Julia’s early impressions of Hungary

I arrived in Hungary on a dazzling, boiling-hot day in August. The year was 1981, and as I stepped out of the plane’s exit door onto the movable stairway leading down onto the concrete of the aerodrome, I was confronted by the first of many of the differences I was to experience, differences that contrasted Hungary and England. The heat! It literally hit me as I stepped out of the air-conditioned plane. When I had taken off from London a couple of hours earlier it had been about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, but as we were preparing to land, the captain had spoken of a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius in Budapest!
Walking across the concrete to the terminal building (as I remember, theJulia's early impressions of Hungaryre was no airport bus to transport us those several hundred yards) I had mixed feelings when I saw the armed soldiers positioned at various points over the area. They did not look very threatening, they seemed to feel quite at home, but they were armed, they were holding machine guns, and there was a reason for that. I was reminded that this was communist Hungary, it was a country occupied by Soviet Russia. I tried to shrug off recollections of calls from family members to be wary, of supplications to think twice before making any decision to leave England and come to live in this Eastern Bloc country. But then I thought of my fiancé, who was waiting for me at Arrivals, who I would be seeing as soon as I was through passport control and for me, Julia's early impressions of Hungary_the small town she arrived in 1981that was all that mattered, the cloud of apprehension was lifted.
Thus began a process of adapting that went relatively smoothly for me because I was young and wanted to learn. I knew it was vital that I settled in as soon as possible, and not consciously, but instinctively, I knew that the first step to this was to gain the acceptance and approval of my immediate environment – who cared about the communist government?!
When learning a foreign language we soon experience that the way native speakers communicate in everyday life can be very different to how we learnt the language in a non-native environment. Although I am half English – half Hungarian I still had to learn how people in Hungary communicate. But I quickly got a hold of the “real” Hungarian language.   I worked really hard to learn, and I said to myself that when I could read, understand, enjoy and appreciate a work of fine literature (that is how I translated the term “szépirodalom”) then I would be able to say that I was beginning to know Hungarian. The first book I read in such a way was Az arany ember by Jókai Mór. What individual, characteristic ideas the author had! I realised that because the Hungarians were still reading the works of great writers like Jókai and Petőfi, because they had preserved the old customs and folklore of their nation, because of these things the Hungarian people were able to take Communism in their stride. In some ways, I feel that Hungary has lost more since the change in political system that came about after 1989 than it lost during the years under the Communist Regime.
There are many contrasts I could mention while describing the way of life I experienced when I came to Hungary in 1981. I had grown up in London and now I was living in a “község” that to me was like a village.  True, it had a shoe factory that provided work for thousands of people (4494 in 1988), but everyone kept pigs and chickens in their backyard, and they grew grapes and vegetables in their gardens – not just flowers – and there were even fruit trees by the roadside. At that time the side roads were non-asphalted, and after a lot of rain you were lucky if you could drive the car up to the house without getting stuck in the mud…it was dangerous on a bicycle, too! Speaking of cars, there was not a western car in sight, but I soon learned to identify the Moszkvics, Warburg, Volga and Trabant – all collector’s items these days!
Reminiscing over those early days, I could talk of food, humour, “pop” music; of television (no broadcast on a Monday), working hours (only every other Saturday was free), the 1st of May (parades in the streets), pálinka (you distilled it at home), policemen (they carried guns), queuing at the bus stop (nobody did or does it), weddings (so traditional), pig-killings (a ritual, really) – and I could go on…
Today Hungary has moved closer to the West. These days there are many more similarities between the British and Hungarian way of life than there were 30 years ago. What has not changed is that Hungary is still a beautiful country, it has customs and traditions that can still be kept alive, and more and more people from other nations are showing an interest in, and an appreciation of Hungary. Hungary is a wonderful place to visit – and, really and truly, not a bad place to live!





Get in the mood for Easter – Learn a Hungarian Easter poem!

You might not know it looking out the window but spring has officially started!
On Monday we celebrate Easter, and on this day in Hungary men visit all of their women relatives, friends and colleagues. Friends in groups, fathers with their sons and single men leave early in the morning and their ‘tour’ sometimes lasts all day long. They greet girls and women with little poems and sprinkle them with cologne or water. The girls in turn treat them with hand-painted eggs and home-made cakes.
As a preparation for this, one of our learners has asked for a little Hungarian Easter poem to learn.
So Boys, if you would like to greet your Hungarian girlfriends with an Easter poem on Monday, you could learn the following:

Zöld erdőben jártam,
Kék ibolyát láttam.
El akart hervadni,
Szabad-e locsolni?




Have a listen to this little recording and perfect your pronunciation as well!

How to pronounce Hungarian vowels and double-digit consonants

When people start learning Hungarian they are usually very conscious about their pronunciation. But please believe me: if you keep practising (listening to Hungarian CDs, the Hungarian radio, or having lessons) your pronunciation will be fine and people will understand you. At the end of the day, your aim is not to win a pronunciation competition, but to communicate with people and if you stick to practising, you will certainly be able to do that.Hungarian vowels and double-digit consonants

On the other hand, I perfectly understand where this self-consciousness might come from: I used to be like this with my English when we first moved to the UK. Now I have been living here for nine years and still have a strong Hungarian accent! However, if I was waiting for my accent to disappear, I would probably never say a word. (A Hungarian accent is notoriously difficult to lose and the chances are that I will still have it in thirty years’ time.)

But to make your life a bit easier, I have prepared a short recording on Hungarian vowels and consonants. Whilst listening to it, please refer to the list below and have a look at the words I’m saying. This way, as well as hearing the words, you can see them written down in front of you, so you will be able to understand what I’m referring to. When you hear a gap in the recording, that is for you to repeat the word please.

So here is the list of vowels and consonants I go through, please click here to have a listen.

  • Vowels

long and short vowels: a – á, e – é , i – í, o – ó, ö – ő, u – ú, ü –ű

a              alma (apple), magyar (Hungarian)

á              Magyarország (Hungary)

e             te (you)

é             én (I)

i               Szia! (Hi!)

í               tíz (ten)

o             Jó napot kívánok! (Good Day!)

ó             jó (good)

ö             Ön (polite You), köszönöm – thank you

ő             ő (he, she)

u             Duna (Danube), gulyás (Goulasch)

ú             húsz (twenty)

ü             ül (sit), eskü (oath)

ű             tűz (fire)

  • Double-digit consonants:

ty            tyúk (hen)

cs           csak (only)

gy           magyar (Hungarian)

sz           szép (nice, beautiful)

zs           zsiráf (giraffe)

ny           nyilatkozat (statement)

ly            Erdély (Transylvania)

Please let me know in the ‘Comments’ section if you have any questions and I will be more than happy to help you!


New Year, New Project: ‘Hungarian Word of the Day’ on Twitter

'Hungarian word of the day' on Twitter Creating a Twitter account has been on my to-do-list for a long time, but a few weeks ago I finally sat down and started using Twitter on a daily basis. I’m not saying I’m an expert yet, but I’m now feeling comfortable enough to start posting every day.

So from next Monday I am going to post a new Hungarian word each day. They probably won’t be random words but I will try to follow a logic – I am going to give it another thought during the weekend and come up with something logical.

So if you are a learner of Hungarian and would like to learn a new word each day, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask any questions you might have. Also, if you have a particular topic you would like to see words from, please let me know here in the ‘Comments’ section or in an email, and I will add that topic to my list. Thank you!

2012: A great year for Hungarian Language Solutions!

 Sometimes I feel I’m just running around focusing on the present and immediate future and forget to look back at the things I have achieved and be grateful for them. Today, even though preparing and filing my self-assessment is at the top of my to-do list, I decided to sit down and look back at 2012: I felt it was a special year for Hungarian Language Solutions and wanted to make a list of the things I have achieved.

First of all, I translated a lot and through translation, I contributed to the success of several businesses. This year, my main areas of work were foreign trade, aviation and orthopaedics. I have also translated a number of certificates from English to Hungarian and Hungarian to English, e.g. birth and marriage certificates and police checks.

But most importantly I had the chance to teach Hungarian and work with some amazing people: I have helped people prepare for their citizenship interviews, translated Hungarian citizenship application forms and helped writing biographies. Hungarian citizenship has a special place in my heart: I always feel those people shouldn’t have had to leave the country in the first place so it’s only fair if their children and grandchildren can become Hungarian citizens now.

I have also worked with people who learn Hungarian for a variety of other reasons: again, these guys truly inspire me and in 2013 I’d like to continue doing my very best to help them enhancing their lives.

In 2012 I was also lucky enough to have been awarded a grant by City&Guilds that enabled me to take a course in PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector). As part of the course I had the chance to familiarise myself with the theoretical and practical knowledge of teaching in the lifelong learning sector. I have enjoyed this course and hope to be able to put the knowledge to good use in 2013!

Thank you to You for reading and following my blog posts and getting in touch with me throughout the year. Please stay tuned for more to come in 2013!


How to bake Hungarian pogácsa

Christmas and then New Year’s Eve are coming so I have been trying to connect with my inner domestic goddess (and I did need to dig deep to find it!) and  come up with some nice Hungarian food. But with a small business to run, I am usually too busy to try complicated recipes so I end up sticking to basics.

Here is one of those. A basic Hungarian savoury scone recipe that is ready in no time and always a popular hit with our friends.Traditionally it contains pork crackling as well, but I have anglicized the recipe a little bit and omitted the pork crackling.


500g/1lb 2oz flour (I am on a gluten-free diet so I use gluten-free flour but you can use any flour)

Around 100 ml (6-7 tablespoon) milk, the exact amount depending on the type of flour you use

1 tsp dried yeast (or if you prefer to avoid yeast, use baking powder if you don’t mind that your scones won’t rise as much)

250 g Feta cheese

½ tsp salt

250 g/9 oz butter, diced at room temperature

3 eggs, beaten

Start with heating up the milk to a lukewarm temperature. (Please be careful not to heat it too much, otherwise the heat will ruin your yeast.)

Stir in the yeast and leave for around 20 minutes so that the yeast can ferment.

Mix the flour with the salt. Start working together the flour, diced butter, Feta cheese and your beaten eggs. Meanwhile your milk and yeast will have become frothy – add that to the dough and work together by kneading for a few minutes.

When the dough has a nice and even texture, form a ball of it. Spread a little flour on the top and leave it to rest for around half an hour and wait for it to double in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured work surface and roll until it is around 2 cm (3/4″) thick.  Then using a pastry cutter cut the pastry into small circles and place them onto a baking tray. Then using a sharp knife mark each with a criss-cross. (The scones in the picture are not criss-crossed because they have a bit more grated cheese on top – it’s your preference, really.)

Brush your scones with a mixture of one beaten egg and a bit of water so that they can turn nice and golden in your 200 How to bake pogácsa - Hungarian savoury scones°C/400 °F Gas Mark 6 preheated oven. Bake them for around 25-30 minutes.

Jó étvágyat! (Enjoy!)

A very unusual present: Christmas Gift Vouchers for Hungarian Lessons

Christmas Gift Vouchers for Hungarian Lessons

A very unusual present: Christmas Gift Vouchers for Hungarian Lessons

Last week a gentleman contacted me asking how come Christmas vouchers are not available to buy on my website. It turns out his wife has been thinking about taking Hungarian lessons for a while but somehow never got round to actually starting it. So he realised this could be a very nice Christmas present (which just proves for us ladies how thoughtful our partners and husbands can be!) and asked me to prepare a voucher in his name.

The business side of my brain says it should have been me coming up with this idea but as it was not the case I thanked him for his suggestion and worked out the following scheme.

You can buy as many lessons as you would like but from 3 lessons upwards you get an extra lesson free. E.g.:

3 in-person or Skype lessons + 1 free lesson: GBP 60.00

4 in-person or Skype lessons + 1 free lesson: GBP 80.00

5 in-person or Skype lessons + 1 free lesson: GBP 100.00

The lessons are the usual high-quality, good-value for money lessons I deliver with well-designed and thorough lessonplans and useful follow-up vocab lists guiding our work.

If you would like to give the gift of a unique language or would prefer to keep this present for yourself you can contact me here saying how many lessons you would like to pay for and I will be in touch about payment methods and send you your pretty gift voucher.

Walking down the High Street yesterday I realised that shops are full of clutter and presents that will probably be returned soon after Christmas. I am confident that my Christmas gift vouchers will not fall into that category and will represent a meaningful present and actually add something extra to your loved one’s life.

Teaching Hungarian in a more professional way – my journey on the PTLLS course

Two years ago, my amazing business development advisor, Leonore Lord told me about the PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course and how she thought having the award would help me teach in a more professional way. She could not have been more right.

Having a small business, I was eligible to apply for a City&Guilds grant and after a successful application procedure and interview I was on my way to getting enrolled!

I chose Nescot (North East Surrey College of Technology ) as my course provider and looking back now, I’m really happy with my choice.

When I had decided to take the PTLLS course my main motivation was that I wanted to become a better teacher through familiarising myself with the theoretical and practical knowledge of teaching in the lifelong learning sector. The lifelong learning sector includes all post-16 education, including further education and adult and community learning. This is the area I work in and wanted to know more about.

In the past few months I have been learning about the most important learning and teaching strategiesTeaching Hungarian in a more professional way, including roles and responsibilities of a teacher, using inclusive learning and teaching approaches, principles of assessment, etc. I have adapted my teaching strategies to achieve ‘multisensory learning’ and learnt that during the lessons I must stimulate as many senses as I possibly can so that information gets engraved and memories last a lifetime. But this will be the topic of another blogpost as well as another area I’m especially interested in: adapting teaching strategies to suit different learning styles. Here I will show you a test that will help you to identify your own learning style. Then taking this to the next level I can help you with practical examples of activities that suit different learning styles.

My goal on the PTLLS course is the same as the aim of writing these subsequent blogposts: to make your journey of learning Hungarian as enjoyable and easy as possible.

Please let me know your thoughts here or send me a message about the challenges you encounter when learning Hungarian and I will try my very best to help you. Many thanks!


Your questions about Hungarian citizenship answered

This has been an exceptionally busy autumn so far and I have received quite a few emails enquiring about the new Hungarian citizenship law and my experience helping people prepare for their Hungarian citizenship interviews. Although I replied to all emails I was also thinking it would be nice to compile the answers here hoping that they might be useful to others, too.

Recently I have been contacted by an American lady asking whether there is a test she needs to sit. The answer is: no, there is no test, but there is a short interview you need to pass. The purpose of the interview is to establish that you fulfil all four criteria mentioned in my previous post and to check your ability to communicate in Hungarian.

Someone else asked me whether he would be allowed to keep his current citizenship after taking up Hungarian citizenship. Of course I am no legal expert but my understanding is the following: Hungary allows dual citizenship but you need to check whether the country where you have your existing citizenship allows it also. If it does then there should be no problem and you will be able to hold both citizenships. (I am a British-Hungarian dual citizen myself: both Hungary and the UK allow dual citizenship, but please check your individual circumstances before applying for Hungarian  citizenship.)

A gentleman from Canada asked me how long in my experience it takes to become a Hungarian citizen. Well, in my experience it is quite a long process and I have heard the processing authorities are very busy. E.g. a couple of my learners applied for citizenship in July 2011 and had their interviews in Budapest in September 2011. Then it took the authorities quite a long time to process their documents and they finally had their citizenship ceremony in April 2012. Only at this point when they received their Certificate of Hungarian Citizenship were they able to apply for Hungarian passport.

I have also been asked how many lessons one needs to have in order to pass the interview. Unfortunately I can’t give a definite answer to this question: some people need more, some fewer lessons. This depends on many factors such as your ability to memorise foreign words, how much time you have to study on your own, etc. Also, some people are very confident with a limited amount of fluency (and good on them, there is nothing wrong with being confident!) and some need a bit more practice to feel confident.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch – this happens to be an area I am reasonably knowledgeable in and extremely passionate about!

Also, if you are preparing for your Hungarian citizenship interview or learning Hungarian for yourself without applying for citizenship please join our Facebook group ‘Hungry for Hungarian’. Here we chat about Hungarian music, literature, traditions, citizenship and all things Hungarian. By clicking on this link our group should come up and if you click ‘Request to join’ I will be able to add you. Hope to see you soon!

Free Hungarian taster sessions

At Hungarian Language Solutions, we are passionate about the Hungarian language. To celebrate Adult Learners’ Week, we would like to share this passion and inspire adults to discover this unique language.

Experience something new by working through a 45-minute, one-to-one or one-to-two taster session and find out more about the courses we run. You can choose between two themes for your lesson: ‘Holiday Hungarian’ or a general, introductory Hungarian lesson. These two themes are for beginners but we are very flexible, so if you are e.g. an intermediate or advanced learner please let us know in advance.

As we would like to make best use of time & technology enabling you to have your lesson from your home the sessions will be delivered on Skype through the Internet. Doing this, we also would like to reach out to adults who would not normally have the opportunity to have face-to-face lessons.

On Skype as well as speaking we type the words and sentences so you can hear them and at the same time see them on your screen.

System requirements:

Skype is simple to download and free of charge. It is downloadable from http://www.skype.com/intl/en-gb/get-skype/

Internet Connection: Broadband works best.

Speakers and microphone (built-in or separate): a headset is best.

Camera (built-in or separate): nice to have, but not a must.

How to book

21 taster sessions will be delivered in various slots from Sunday, 13 May 2012 to Friday, 18 May 2012. To register your attendance for this free event please contact renata@hungariansolutions.com. Renata will confirm available time slots and discuss technicalities with you.