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Benny Lewis on Hungarian being easy


I think it's neat approach to point out and emphasize the easy features of a language rather than moan about the hard ones.

July 4, 2016



I think what Benny does is great.

I read through a couple related posts about Hungarian on his blog, and it looked like Benny got his butt kicked a bit by Hungarian, which is OK! I bet he's better at learning arbitrary language families now after the experience, and it probably helped him in his Mandarin journey, too.

I recall it was his first non-Indo-European language, although Hungarian has many linguistic, vocabulary and cultural similarities to the Western European Indo-European languages due to their historical proximity. That is to say, even though it's not technically in the same language family, there's a ton of training wheels in Hungarian that make it more straight-forward than learning other non-family languages.

I share his opinions on learning many Western Indo-European languages, but when it came to learning Khmer, Mandarin, and to some extent Hungarian, I had to change many of my tried and true methods.

We humans tend to fight each new war with the methods used to win the last war. But, constant innovation is always needed.


Every language is easy if you don't try to speak correctly. The suffix system is not complicated for the first sight but contains tons of exceptions that you have to learn and practice to speak correctly. Even Hungarians don't get everything always right. Don't forget the word order, which is told to be "free", but it is not, because you have to adjust it to the meaning you want to express. Pronunciation is easy for some, impossibly difficult for others, that's a subjective thing. Etc.

About the "familiar" words: Many of them has a Hungarian version, which is quite different from the "international" one. For example: colleague - kolléga -> munkatárs. diploma - diploma -> oklevél. Many Hungarians (including me) prefer to use the Hungarian version primarily, so you need to learn them at least passively.


He thinks all languages are easy, so his opinion is somewhat meaningless. I think the point is that none of these languages are impossible to learn if you make an effort.


So true about the cases... I never would have guessed that my Italian/Latin would help me learn Hungarian, but I'm finding both grammatical similarities and cognates-- like gioco/iocus/játék. I don't think Hungarian has to be insurmountable, if you can isolate and memorize the smallest, most subatomic parts of the language.

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I've always found Hungarian easy (been learning it on and off for a while). It functions totally differently from indo-european languages, so you need to be ready to forget what you know and immerse yourself in different brain paths. And the vocabulary is completely different. With all the repetitions, Duo's the ideal tool to learn both. Otherwise? many words are related to each other, so vocabulary learning isn't that challenging. No noun genders. Verb conjugations are really easy compared to Latin languages. If you think of the noun conjugations as having the preposition after the noun rather than before, it's actually pretty close to Latin languages. There are very, very few grammar exceptions. I think it only has a hard-to-learn reputation because few people so far have bothered to learn it - there are after all only 15 million speakers and most of them speak another language fluently.


Yes, very often I look at why a language is easier and forget about the "hard" parts. Especially those that are seen as nearly impossible or extremely hard to learn like Hungarian.


I agree with Benny 100% on the case system making things easier rather than harder, when I spent a few months working on Turkish before dropping it due to taking a different language in college the case system gave me something to grab on to even when I didn't understand most of the words flying by me. The lack of grammatical gender (also common to Turkish) is also a dream come true to basically anyone who has studied a Latin language. I'd imagine the English loanwords would prove to be a godsend for those grappling with the written vowels of Hungarian of the language as well, or the orthography in general, since loanwords are respelled with the Hungarian orthography and not much is changed in terms of pronunciation. Since Hungarian is a phonetic language that means once you have learned the pronunciation of a vowel whenever you see it in the future you'll know the pronunciation.(However, it's probably wise to double check, if possible, English does have more vowel sounds than Hungarian, overall, despite having only 5 written vowels.)


Also, remember that if infants and children can be taught the language by their parents, then it can't be too dificult. Yes I know that they are immersed in it 24 7 but that's not my point XP


I read this article some time ago as well and it definitely influenced me to bite the bullet and start learning. As well as being encouraging, I found the way he presented some fundamental concepts a very good introduction to what to expect with the grammar.


Great post. I can feel some encouragement entering my brain already :-) Thanks Benny!

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