Hungarian Language Page.

Hungarian is a member of the Finno-Urgic family of languages. It is distantly related to Finnish, but is most closely related to Khanty and Mansi (which each have a few thousand speakers). Effectively, Hungarian is an isolate in Central Europe and unrelated to the Slavic, Germanic and Romance languages spoken in neighboring states (all of which are a part of the Indo-European language family).

This make Hungarian a difficult language for a native English speaker to learn. So why, you may ask (as others have) am I learning it? First, it is a very interesting language---at least to somebody who is used to languages that have SVO word order, lots of prepositions, and grammatical gender---all pretty much absent from Hungarian. Second, some of my ancestry is Hungarian, and I became interested in speaking it since finding some information, in Hungarian, about a possible relative. Finally, as I learned more Hungarian I found more I wanted to learn. An unfortunate side-effect of being a language isolate is that little gets translated, and much of that selectively.

Pointers to information about Hungarian.

Hungarian Language Learning References.

Lesson Books

Géza Balázs,
The Story of Hungarian: A Guide to the Language,
Corvina Books, Ltd., Budapest, Hungary, 1997, 2000.

A history of the Hungarian language, filled with fascinating facts, statistics, stories, and so on. Hungarian once had a passive tense (perhaps under the influence of Indo-European Languages), which disappeared at the beginning of the 20th Century. Remnants of this remains in the so called `-ik' verbs. Hungarian palindromes, loan words, place names, incunabula, ....

Katalin Boros.
Beginner's Hungarian: Revised Edition,
Hippocrene Books, New York, 2001.

Beginner's Hungarian in 10 lessons. Each lesson starts with a dialog in Hungarian, followed by the English translation and new vocabular terms. Next comes a grammar lessons, and exercises. A comprehensive vocabulary (indexed to lessons) and exercise solutions are included in the final chapters. Introductory material on Hungary and Hugarians completes the book. This is better used as a graded reader than an introductory book. Unless the reader is very good with languages, the material will be too difficult to absorb. The book also tries to be too much in a short 168 pages. Instead of the introductory chapters, I would rather see more dialogs and grammar. But, as a graded reader for somebody already familiar (but not conversant in) Hungarian, this is a good book. Watch out for typos, especially in accented words.

Zsuzsa Pontifix.
Hungarian: A Complete Course for Beginners,
Teach Yourself Books, Lincolnwood Illinois, 1993.

Book plus two tape cassettes of exercises and pronunciation drills. Emphasis on dialog and conversation, and includes some background information on Hungary and Hungarian customs. The book introduces new terms in dialog, encouraging the reader to infer their meaning. Later vocabulary lists provide sufficient meaning for exercises.

Carol H. Rounds and Erika Sólyom.
Colloquial Hungarian: The Complete Course for Beginners
Routledge, London and New York, 2002.

Carol Rounds is the author of an excellent Hungarian grammar book for Anglophones. This book is an introduction to Hungarian, based on graduated dialogs. The grammar and usage are introduced as dialog progresses. I like that many usages are introduced in context, allowing grammar to be seen, and practiced before formal rules are introduced. This is the best intro book I have found so far.


Géza Takács.
Hippocrene Concise Dictionary: Hungarian-English/English Hungarian,
Hippocrene Books, Inc., New York,1996

Tamás Magay and László Kiss.
NTC's Hungarian and English Dictionary,
NTC Publishing Group, 4255 West Touhy Avenue, Lincolnwood, IL, 1996.

It is good to have both a small dictionary, for carying with you, and a large dictionary for more detailed references. The former is a small, paperback travel dictionary. NTC's dictionary is more robust.

Helen Davies and Helga Szabó.
Beginner's Hungarian Dictionary,
Holnap Kiadó/Usborne Publishing, Ltd., 1111 Budapest, Zentu u. 5., 2000.

A picture dictionary, with a brief introduction to grammar. Learning hungarian vocabulary is difficult, since most words are unrelated to Latin, or any other Indo-European language. Any and all tricks to expand vocabulary are fair.


Miklós Törkenczy.
Hungarian Verbs & Essentials of Grammar: A Practical Guide to the Mastery of Hungarian,
Passport Books, NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, 1997.

A concise guide to, as it says, Hungarian verbs and grammar. Good for technical details, verb forms, vocabulary lists. Not very good for conversational Hungarian. The book does not deal with pragmatics (what is appropriate for a situation), but is more detailed than Pontifix, and, despite the sparse index, makes a better reference.

László Keresztes.
Hungarolinqua: A Practical Hungarian Grammar,
Debreceni Nyári Egyetem, Debrecen, 1999.

The University of Debrecen teaches an intense Hungarian Lanugage course (which I would like to attend some day). They have written their own instuctional materials, and this is quite an interesting grammar book. It explores hungarian in more detail than other grammar books I've read, including sections on dialects and regional prononciation.

Carol Rounds.
Hungarian: An Essential Grammar,
Routledge, New York, 2001.

This grammar book was written by a native speaker of English, and so I find it to be extremely helpful. There are many places where the Hungarian case system, for example, does not map well to English prepositions. Rounds explains the mapping in detail, with many examples. My one complaint is she starts some chapters with the exceptions, which can be confusion. And, there are a few errors that proof reading should have caught. If you speak English and are learning Hungarian get a copy of this book!

Travel and Phrase books/tapes

(to be completed later)

Literature and Novels in Hungarian and Translation

Gádonyi Géza.
Egri csillogok,
Európa könyvkiadá, Budapest, 1901, 2000

Perhaps Hungary's best known, and certainly most widely translated, historical novel. Ergi csillogok is about the defeat of 40,000 Ottoman Turks by István Dabo and the 2,500 occupants (men and women) of Eger Castle in 1552. Gádonyi is buried on the grounds of Eger Castle. The inscription reads ``CSAK A TESTE''---Only the body.

Géza Gádonyi.
Eclipse of the Crescent Moon,
Corvina Books, Budapest, 2000.

Ergi csillogok translated into English with an introduction by George F. Cushing.

Ady Endre.
Válogatott versek,
Alexandra kiadója

World verses: A collection of poems by Ady.

H.P. Lovecraft.
Árnyak a kapu elo"tt,
A Lazi Bt. kiadása, 2001

Hungarian translation of H.P Lovecraft's novela The Lurker at The Treshold, and three short stories. Translation by Jánosházy Gyögy, 1983. I love Lovecraft, so although this is a very difficult book to read in Hungarian (many long, descriptive Lovecraftian sentences) it is fun to try. Get a good dictionary first!

Another Poem by Lem

I was sent this a long time ago.... (See above).
Kóbor kaffer kószál királylány kertjében.
Királylány kacéran kacsint kéjvágyó kedvében.
Kapj karodba, kaffer! Király kinéz, kiált:
Katonák! Kürtszó, kivégzés. Királylány kacag kuszán.
Kegyetlen kor! Kicsapongó, koronás kurtizán!

English version (by Joedy McLoghlin)

Caffre craved comely courtisan.
Coy creature carelessly charmed caffre creating churning covetousness clan.
Caffre consumed charm completely! Charming creature circumvented, crying:
"Citizen! Commence comeuppance!" Coquette cackled confusedly cockeyeing.
"Callous cycle!" condemned caffre, "caustic cheap charmer cosmopolitain!"

If it isn't obvious by now, I am also a Stanislaw Lem fan.