My Hungarian Lessons

hungarian-1.jpgReading Gdog’s post at the Daily Kimchi about learning Korean (it’s hard!) made me think back to my own experience of learning a language in-country: Hungarian.

I was fortunate to receive free Hungarian lessons while teaching in Budapest. I love learning languages and already knew Hungarian was a notable and unique one, so I was pretty excited about this.

The first challenge, however, was finding a time that would suit all of the eight or ten new teachers who were eligible for the free lessons. Anyone familiar with teaching timetables in Europe will understand how difficult this was: people teach all over the place at all hours. We tried a few weekdays but ended up settling on Saturday mornings, at 9 or so, which meant that many of us were returning to the school for the sixth day of the week. (Remember this fact, it comes up later)

The lessons were great. We were all beginners in Hungarian of course, so our level was similar, and the teacher – Zsuzsa – was excellent. She was probably in her sixties but used communicative methodology just like that we were using in our English teaching, so there was the added benefit of experiencing what it’s like to be a learner in a communicative class as well. She used this activity for numbers which I’ve obviously shared here and also had great success using with my own groups of various levels in different ways. She also incorporated the use of a Hungarian language song about different countries to practice the names – I can still sing some of it.

Sadly, my attendance dropped off for a couple of reasons. The Saturday morning factor was a significant one. I don’t need to sleep all day, but to wake up early and get ready to go to my workplace at nine am on a Saturday – even if it was for a benefit – was hard. The other factor was that when I knew I wouldn’t be staying, there seemed to be less reason to continue attending Saturday morning lessons of a language ranked as one of the most difficult to learn and which I would be highly unlikely to use ever again.

On my recent trip to Budapest though, I realized though that I do have a fondness for the language; it sure is strange, but I like it. It made me glad that I learned what I did, as truly minimal as that was. I like to think the fact that I remembered a few words that I learned in the classes as a hat tip to communicative strategies as well as a good teacher, so koszonom to Zsuzsa and to everyone else, tessek vigyazni, az ajtok zarodnik (please be careful, the doors are closing).