One of my students asked me today what the best way to learn Hungarian was. I opened my mouth to answer the question, then I shut it, and took a deep breath.
Best way to learn Hungarian – for whom?
“What is the problem with this question?” – you might ask. It is a perfectly valid question, one should know the best way to learn Hungarian, then stay on that path. Well, the problem is, that there is no such thing as the “best way”. Let me ask you: “best way” for whom? “Best way” for the experienced language learner who learns his 5th language? “Best way” for a university student who has to take a language exam in 2 months? “Best way” for the tourist who wants to learn a couple of expressions before coming to Hungary?
We are all different and our goals are different, too. If I compare language learning to losing weight, for example, you might understand easier, what I mean. Think about losing weight and ask yourself the question: what is the best way for losing weight? The answer depends on a lot of factors: are you a man or a woman, how much weight do you want to lose, what is your body mass index and so on. There is no such thing as a universal “best way” that works for everybody.
What kind of language learner are you?
Let’s return to language learning. For some people, learning through grammar is the right way, especially if you have an analytical mindset, like to decode complex systems. For other people grammar is the worst thing to start with, it seems like a maze that cannot be seen-through. Learning expressions and ready-to-use sentences might be the solution for them, focusing more on conversation and less on grammar.
Some people are experienced language-learners. If I say “accusative case” they immediately know what I am thinking about. It would be enough for them if I said the accusative case of the personal pronoun in Hungarian was “engem”, “téged”, etc.
Others haven’t got a clue, I might as well speak Chinese if I start with the accusative case. I have to explain to them that the accusative case of a noun is a case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The problem for the beginner language learner is that he doesn’t understand the following words from my explanation: noun, direct object, transitive, verb, case. It would be easier for them to understand if I just said think about the difference between “they” and “them” in English. No grammar words and they can still make progress.
The best method for learning Hungarian
There are people who learned Hungarian from a language book, language course, or teacher and were successful. They recommend that book, language course or teacher for you so that you could be successful, too. You try their method, and it doesn’t work for you. Why is that?
Let’s say you fall ill. You go to the doctor and get a pill. It really helps you, you get better. You recommend that pill to a friend of yours who is also sick, but it doesn’t help him. It is the same with language-learning, there is no universally good pill or method that works for everybody.
So, what do I recommend you to do then? How to find the best way for you to learn Hungarian?
How to find the best way of learning Hungarian?
My advice is to experiment for a while. Go to a library, borrow different language-learning materials, try them out, learn from one book/course for a week, then another one for next week. Do a week of grammar, then a week of conversation. Switch materials, try to find the one that suits you best.
Try out Hungarian apps for your phone, read Hungarian media online. Watch Hungarian TV, find Hungarian friends. You may close a book, delete an app if it doesn’t work for you. Just remember this: never give up!
If you find a method that promises huge advancement in a short period of time, beware: that is a lie. You cannot learn Hungarian in a week, just as you cannot lose 50 pounds. The other methods, the ones that promise you a decent progress in a couple of weeks, months, if you put your hard work in – those are the real thing.
So what is the best way to learn Hungarian? Experiment and find it out for yourself.
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