Hungarian Language Learning

Hungarian Language Learning

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Text: zachandrachel.wordpress.com
"Yes, I'm learning Hungarian. No, I don't speak it 100%, but I am learning." I say these sentences a lot in Hungarian when working in Central Europe--and in the Carpathian Basin--and meeting people for the first time. Usually, when I say these words to our Hungarian colleagues and partners, they marvel a little bit and congratulate me on my Hungarian ability. This positive feedback is great, and in many ways I've gotten used to hearing it. But the truth is, whether I got positive feedback or not, I see learning the Hungarian language as a very important part of my call as a missionary in Hungary and beyond.

As a missionary living in Hungary, an important part of what I do is cultivating opportunities for mutual learning. These learning opportunities are for me and Rachel, and also for our YAGM volunteers. To really experience this mutuality, it's important to be able to engage in conversations and experiences in the language of the native culture--or as it is affectionately referred to here--the mother tongue.

Operating in Hungarian allows us to participate with our hosts in the ongoing ministries that are happening here, as well as cultivate experiences which deepen our relationships with one another. Beyond these important shared experiences, when you learn a new language, you gain a clearer picture of another cultural understanding and way of seeing the world. What's more, our host's understanding of the gospel and the lived theology that comes from it helps us to see our faith and experience God's love in new ways. Our understanding of how God is at work in the world and in our lives has become deeper and richer through these shared experiences.

Language learning is an activity that I participate in almost daily. Some of the more active ways that I learn Hungarian include worshipping in Hungarian, taking a Hungarian language course, participating in an English-Hungarian language exchange, as well as working through a Hungarian language workbook. I passively learn Hungarian by listening to the radio, watching Hungarian TV shows and news programs, as well as reading signs in the city as a walk around and ride the trains.  However, my favorite way to learn Hungarian is to do it through my stomach.

Budapest is saturated with bilingual, trilingual, and higher orders of linguists. Virtually everyone in customer service positions speaks enough English to cater to English speaking guests or tourists.  Often times when Rachel and I go out on a date in Budapest, we explain to our server that we would like to be waited upon in Hungarian instead of English, so that we can continue to practice our language learning. Typically, this request is met with a delighted smile accompanied by patient, kind interactions for the rest of the meal.

When it comes to language learning, I have discovered that I'm an auditory learner. That is to say that I tend to learn best by listening to Hungarian spoken around me. I do my best to maximize my Hungarian audible intake by listening to Kossuth Radio (Hungarian radio station), watching Éjjel-Nappal Budapest (Hungarian reality tv show), and of course any soccer game.

Budapest is saturated with bilingual, trilingual, and higher orders of linguists. Virtually everyone in customer service positions speaks enough English to cater to English speaking guests or tourists.  Often times when Rachel and I go out on a date in Budapest, we explain to our server that we would like to be waited upon in Hungarian instead of English, so that we can continue to practice our language learning. Typically, this request is met with a delighted smile accompanied by patient, kind interactions for the rest of the meal.

When we share our experiences of God's love and God's work in our lives with one another, our faith grows deeper and stronger. Learning a whole new language for God opens us up to new experiences and relationships.

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