There is one treasure of humanity that we all have in one form or another. We may acquire more than one of these in our lifetime, but only one is truly in our heart: the one we get from our parents.
It is a treasure that we inherit from our ancestors, by means of learning. Of course, we are speaking about our native language. On 13th November, we celebrate the Day of the Hungarian Language, so on this occasion let’s reflect a little on the Hungarian language!
Language is the perfect magic wand
Language is a magic tool that we are given at a very early age, and that stays with us until the last moment of our lives. It needs a wonderful interplay between our organs to come into being. The air, our lungs, nose, teeth, tongue, pharynx and vocal cords all work together to bring our words to life.
Language is given to us for a reason – we have a lot to do with it. It’s like a magic wand. Its most basic function is to express our requests, desires and thoughts. In other words, to conjure up and create everything we want.
It is our tool to connect with others. By using sentences, we enable others to understand what is going on inside us. This is what makes us human. It helps us to express our needs, our thoughts, and our ideas, and to give shape to our feelings. We can even use language to play, to make others laugh, and sometimes even to hurt them. And if we went to school for long enough, we can put it into visible form by means of writing. As a translation agency, we do not need to stress the importance of human language in global communications and in the organized functioning of the world in general.
Our language is also very adaptable – it always changes with the times. It is equally affected by globalization and urbanization, and is always capable of renewal and change. As the famous Hungarian writer, Dezső Kosztolányi once wrote, “It is a living fabric that is never quite finished: we must weave it again and again every time we speak or write.” It is interesting that although there is a consensus in linguistic circles that languages usually do not obey deliberate external interventions, but rather shape themselves in a self-regulating way, the Hungarian language is unique in this respect: during the Language Reform movement in the early 19th century, many artificially created words (‘zongora’ for piano, ‘gyufa’ for match, ‘járda’ for pavement, etc.) became established in our language, and today they feel absolutely natural to native speakers.
Why is the Day of Hungarian Language celebrated at this time?
It is now quite natural to speak and do business in Hungarian within the country’s borders. But this was not always the case. Even though there have been written records of the Hungarian language since the 11th century, it took a long time for the language to become official. Hungarian society fought a lot to use its native language in everyday life instead of Latin or German. In this struggle, which spanned centuries, success was finally achieved during the Hungarian Reform Era. It was on 13th November 1844 that the Parliament passed a law making Hungarian the official language of the country. From that day on, legislation, parliamentary assemblies, education and administration are conducted in Hungarian. And since 2011, this milestone has been celebrated in mid-November.
Hungarian language highlights
Each language is very special in itself. Each nation is proud of its own language and generally considers it exceptional. So do Hungarians.
Hungarian, one of the Uralic languages, really displays many small and exciting curiosities. For starters, it has an incredibly rich vocabulary which is able to convey nuanced differences. The subtle difference between ‘muzsika’ and ‘zene’ – both meaning music – can be discerned probably only by Hungarians. The diversity of ways to address others is another curiosity: Hungarians have countless ways of expressing their emotional distance from one another simply by the way they greet or address others. We could go on to list the peculiarities of the Hungarian language: subjective (or indefinite) and objective (or definite) conjugation, vowel harmony… these are some features faced by anyone who learns it either as a native or as a foreign language.
Speaking of learning, Hungarian is often said to be difficult to learn. This may be true, although there are some advantages to it that are worth pointing out. What certainly makes Hungarian easier to learn is that it does not use gender, and adjectives only need to agree in exceptional cases. In addition, consonants are rarely piled up (in original Hungarian words, there are no more than two consonants between to vowels), which is also beneficial for language learning. We have previously written in detail about the difficulties and easy points of the Hungarian language in a blog article.
A not so linguistic, but still interesting aspect of the Hungarian language is the fact that we are perhaps the only country in Europe that has created a dedicated museum for its native language. The Museum of the Hungarian Language in Széphalom opened its doors in 2008 on the territory of the former orchard of Ferenc Kazinczy, a prominent figure of the Hungarian Language Reform.
Dear readers, what do you think is the most interesting thing about the Hungarian language?