Van - to be - is a difficult verb in Hungarian, but let me explain a bit.
The third person conjugations - van and vannak - have a different meaning than the other forms. Instead of meaning 'is' or 'are', they rather carry the meaning of 'there is' and 'there are', respectively. This means that you use those forms only when talking about existence (Egy orvos van. - There is a doctor.) or placing (A tűzoltók itt vannak. - The firefighters are here.).
If you just have a sentence à la "[Object] is [quality]", you leave those forms out: "Ő postás." - He is a postman. "Azok a házak magasak." - Those houses are tall.
For all other grammatical persons you need to use the respective conjugation of van: "(Én) Orvos vagyok." - I am a doctor. "(Mi) Az emberek vagyunk." - We are the people.
Thank you very much! Although I fully understand your explanation it's so difficult to comprehend these types of grammar. This and a complete range of unique vocabulary makes this language the Godzilla of languages. And I am not even talking about 'exceptions', which my girlfriend (Magyar) says there are a lot.
It takes a lot of practice to deal with a vocabulary and grammar as different as the Hungarian, compared with the Western European languages. You have to re-learn a lot. But it's also a lot of fun, at least for me, because it teaches much about grammar in general.
Also Hungarian is very logical. You form the plural of a noun by adding -k. That's it, no shenanigans like 'children' in English instead of 'childs'. There are many exceptions with Hungarian, but for most of them you can set up rules, too. For instance, most verbs form the second person singular conjugation with the suffix -sz: vár - he waits; vársz - you wait. Some verbs end on sibilants, though (c, cs, s, sz, z, and so on), and for those the respective form is made my adding -ol/-el/-öl: keres - he searches; keresel - you search. Voilà, a rule made from exceptions.
I find that very fascinating.
Jeroentje1: I feel with you. It's the first time I try to learn a language outside the Roman or Germanic group of languages, and I have exactly the same problems. But as a friend of mine said to me: "Finnish will be a lot easier after you've managed Hungarian." Very comforting. ;)
Your name is kind of misleading. :´)
It's the exact same word order as in English. Just that the Hungarian sentence misses the verb, because van and vannak are omitted if you describe the quality of an object:
- János magas. - János is tall.
- Ő jó orvos. - She is a good doctor.
- A házak keskények. - The houses are narrow.
I learnt the basics of Hungarian with this nifty site, but it's only in German. If you know German, go crazy. :)
Else you can consult Memrise which is very good for learning vocabulary, or just look into the comments here and ask appropriate questions.
Hungarian is not hard to learn. You just have to forget a lot of things that you're used to in your language. :P