Do you have to learn some Hungarian if you come to stay in Hungary? The question arises naturally: how much English is spoken in Hungary? Will the Hungarian people understand me? Can I be understood by them? Or will we just rely on acting rather than speaking?
Englishman in Hungary
The only simple answer to this question is: it depends. It depends on where you are going to: busy city or small village, capital city or countryside, hidden locations, or touristic area. It depends on whom you are willing to talk to: young people or not-so-young ones. It depends on what you want to speak about: order a cab, buy a hamburger, or learn how to make kürtőskalács (chimney cake) from an old lady.
Young Hungarians speak English
Young people living in the cities usually speak English. Not everyone is fluent, but if you are lost, you can ask for directions from them. If you are in the inner city, or a touristic area, you can get by using English. Major companies have English-speaking customer care assistants, so you won’t have a problem with getting a Hungarian phone number, bank transfer, health insurance, car rent.
Off the beaten track in Hungary
However, if you move out of this English-speaking bubble, you will realize it quickly, that Hungary is a monolingual country. Older people were taught Russian in the school, and they haven’t learned it because it was compulsory. The middle-aged have been taught English, but they haven’t used it much, so they forgot it. Only the younger people have learned it and used it while traveling, so better try speaking to them. Remember: Hungarian people speak primarily Hungarian, so don’t expect deep or subtle English conversation from them.
Learn some Hungarian!
If you want to go off the beaten track and explore Hungary on your own, then you should learn some basic Hungarian. You won’t believe what a difference an hour or two spent studying Hungarian can make. So, sit down, and learn some Hungarian expressions. You won’t regret it, I can assure you.
Here are two very useful questions to start with:
Finally, take a look at this infographic :
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