Without a doubt, Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages in the world. Besides its complex grammar and vocabulary, foreigners often face obstacles when it comes to the pronunciation of its unique sounds which do not really have equivalents in the other European languages. As Theculturetrip.com reports, Hungarian is a phonetic language, which means that the pronunciation of words corresponds with the written form, and with a little bit of practice, the perfect Hungarian accent is no longer a dream. In the following, you can see the most troublesome sounds and some tricks that help you to improve your knowledge.
Many foreigners complain about the difficulties of Hungarian pronunciation when they start learning the language. In most cases, consonants are responsible for making foreigners’ life difficult, while there are words in which particular vowels cause much trouble. Let’s see the most problematic sounds in the Hungarian alphabet.
The “gy” sound in “magyar”
This is one of the first words that foreigners have to work with while learning the Hungarian language. In fact, Hungarians do not often use this word, only in expressions like “büszke magyarok”, translating to “proud Hungarians” in English.
Anyway, “gy” is undoubtedly a tricky sound. From one side, it is problematic because it is an individual letter of the Hungarian alphabet and its pronunciation is closely similar to that of a soft “j” sound. It is like “juh” in Jerry.
Besides being able to pronounce the name of our nation, you might also want to ask the frequent question, “How are you?”, which translates in Hungarian to “Hogy vagy?”. As you can see, this word contains two “gy” sounds, so do not give up if you do not succeed for the first time 🙂
The “s” sound in “Budapest”
Another interesting sound causing problems is the “s” sound. Many foreigners say the name of the capital as Boo-da-pest which is not completely wrong, and native speakers would understand what you mean, although it is not the proper pronunciation. Firs, the Hungarian “u” is softer. Second, the “s” sound is more like an “sh” sound.
Therefore, the correct pronunciation would be Buhd-oh-pesht. Difficult isn’t it?
The “sz” sound in “szia”
A closely similar sound is the “sz” sound also frequent in everyday conversations. Although some people say “hello” in Hungarian, “szia” or “sziasztok” in plural form is a much better way of greeting someone. If you have visited the capital, you might have also sit into one of the most famous ruin bars of Budapest, the Szimpla, and now you know how to correctly say its name 🙂
The “sz” sound is another single letter of the Hungarian alphabet. The word “snip” in English is actually “sznip” according to the Hungarian phonetics. If you have mastered this sound, there is only one more consonant that might cause some trouble.
The “c” sound in “utca”
This burdensome consonant has great practicality if you want to give the particular address with the name of the street to the taxi driver when arriving at the airport. Street in Hungarian is “utca” that causes a delicate problem because of the two letters almost pronounced as one. If you start with a subtle “t” followed by a soft “c” sound like in “hats”, you make it almost perfect.
The “a” sound as in “a”, “az”
You might wonder what is difficult in this vowel. However, being deeply emerged into the Hungarian sound system, you might be confused by it. This is the Hungarian definite article, the equivalent of “the” in English. It is a soft sound distinct from the “ay” or “ah” particular in English.
The “ö” sound in “köszönöm”
Given that there are no equivalent sounds in English and the umlaut of German cannot be compared to this, the pronunciation of this sound is tricky.
However, it is important to be the master of it since when saying thank you for something, native speakers of Hungarian say “köszönöm”.
A funny example of how to articulate this sound is the word “eurgh” used to express disgust at something. If you remove the “r” at the end, you will get the perfect Hungarian “ö” sound. Therefore, “köszönöm” will be koe-ssoe-noem. If you just say “kösz”, it is accepted in an informal conversation, but some people might feel hurt by it.
The “i” sound in proper nouns like Andi, Sári, Zoli
If you have memorised all the tricks mentioned above, then you are almost there to have the perfect Hungarian accent. One more fact to be aware of is that every time a word is shortened in Hungarian, the “i” sound is put at the end.
Very often, Hungarian proper nouns are shortened giving nicknames to people like in Andi from Andrea, Sári from Sára or Zoli from Zoltán. But this rule can be applied to common nouns like “süti” from “sütemény” (cake) or “cigi” from “cigaretta” (cigarette) as well.
The last thing to know is that the “i” sound is also added to the name of places when it denotes the origin of certain products. A good example could be the wine from Tokaj, which is called Tokaji, or the sausage from Szeged, called Szegedi.
Keeping all these in mind, your Hungarian pronunciation would have no counterpart. Anyway, we are very pleased when foreigners make the effort to speak our language, so do not worry about making mistakes 🙂
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