Hello, ambitious Hungarian learner!👋
When you’re in the middle of a Hungarian conversation, it can be almost impossible to understand.
You know how it goes…
- You suddenly feel all those hours and weeks you studied Hungarian become useless once you step out into real life and try to follow a natural conversation with real people
- … Therefore, you become frustrated with your slow progress.
- You finally want to understand what’s going on around you – be it in the city, with your in-laws, or your Hungarian friends and colleagues.
- … But it’s more than that – you want to participate and follow along these conversations!
- And you might also want to establish a deeper connection to your Hungarian heritage through the understanding of the language.
- You probably know lots of words already and are somewhat familiar with the grammar. Nevertheless, when you listen to people you barely understand a thing.
- … So by now, you think you haven’t studied enough yet. That you need more time until you’re ready. So you go back to your textbook, but…
- … No matter how much you learn, understanding Hungarian never seems to happen in the crucible of conversation.
I’ll explain two things today:
- The reasons why you still don’t understand a word of Hungarian conversations;
- A new method that’ll help you overcome that problem in weeks instead of years.
I’m Juli, a native Hungarian and co-founder of Catch Budapest, a popular language-learning and cultural website. I first encountered the problems non-natives face when my partner, Flo, started to learn my language. Since then I talked to hundreds of people like you and him in our community of Hungarian learners. I started to see a pattern.
Flo had his fair share of ups and downs learning Hungarian. He wanted to give up more than once because he didn’t make progress. Today, he can follow along with most daily-life conversations. This transition happened within a few months after 1+ year of struggling). It happened after we realized the faults in his approach to learning a language.
Juli & Flo high above Budapest 🙂
The problem wasn’t with Flo and his language-learning abilities. Similarly, it’s not with you and not with Hungarian and its difficulty.
Here’s what happens:
Most Hungarian learners are highly motivated in the beginning. It’s easy to start – there are plenty of free and cheap resources online and offline; videos, and books that explain the alphabet and teach you basic vocabulary. The problems start once people achieve that basic level and feel “ready for the real world”. Although most Hungarian learners can have easy, slow and somewhat robotic conversations, they run into a massive brick wall when they try to unlock the next level – to understand natural, real-life conversations and follow along.
This is, where frustration and doubt kick in. It’s the point at which you start to question your abilities and whether all the effort is worth it.
I feel you. I saw it with my partner Flo and heard it often from the people in our Hungarian-learning community.
Here’s an excerpt from an email one of our community members sent us:
“I’m so frustrated with my slow progress. With learning and forgetting. With finding resources that are not too difficult. Children’s books/stories are just as difficult as adult material. I think I could be at a much higher level now if I could find native materials – lots of native materials – at that level. As it is, I am stuck with textbook materials. I wish I could find more things with transcripts or subtitles.”
… This is one of the biggest problems you and other Hungarian learners face: The lack of proper, comprehensible material once you’re through the beginning stages.
Here are the problems with the current Hungarian study material on the market:
- A lot of it is old and obsolete.
- The material they teach is an unnatural, textbook-style of the language.
- The audio material comes at an unnatural and slow pace. It ignores the fast and often unarticulated style of daily-life conversations.
- The dialogues are boring and too short – they don’t prepare you for a full-blown conversation.
- The current material doesn’t teach you the terms, expressions, and slang of spoken language. However, these make conversations natural.
You heard the advice:
Immersion. You have to speak the language. Get more active with it. Grab every possibility to talk. You probably know someone who learned decent Hungarian in a reasonable time. However, these modal students spent huge amounts of time interacting with local Hungarians at work, at university or at home. They listen to the language day-in and day-out so their understanding improves quickly, followed by their speaking fluency.
Sounds great, right? But there’s a tiny problem…
Not all of us can do that!
If you live in Budapest, people usually know English well enough to switch back to it, once they see you struggle.
If your partner is Hungarian, you probably speak English with each other 99% of the time – Flo and I know this too well.
It’s even worse if you don’t live in Hungary, and don’t have Hungarian relatives you live together with – because you’re reason for learning is to discover and connect with your Hungarian roots.
How on earth are you supposed to become immersive with the language?
It’s a problem. Unless you’re lucky to have a strict Hungarian-speaking environment, you’re stuck with the current study material.
Once you find yourself in the crucible of conversation, you panic, lose track and lose your motivation.
What about the TV, the radio or Hungarian movies?
Although this is common advice, to watch Hungarian TV or movies or to listen to the radio is close to useless. It overwhelms you with thousands of new words and difficult topics. It’s a daunting experience predestined to leave you frustrated with little progress. Even if you find an interesting podcast or video, it doesn’t come with the supporting material you need for a proper listening experience.
Like a transcript.
You’re stuck between your unrealistic textbook material and the level of native speakers with nothing in-between to bridge the gap and get you to a decent level of understanding.
It took Flo and me a long time to become aware of this gap. Today, we know we need interesting and compelling conversations at the right length. They must come with a transcript and translation. They have to explain the difficult vocabulary, the slang, and colloquial expressions.
Once Flo and I realized what we missed, we acted quickly. We decided to fill this gap.
For him, for you, and for the sake of the Hungarian language – it deserves we tech it in a comprehensible, modern, and entertaining way!
First, we presented our smart audio material to hundreds of ambitious people in our language-learning community. We received amazing feedback. People told us this is exactly what they looked for. A girl told us she was on the verge of moving to a Hungarian family on weekends to get this kind of immersion.
We experienced firsthand, how listening to conversations at a natural speed and speaking style, accompanied by the proper study material can skyrocket your listening skills. It boosts your confidence.
Today, we can proudly present: