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I am having a lot of trouble with Hungarian


I am working on several languages -- French I took in HS, Spanish in college and Italian in Adult Education. I took one semester of Russian ... (didn't do well -- declension is one of my issues) and Hebrew I speak pretty well, just boning up.

I am also doing pretty well teaching myself Esperanto (a lot of words are familiar).

Hungarian, though, which I've wanted to learn all my life (my family came from Hungary and our neighbors, when I was young, were Hungarian). But I'm having a major issue. First of all, I'm redoing the first lesson or two every day -- I can't seem to get any further. My major issues seem to be: 1) I don't know what specific words mean 2) there are often several ways to say things 3) Grammar is difficult and there is no explanation 4) a lot of the "write what you hear" Hungarian sounds a LOT different from the way it's written (I don't know if that is the right pronunciation or if there are audio issues) 5) I don't always know when to use "nem" and when to use "nincs" for example. 6) often word order is very strict

That's the major issues. Is there something that can be done to make moving ahead easier (or more regular)?

March 15, 2018



Hi Debbie, I feel your pain! The course is hard, but I find it is very rewarding as a consequence :-)

I use the app to do most of the practice as it is a little easier to make regular progress. I have my PC open to check sentence discussions and to use hungarianreference.com

On the app, you can turn off the listening exercises which are largely accurate, and incredibly useful, but can be very hard.

I found, as a non-native speaker, that it was critically important for me to get my head around the sound differences. Hungarian native speakers do tend to claim that there are very few sound elisions... but this isn't really true... However, in comparison to English, it is incredibly regular! Just different.... There are excellent youtube resources out there. This teacher is particularly helpful and clear, I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrjvAu7U9Qk

Duolingo is very keen for it's courses not to have much Grammar in them... I disagree with their opinion on this... but I am sure it will change over time.

May I encourage you to keep going? It is hard, but it is doable for non-native speakers. There are lots of very helpful people on the discussion boards, people like peter.kristof.hu and jzuzsi are both very helpful in particular, you can see their comments here. They are very active in assisting people and I have been very grateful for their insights on comments many times!

Keep going :-D


I still wonder how you ended up with the conclusion "sound elisions" aren't uncommon. There is a reason native speakers say that. :) There are things that are really a matter of personal preference or colloquialisms but I don't think this is something one can formally learn and it seems to be the same for any language I have come across. So I suspect there is something that we consider "the natural way to pronounce things" that comes off as "sound elision" for someone used to other conventions.


I HEAR YOU! We are in Budapest and I am trying to learn a few phrases to be polite and I am failing MISERABLY.. French, Spanish, Italian, German and Hebrew were SO EASY in comparison!!!

  • 698

Yes, the Hungarian course is hard.

1) I don't know what specific words mean

There is no words section in Hungarian. But you can use the hovering option, or look them up in an online dictionary. Or ask int the forum. A good dictionary: http://szotar.sztaki.hu/

2) there are often several ways to say things

At start, maybe learn one of the correct options.

3) Grammar is difficult and there is no explanation


4) a lot of the "write what you hear" Hungarian sounds a LOT different from the way it's written (I don't know if that is the right pronunciation or if there are audio issues)

The audio is a live recording, so it is correct.

5) I don't always know when to use "nem" and when to use "nincs" for example.


nincs = there isn't


6) often word order is very strict

The word order in Hungarian is one of the least strict ones I have ever encountered, there is usually just a slight change in the meaning, the emphasis shifts only from one word to the other. However, a lot of the correct translations and word orders aren't accepted by Duo, even though they could be and they are actually used...


Sometimes the hovering hints are wrong and if you use them you get the answer wrong.


בס״ד שלום וברכה!

WIth respect for the course designers, I am sorry to say that the Duolingo Magyar course has many problems that make it, in my view, unsuitable for beginners. It covers too much too fast, such that even when “reviewing” the early lessons, you often get unknown vocab and unduly complex sentences. I started the course but gave up before the first checkpost when it became clear that I would need other resources to make any progress.

This said, I did come back to the course because I love the look and sound of Magyar, but have been supplementing my study extensively with Tinycards. Frankly, the Tinycards for the Magyar course also have problems (misspellings and confusing duplications), but they have helped a lot. Its funny that even though I’m around Level 7, I am still basically at the first checkpoint. I have been reviewing a lot.

In fairness, the Hebrew course on Duolingo has similar problems, as I understand do many of the “crowdsourced” languages.


Michael, is the Hungarian actually crowdsourced or are there just a few teachers that didn't confer with each other? I am actually in favor of a wiki type construction that can be corrected, and recorrected as necessary. That is, after all, how all dictionaries and encyclopedias were originally organized and written before the digital age. I recommend a book called "The Professor and the Madman."



כן יש לעברית בעיות כאלה גם כן (Yes, there are similar problems with the Hebrew)

My biggest problem with the Hebrew is that they don't accept מדוע as why (only למה) and אנשים as men (only גברים) -- I really don't like גברים particularly because of the connotation of the female version (גברת) -- I never had it addressed to me in a nice way, only in a nasty way...

I wanted to see if I could find my level in Hebrew -- after 3 or 4 weeks of working on it pretty much daily, I still haven't -- But, then again, I haven't gotten to my level in French and Spanish yet either..... I am learning some new stuff. Hungarian, though, I restart every day and I will continue to restart until I get them all a few days in a row.


Always read discussions under each exercise. Comments from Hungarian native speakers are very helpful and really explain a lot.


3) Yes, Hungarian grammar is difficult. Maybe the best source in English: http://www.hungarianreference.com/

4) Hungarian is phonetic. The only exception is the "Pronunciation Assimilation" (részleges hasonulás), e.g. adtam [ɒtːɒm] = I gave; népdal [neːbdɒl] = folk song.
It is not true entirely in the vulgar tongue, e.g. óvoda = kindergarten, the correct pronunciation is: [ɔːvodɒ] but many people say short "o". I think it's a minor problem. You can listen nice Hungarian speaking on the Hungarian TV on the news: https://www.mediaklikk.hu -> Élő (live) -> M1.

5) nincs = "nem van", nincsenek = "nem vannak" (But these are grammatically incorrect!)

6) Perhaps it's a technical problem with Duolingo. There are some restrictions in Hungarian, e.g. the adjective precedes the noun, etc., but syntactically is flexible. Here is an example:

Tomorrow I'll go to the cinema. =
Holnap moziba megyek. (What will I do tomorrow?)
Holnap megyek moziba. (Not the day after tomorrow!)
Moziba megyek holnap. (Not to the theater.)
Moziba holnap megyek. (Yes, tomorrow.)
Megyek holnap moziba. (Yes, I will, tomorrow.)
Megyek moziba holnap. (Yes, I will, to the cinema.)

Above all sentences are correct.

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