Tuesday, July 26, 2011


After almost 4 decades of traveling to Hungary for everything from extended family visits to sightseeing/culinary cultural overdrive, it has recently come to my attention that I can't speak a half dozen meaningful Hungarian sentences. Yes of course I know a couple of dozen words. I know MELEG from the summer of '73. We were staying in a 19th century flat with old fashioned floor to ceiling windows and 2 year old twins. If we opened the windows for air we had to put ropes around the kids waists so they wouldn't fall out the windows to the ground 3 stories down. We opted to keep the windows closed and I soon learned that "nagyen meleg" accompanied by brisk fanning motions meant its very hot.

Of course the fact that I never had anyone to speak with is not an excuse nor a deterrent. The party line has always been " this is so hard so let's just speak English" and so we did.

So I am now the newest and oldest student of the Babylon school of languages on Dohany Street. Through the iron gate, up 6 steps and then the elevator to the fourth floor where I and my fellows begin our unraveling of the problems created at the fabled Tower of Babel. ( hence the name of the school for those of you who thought it had to do with the Babylon of Talmudic fame

It isn't much consolation but I take solace where I can. One of my classmates,a 25 year old from Tunisia who's been here 6 months and doesnt know one word of Hungarian has a great deal more at stake than I do. He has a new wife and the need to find a job. I only have to contend with my own ego but each of us has his own dragons to slay. We conversed in French and he told me this is his second go round at language school. Doesn't bode well but everyone has told me consistently over the years that Hungarian is the hardest language to learn because it's not one of the Indo-European languages but related only to Finnish. Don't know how that worked out geo-politically but you have to play the hand you're dealt and so I'm here and determined to learn Hungarian. Our only other classmate is a 7 or 17 year old Chinese child. She is effusive and giggly and doesn't speak a word of any discernible language. When asked her name she shrugs and giggles. This doesn't bode well either.

I choose to remain optimistic. With all due respect, since it uses the roman alphabet, half the battle is won. There is the odd pronunciation of what used to be familiar vowels but this is balanced by no diphthongs.

Once I met a tourist guide in Morocco who did simultaneous translation in 6 languages. He told me that for every language that you speak you are able to uncover a different facet of the world. I've always remembered that and it has had an appeal to my curious nature.
But I think I am determined because everyone has told me I can't do it and that's reason enough. Also I think it's also a way of keeping my brain from turning completely to cottage cheese as I travel down Route 66. BTW, That's turo to all who besarol Magyar!!

I know how incredibly useless this language is in any practical utilitarian sense in what passes as my normal life but there are good reasons that spur my determination.
The first of these reasons is because I've been told so often that it's practically impossible.

1 comment:

  1. Lynne,
    Determined, impossible, no matter! You'll will end up learning something, even if just a little, you didn't know before, and that makes any journey worthwhile!