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My thoughts on the Hungarian course as a Hungarian speaker

Hello! I am a native Hungarian and I learned English in school. I wanted to try this course, to see what it feels like to learn Hungarian as a foreigner.

  1. I thought, since I speak both Hungarian and English, this course would be easy. „English for Hungarian speakers” was easy for me, but this one...not at all. I got angry many times, because in this course, you have to speak Doulingo-Hungarian and Doulingo-English to get your answers accepted. I hope this will get better as they add alternative translations.

  2. Sometimes I learned new English grammar material. English uses „Who is going” (singular conjugation) even if the Hungarian is „Kik mennek” (plural). Thanks david.altmayer for pointing that out!

  3. I got to feel the difference between being a native speaker of a language or speaking it as L2. A native speaker says: I know this sentence is correct / incorrect beacause it sounds right/ wrong to my ears, but I cannot explain the grammar behind it. A L2 speaker says: I learned the grammar, I know this sentence is grammaticaly correct, but I am not sure if it sounds right.

  4. There are a lot of debates under the sentences. As I see, the Hungarian team had the following goals:

a. the Hungarian sentence should be grammatically correct

b. The English sentence should be grammatically correct

c. The translation should convey the meaning

d. None of the sentences should be twisted out

I would set a+b as a basic expectation, but doing c+d correctly is really hard. (No wonder it took 2 years to make the course.) There are subtle differences in meaning in Hungarian based on word order, preverbs, and all those suffixes (cases) –ba-be- hoz-hez-höz-ra-re-on-ön. On the other side, English expresses subtle differences by using present simple /continuous/ perfect, while we have 3 tenses (present, past, future) and that’s all.

  1. By the way, I only found out Hungarian has 18 cases while doing Doulingo. In school we learn that there are the suffixes (in Hungarian „rag, ragok”) which modify the meaning, like English does with prepositions. I had a hard time learning the 4 cases in German. (Well, actually Hungarian helps here: should I use accusative or dative in German? what would I say in Hungarian? engem (mich, me) or nekem (mir, to me) then bring the chosen one back to German. works 90% of the time) In my opinion, accusative case is a legitimate and important one (it even exists in Esperanto), the others are just suffixes :P

Oh, and I forgot: Thank you, course creators! Even if there are grammar mistakes and way too many flying kindergarden teachers, you did a great job! :)

September 8, 2016



Thank you for this post. I speak Hungarian, and have spoken it at home my whole life but I live and grew up in Canada and went to English speaking schools. I cannot read or write in Hungarian. I did a few lessons in the Hungarian course before deciding I would rather practice my reading through childrens books with the help of my dad (I realize not everyone has this resource) was a better option for me right now to practice/ become more literate in Hungarian. I only did a few lessons of the course, from what I saw I agree completely with everything in your post. (Especially 1 and 3). Thanks for the great and informative summary!


Hi MissSpells, I am sort of in the same boat. I spent my elementary and early high school years in Montreal before moving to the U.S. (Too bad, now - it's not a joke. I feel as if my parents brought me here against my will - 1959 - and I'd like to ask Canada to take me back!)

So, I didn't really read and write either although I spoke a rather childish Hungarian, not having an adult vocabulary for relationships, for business, for philosophy etc.

When I found DUO I focused on learning the alphabet on YouTube and because Hungarian is really easy to write once one knows the sounds I was able to write what I heard pretty well. Reading is harder because long words need to be divided into sections in order to be able to pronounce them with the accents on the correct syllables.

Today my two biggest problems are still word order (It is hard to give up the English and French SVO forms) and vocabulary. I speak quite fluently but not always correctly. And I search for words to say adult concepts. Do you know a book for learning more difficult words in Hungarian? In high school we had word building books but so far I haven't been able to find anything similar.

All the best, one of the many Zsusis here


I found on Amazon a series of 8 small books, about 200 pages each, with a collection of short stories and topics :

  • Simple hungarian, conversational topics, by Alexander Pavlenko
  • Simple hungarian, short stories, by Alexander Pavlenko

They go from "beginner" to "upper intermediate". Very well done.


Hello Zsuzsi! I just now saw your post, so sorry for the belated reply. We do have very similar life stories! Come back to Canada! I also have a limited Hungarian vocabulary for the same reasons. I have started with children's books. I have read 'Kayla Folup Kalandaji' (hope I spelt that right) and a translation of The Little Prince, but I struggled with both and only got through them with help. It seems that most children's books have a lot of twisty wordplay and challenging puns. Wish I could be more help.. hopefully someone will have some recommendations. Unfortunately there seems to be no such thing as easy reading in Hungarian.. as everything is filled with so many puns, idioms and wordplay. The few adult books I tried on the other hand were a bit too adult for me. As much as I prefer to read books in the original language, it might be best to start with a translation of something you are familiar with in English. Let me know if you find anything suitable!


I know this comment is 2 years old but I wanted to say I am also in a similar boat! I am Hungarian and speak it at home, but my family moved to England when I was still a kid. Luckily I can still use Hungarian [barely] decently.


Are you finding the Duolingo course to be helpful in picking up the language? Have you been able to compare the Duo version with what you know to see if it is accurate?


You're absolutely right.

Heres a link to a similar take, albeit less detailed, I took not that long ago. There are some really great responses: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/17398096


Én tanulok magyarul két évig. Élek Írországban úgy nehéz megtalálni egy tanárt.

Duolingo nagyon hasznos felülvizsgálatára. Nagyon köszönöm!


That is a nice summary of some key points I agree with. I grew up with very simple Hungarian, spoken with errors, and could not read or write. I was looking to improve, which even at my basic level, I have.
However, there are too many flying kindergarten teachers; you are learning Duolingo Hungarian, or you get the wrong answers; several times that I have challenged my incorrect answers going in both language directions, I was told that my answer is acceptable, but only after spending huge amounts of time, redoing 'tests'. So, I took a break from it and considering getting back to it. I would like to speak adult Hungarian correctly, and not sound silly. I am open to suggestions and aids to Duolingo.


I started the course yesterday. Let's see how fast I can progress.


So f*cking interesting language!


jzsuzsi - Great comments, thanks! How do you feel about the Hungarian course now, three years after your original posting? Has it changed much in your opinion?

Thanks for the many helpful comments you have provided on specific language questions in the course. Much appreciated - Köszönöm!

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3 years ago, when I wrote this post, I was not a contributor, now I am. (I joined in April 2018). This makes a difference, for me :P

I think the course improved, and there are more accepted solutions now, and a bit more consistency. English translations were replaced if they were really bad. But there are still some weird sentences, we cannot remove them all...


Köszönöm to you jzsuzsi and all the contributors for your engagement. Many, many years ago I tried to learn Hungarian by my own and books and a gave up. When I discovered Duolingo I started again and I like it!


I FEEL THIS too as somebody who has no Hungarian except what they have offered in this course on Duolingo (supplemented by google translate to dissect words or sentences more and Cool Conjugations to work on conjugation a bit). I think they are doing an AMAZING job and I feel like I have a FEEL for Hungarian with this course.


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