Seasoned Expat Experiences
For the last 1.5 years, I’ve been learning the hardest language I ever learned, and I can still not speak or understand it.

You think I mean Hungarian? No. The language is called Sophiesh. Sophie is my younger daughter. And entrepreneurial as she is, at 2 years and 4 months she speaks her very own language. I am still struggling to learn the full vocabulary. Fortunately, my older daughter sometimes translates, but even she is often clueless what Sophie says.

Just the other day, Sophie was sitting in her stroller and said: “Sheh.” I asked: “Oh, do you want to read?” (and yes, her word for reading does sound similar). But that wasn’t it – and after she told me three times, I said: “Sorry, I don’t understand you”, I gave up – and I felt like a bad mother.

So what about Hungarian?

“Wow, isn’t that a really difficult language to learn?”, I remember asking a friend, years ago, who had lived in Budapest for a while and learned Hungarian successfully. I hear that argument all the time, even from Hungarians, who seem to feel some pride in how exceptionally difficult their language is.

I am sorry to disappoint you, but Hungarian is not as difficult as people say!

Sure, Hungarian is different from the Indo-European languages that I learned before, including Persian. Most Hungarian words are totally different, and so is the way you build certain words. Hungarian is technically an ‘agglutinative language’: Where English sticks prefixes in front of words, Hungarian sticks suffixes at the end. For example, Vilivel means “with Vili”.

But once you know how to pronounce letters in Hungarian, it is child’s play to pronounce whole words. Unlike English where the pronunciation depends on the word, changes depending on the letter combination. How should anyone know how to pronounce ‘laugh’? Apart from that, you simply have to learn how words are formed – and practice.

I won’t go as far as Benny Lewis, claiming that Hungarian is an easy language to learn. While I am not one of those gifted language learners who pick up a language in their sleep, it is manageable to learn Hungarian. Especially if you learn just the basics. And especially if you have children with creative language development.

Good to know:

Vilivel – with Vili

Barbarával – with Barbara

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