I have an admission. Despite the fact that David and I have been together FOREVER, my Hungarian language skills have been majorly lacking. I know an abundance of vocabulary and I understand most of what people are saying, but when it comes to putting things together in a sentence by myself I am completely hopeless. If I’m being fair, Hungarian is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn (it’s not Latin based… at all) and there aren’t a whole lot of resources out there to help you along. Rosetta Stone, for example, has no plans to make a Hungarian learning program (but they will send you a free mug any time you write to them asking when and if they will be adding one – seriously they send one every time). There was however a funny article from The Onion parodying a Rosetta Stone Hungarian language program.
When I had kids, I attempted to up my game. I wasn’t going to be one of those moms with bilingual children and not also bilingual myself. My Hungarian got a little bit better, but again, it was mostly vocabulary. I could sing a few children’s songs and I could say a sentence here and there, but I was far from conversational.
While Dédi was here visiting, the boys’ Hungarian improved by leaps and bounds. While I was still trying to get better, I felt like they were catching up, and in a hurry. I had fears that before long, they would be better than me. Then, not long after Christmas it happened. The boys were in their room playing and while I couldn’t hear what they were saying exactly, I could tell that voices were raised. As I approached the room prepared to break up the imminent fight, I was stopped dead in my tracks by two little voices clearly bickering… in Hungarian.
The moment had come. Their Hungarian was officially better than mine (and not just a little better). I was the only one in our little family unit that couldn’t speak conversational Hungarian. Something had to be done. I turned to the internet in search of a solution and was starting to feel extremely discouraged. Most language programs that do actually offer a Hungarian course are bare bones at best. I was getting ready to give up when I read some comments on a blog post about one person’s success with the Pimsleur language program. Like me, this person had married a Hungarian and just wanted something that was going to help them learn to put their vocabulary into sentences. I thought I would give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?
I’ve been working steadily for over a month now. I repeat lessons over and over again until I can practically say them from memory. My father-in-law is impressed with my improved accent and I am now able to initiate basic conversations. The program isn’t perfect. It teaches very formal sentence structures and is more suited to business situations than to visiting family in small villages, but what it has given me a basis from which I can build. David has been listening to the lessons with me and then he expands on them. I start out learning the super formal versions and once I have a firm grasp on those he instructs me how to use the informal. Because he knows what I have just learned, when he helps me practice the two of us no longer get frustrated by him moving forward too quickly for me to keep up.
I don’t know how it would work for someone trying to learn the language from scratch without any former knowledge, but for someone in my situation it has been wonderful. The boys have started listening to the discs as well and their Hungarian is improving even faster than mine. Now when we are all together as a family we all practice our new language skills together. We’re still far from perfect (me especially) and I doubt I’ll ever be as fluent as David but I’m able to say more than please, thank you and pass the potatoes so right now I’m immensely happy.
Hungarian, Basic Program If you’re in Hungary for a short vacation or business trim and just need the basics to get by, then this is the program for you. You won’t be conversational, but you will be able to understand enough to get by.
Hungarian, Conversational Program This is what I bought at first. It is a great program and I think that if you are going to be spending much time in Hungary at all, it would be extremely beneficial to do at least this much. By the end, you aren’t exactly conversational but it gives you enough knowledge to feel comfortable.
Hungarian, Comprehensive Program
This is the big one. It is expensive, but I think its worth it if your goal is to actually be conversational and not just able to get around while visiting Budapest for a week. I’m still working through the lessons and I am extremely happy with my results.