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Budapest Online Tour
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The Hungarian Parliament

Hungary and its language
 

Budapest Journal
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"Hungarian is spoken by ten and a half million inhabitants of present-day Hungary, about three million people in the neighboring countries, and perhaps as many as an additional two million around the world. These figures make Hungarian, which is related to Finnish, Estonian, and Lappish, but virtually no other language in Europe, by far the largest minority language in a vast sea of Indo-European speakers.

"Preserving their national identity by keeping their unique language alive has been a major concern for Hungarians ever since they settled in the Carpathian Basin over a thousand years ago. Yet far from secluding themselves, they have actively engaged in European history and politics and thereby have shaped their country into a highly cultured and, at times, quite powerful and influential nation. Many Hungarians settled abroad and contributed to the civilizations of their adopted countries. Those who achieved fame in recent decades include Bartók, Moholy-Nagy, Ormandy, Szentgyörgyi, Szilárd, and Vasarely."

(University of Toronto)

To the above I should perhaps add that Hungarian is not a Slavic language, as most people think! Its nieghbors, with the exception of Austria, are all Slavic nations: Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Hence the confusion.

The "Indo-European" languages the folks at U. of Toronto mention comprise just about all European languages: English, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Polish, Gaelic ...yep, they're all part of a milleniums-old hyper-family. A family of which Hungarian is not a part. They settled in Europe a millenium ago, so they're the new kids on the block.

Another thing to know about Hungarians (and other central/eastern Europeans) is that they spend a lot of time learning languages. They have to, if they are to obtain a first-class job.

If you want to ask directions on the street try to have a map out. Ask a youngish person is they speak English. Even if they don't they don't, they'll often be glad to help. Older Hungarians, though less fluent in English, are generally less shy about helping strangers, and willing to gesticulate, etc. Other practical tips for getting around on my Budapest page.

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