A fun way to take part in local culture on your stay in Budapest is to learn a few helpful phrases in Hungarian. I’m sure if you haven’t already heard, you will soon find out that Hungarian is not exactly the easiest of languages to learn. It is however guaranteed not only to come in handy, but also to be much appreciated by locals. Even one or two miss-pronounced attempts of say ordering a few beers or buying a carton of milk will elicit an immense amount of sympathy!
First, a few fun-facts about the Hungarian language:
- It is ranked as being 5th most difficult in the world, lagging behind Finnish and Chinese, and 2nd most logical after Latin.
- Its alphabet has 44 letters, consisting of not only single letters with accents, dots and umlauts, but of double and triple letters as well, such as the „gy”, „ny” and „dzs”, composing completely independent sounds.
- Because of these accents and umlauts, even a slight mispronunciation can result is large alterations to the meaning of the word, for example the “egészségedre-egészseggedre” phenomenon. “Egészségedre” with an accented second „é” means cheers, but failing to pronounce this accented „e” will result in „egészseggedre” meaning „to your whole ass”. But don’t let this put you off even trying. Hungarians do have a sense of humour and are sure to laugh it off as opposed to take it personally!
- Loan words are re-written phonetically and incorporated into its intricate grammar to make, for example, the compound word „fílinges” (pronounced feeling-esh, meaning good atmosphere) derived from the English word feeling.
Now, for the phrases!
- “Jó napot kívánok” (yo-na-pote-key-van-oak): Polite form of good day, said for instance on entering a shop, or greeting a complete stranger.
- “Viszontlátásra” (vee-sont-la-tush-ra): Polite form of good bye, said on leaving a shop, or on saying good bye to an elder.
- “Merre van a mosdó?” (mare-e-vun-u-mosh-dough): Where can I find the toilet? – An absolute must in every language!
- “Kérnék egy…” (care-nake-edge): I would like a…
- “Bocsánat” (bow-cha-nut ): Sorry.
- “Elvesztem, merre van a…” (al-ves-tem, mare-e-vun-uh…): I’m lost, where’s the… – This could happen to the best of us!
- “Segítség” (shag-ee-cha-g ): Help! – Let’s hope no one will have to use this word!
- “Egészségedre” (aa-guess-shage-add-ra – that is shage, not shag!!): Cheers!
- “Szép vagy” (sape-vage): You’re beautiful – Hungarian girls are renowned for being beautiful, so a must phrase for men visiting Budapest!
- “Csókolom” (cho-coe-lome): literally means „I kiss thee”, a very polite way to greet elderly women, and an excellent phrase to get your way, as especially from a foreigner’s mouth, it is guaranteed to sweep anyone off their feet!
- “Indulagörögaludni” (een-dool-uh-gorog-al-ood-nee): The Greek is going to sleep – but how is this useful? It’s not. But it’s funny, as it is one of the few Hungarian words that can be read back-to-front.