds perfectly and we realised that her first name should be pronounced as 3 (három) since Korean, like Japanese does not differentiate between ’r’ and ’l’. E.g. All light/all right.
Conclusion of the comparisons: “Both Uralic and Altaic languages have vowel harmony, are agglutinating in structure (stringing suffixes, prefixes or both onto roots and lack grammatical gender” – quote from wiki.