Hello you ambitious Hungarian learner,
when you find yourself straight in the middle of a Hungarian conversation, it can be hard to understand. I mean, almost impossible to understand.
You know how it goes…
- You suddenly feel that all those hours, weeks and probably even months of studying Hungarian instantly become completely useless once you step out into real life and try to follow an actual, natural conversation by real people
- … So you get frustrated at your slow progress with the language.
- 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 not only that – you want to participate and follow along these conversations!
- And maybe you also want to establish a deeper connection to your Hungarian heritage through finally understanding the language.
- You probably even already know lots of words and are also somewhat familiar with the grammar, but when you listen to the people talking you barely understand a thing.
- … So by now, you probably think you haven’t studied quite enough yet. That you need more time than this, 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
Today, I’d like to explain you two things:
- The reasons why you still don’t understand a word of Hungarian conversations
- A new method that’ll help you overcome that problem within 90 days
My name is Julia Horvath and I’m a native Hungarian and co-founder of Catch Budapest, a popular language-learning and cultural website. I first encountered the problems non-natives are facing when my partner Flo started to learn my language. Since then I’ve talked to hundreds of people like you and him in our community of Hungarian-learners which we’ve built up over the last two years. And I started to see a pattern.
You see, Flo had its very fair share of ups and downs learning Hungarian. Not just once he wanted to give up entirely, as he simply didn’t make process. Today, he can follow along most daily-life conversations and happily chatters away. This transition happened not within years, but three months (after more than a year of struggling with almost no progress). It happened, after realising the faults in his approach to learning a language.
Juli & Flo high above Budapest 🙂
See, the problem was not with Flo and his language-learning abilities. Similarly, it’s not with you and not even with Hungarian itself and the difficulty of the language.
What usually happens is this:
Most Hungarian language-learners are highly motivated in the beginning. And it’s also easy to start – there are plenty of free and cheap on- & offline resources, videos and books explaining you the alphabet and teaching you some basic vocabulary. The real 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 in trying to unlock the next level – understanding actual, natural, real-life conversations and following these along.
This is, where the frustration and all those doubts start. That’s the point when you probably start questioning your own abilities and whether all the effort so far was actually worth it.
And I completely feel you there. I mean, I’ve seen it with my partner Flo and heard it so many times from the people in our Hungarian-learning community.
Here is an excerpt from an email one of our community members just sent us recently:
“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.”
… And here we have it. One of the biggest problems you and other Hungarian learners face: The lack of proper, comprehensible material once you’re through the very beginning stages of learning.
You see, there are multiple problems with the current Hungarian study material that is out there on the market:
- A lot of it is just plain 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, ignoring the fast and often unarticulated style of daily-life conversations.
- The dialogues are often boring and far too short – they don’t prepare you for a full-blown and long-lasting conversation.
- The current material doesn’t teach you all those terms, expressions and slang that is inherent of spoken language; that, in the end, makes a conversation natural.
You’ve probably heard the usual advice:
Immersion. You have to speak the language. Get more active with it. Grab every possibility to talk. In fact, you probably even know some people who have learned a very decent Hungarian in a reasonable amount of time. The thing is, these people 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 and so their understanding improves quickly, followed by their speaking fluency.
Sounds great, right? But there is a tiny problem here…
Not all of us can do that!
Even if you live in Budapest, people usually know English well-enough to switch back to it, once they see that you’re struggling.
Even if your partner is Hungarian, you probably speak English with each other 99% of the time – Flo and I know that one way too well.
Let alone if you neither live in Hungary, nor 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 then?
And see, that’s the problem. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a strict Hungarian-speaking environment around you, you’re simply stuck with the current study material.
And when you do find yourself in the crucible of conversation, you panic, lose track and lose your motivation.
So how about the TV, the radio or even giving a shot at watching a whole movie in Hungarian? I’m sure you heard that advice, as well… Flo went with it more often than he could bear.
The thing is, although this advice is common, watching Hungarian TV or movies or listening to the radio is completely useless. It overwhelms you with thousands of new words and difficult topics. It’s a daunting experience which is predestined to leave you frustrated and with not much learned in the end. And even if you find an interesting podcast or video, it usually doesn’t come with all the supporting material you would need for a proper listening experience from which you can actually learn something.
Like a transcript.
So what happens is, you’re stuck between your unrealistic textbook material and the level of native speakers with nothing in-between to bridge that gap and get you to a decent level of understanding.
It took Flo and me a long time to become aware of this gap. To become aware that we need here, are interesting and compelling conversations at the right length that come with a transcript. That come with a translation. That explain all that difficult vocabulary, the slang and all those colloquial expressions.
But once Flo and I realised that that this is what’s missing, we acted quickly. We decided to fill this gap.
For Flo, for you, and for the sake of the Hungarian language itself – as we think it deserves to be taught in a comprehensible, modern and entertaining way!
The first thing we did, was present our first smart audio material to the hundreds of ambitious people in our language-learning community. The feedback we got was downright amazing with people telling us that this is exactly what they’ve been looking for for ages, with one girl even explaining that she was on the verge of moving to a Hungarian family on weekends just to get this kind of input somewhere.
We’ve experienced first hand with Flo, how listening to the right conversations at the right, everyday speed and speaking style, accompanied by the proper study material can skyrocket your listening skills and make you a lot more confident when you find yourself in the crucible of conversation.
So it came, that we can now very, very proudly present: