Who Knew Hungarian Lessons Were So Fun?


When we visited Jon in Seattle over spring break in March, one place we went was a used book store.

Ashes to Ashes

From Library.com, but this is like the cover of the paperback I bought in Seattle

I’m a sucker for used bookstores. Who knows what you’ll find? At this one, among other things, I found an old Emma Lathen mystery book, “Ashes to Ashes,” that Audrey hadn’t read yet. It’s a fun mystery. Lathen, the pen-name for two collaborating writers, sometimes had an almost Westlake-like sense of whimsy in her early books. Or, it has a light sense of humor such as you find in parts of a Mary Vermillion mystery novel. It’s a good read.

Anyway, I also found a phrasebook for Hungarian.

Now, my father sometimes spoke in that odd European tongue because it was the language of his family. His parents immigrated from Hungary and didn’t know English much at all, from what I’ve been told (Otto was nearly the caboose in a long train of children, and he married late, so I didn’t know my grandparents).

Anyway, so I picked up the book, with no hope of ever actually learning to speak like a Magyar, but wanting to know a few phrases just in honor of the family. Hungarian is not related closely to other European languages, and has a reputation of being difficult to learn—and I’m not talented enough at languages to learn them completely on my own, anyway.

I can look at some phrases and words, but how to learn how Hungarian sounds (besides imagining my dad shouting “I wish your father had never been born,” a Hungarian curse he liked to shout in Hungarian once in a while)?

YouTube, of course. So this is what I found:

Hmmm. I don’t speak French, but I can listen to her anyway.

At some point, she must have become aware of non-French fans, which leads to this one:

OK, I haven’t learned much Hungarian yet. But who knew the lessons would be this fun?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Who Knew Hungarian Lessons Were So Fun?

  1. Cate Sheller

    Well Szeretlek! Of course! I always heard it as “sed et lek” which is with a rolled r, I guess. Daddy always scoffed at the notion that Hungarian was hard to learn – as he said, it’s entirely phonetic, and the spelling is consistent. The fact that it doesn’t sound like anything else probably presents no barrier to learning if you haven’t heard anything else – so it’s easy for him to say! I took a semantics class in college and learned that Hungarian is, in fact, related to one other European language: Lapp, spoken by a minority of the population of Finland. A geographical puzzle, that.
    I think the second video is a valuable artifact of our time: the Rosetta Stone of Love.

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