Seasoned Expat Experiences

Dring! I picked up the receiver for the door and said “Hello?” “Hejdalhfejlsahjsköhjs könyv hifedkslhödkolsohifjedlak”, I heard. Könyv, book, is the only word I understood. The man from the library again? A couple of months ago, someone had come to collect books for the library. I opened.

When the young man came up the stairs, I greeted him. “Jó napot kívánok” (=I wish you a good day). That was the key word for him. He drowned me in a wave of words, without as much as taking a breath and no possibility for me to interrupt. I understood nothing. Two minutes into this flood of words, my downstairs neighbor walked up the stairs. “Nem beszél magyarul!”, he said (=She doesn’t speak Hungarian!). But even that didn’t help to stop the incessant flow.

Unfortunately, this was not a special situation – as some of you may have experienced first hand. If you bravely start in Hungarian, chances are that Hungarians talk to you as if you were a native speaker.

Don’t worry though, there are ways to stay afloat. You can always put in a “Nem értem. Egy kicsit magyarul beszélek.” (=I don’t understand, I speak a little Hungarian). And often, it is enough to understand a key word.
The key word I had understood was ‘book’. “Most nincs könyv”, I said (=Now there are no books) The young man left, and my neighbor apologized sincerely for the man’s behavior.

I have been in similar situations since. And I learned: If all else fails, a nice smile always helps.

könyv = book (with ö being similar to the ‘o’ in worth)
Nem értem = I don’t understand
Egy kicsit besélek magyarul = I speak a little Hungarian

Hungarian phrases in this blogpost might not be correct – after all, I am only learning myself. No need to worry. Based on my own expat experiences, all Hungarian for Expats Classes are given by native speakers.

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