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Hungarian | magyar | [ˈmɒɟɒr]
So, what does Hungarian sound like?
Would you like to hear a sample of someone speaking it? Click the play button to hear what the language sounds like. This brief sample is designed to give you an initial impression of the intonation, tone and rhythm of the language as spoken by a Hungarian native speaker.
The audio sample features an extract from a work by János Arany (1817-1882), a Hungarian journalist, writer, poet and translator. Often referred to in Hungary as the "Shakespeare of ballads", he is considered to be one of the country's most important writers. During his lifetime Arany held a number of prestigious positions. He was elected as a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1858 and appointed as secretary-general of the Academy in 1865. He also spent several years as the head of the Kisfaludy Társaság literary society, the most important organization of its kind in Hungary at that time. Arany is also known for his translations of Shakespeare. He translated three dramas by England's celebrated literary giant into Hungarian: "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Hamlet" and "King John". The audio sample features an extract from Arany's epic poem trilogy "Toldi". It describes the Great Hungarian Plain on a hot summer's day. The grass has been parched by the sun, and farmhands have taken refuge in the shade of the hay bales. The writer compares one of the region's traditional draw wells to a giant mosquito sucking liquid from the soil.
Did you know...?
Hungary has a huge number of thermal springs and a corresponding assortment of thermal baths where people go to drink and bathe in the mineral-rich waters to cure their ailments. Thanks to its ample supply of bubbling springs and numerous bathhouses, Budapest is often referred to as the spa capital of the world. It therefore comes as little surprise to learn that swimming and other water sports are also extremely popular in Hungary.
Horses play a particularly important role in Hungarian history. The ancestors of modern-day Hungary lived on the Eurasian steppe, where they domesticated horses. The practice of herding and riding horses was an integral part of the original inhabitants' daily lives. The Hungarians are still regarded as a nation of horse riders, as illustrated by the numerous festivals and horse shows which attract tourists from all over the world. It's only a small jump from horses to the English word "coach" and the French term "coche", both of which are probably derived from the name of the Hungarian town of "Kocs", which was famous for its production of horse-drawn carriages and coaches.
FACT FILE Hungarian
The Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is distantly related to Finnish, in contrast to most European languages which belong to the Indo-European family. Estimates put the number of Hungarian speakers at between 13.5 and 15 million. It is the official language of Hungary and one of the official languages of the EU. Jacob Grimm, the celebrated editor of Grimm's Fairy Tales, described the Hungarian language as follows: "(...) The Hungarian language is perfectly logical – the way it is constructed is superior to any other language." Despite this praise, Hungarian is regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn, at least for native speakers of Indo-European languages.
Some Hungarian vocabulary and word roots are related to other languages such as German and Turkish. The language also features a number of loanwords from Latin and Greek, and in recent times Hungarian has taken on an increasing number of English loanwords, especially in technical fields. Even so, some 88.4 percent of the words people use on an everyday basis are of Hungarian origin, with loanwords representing just 11.6 percent. The Linguistics and Literary Studies Section of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) oversees the correct use of Hungarian grammar and vocabulary. As well as publishing manuals and dictionaries, it also now offers an online portal as a "practical guide to correct usage, spelling and grammar", which was developed by the Academy's Department of Language Technology and Applied Linguistics.