Friday, October 13, 2006

Hungarian Lessons

... ‘Hungarian Lessons,’ by the way, is the name of Kat’s blog, which I highly recommend reading, along with the blogs of Laura, Sara, and Nicolle (they being my favorite Hungarian-American bloggers who update on a regular basis...)

Anyway, hungarian lessons have been on my mind recently, mostly because I’m not having them. Instead, I’ve been having random moments which point out my lack of them, and, in fact, my lack of Hungarian language skills.

It began a couple weekends ago; Attila, Jori and I were walking home. Attila and I were having a conversation in Hungarian. Which I don’t remember, because I tend to black out memories when I’m, ahem, tired. But Jori told me all about it the next day, adding that she was impressed with herself for understanding almost all of the conversation.

Well, I’m impressed with her too, since she’s been learning the language for all of one month. But a little disgusted with myself, if my level of Hungarian after 16 months is still that elementary.

No, I lied, actually it began almost two months ago at orientation. As Laura and I were greeting and settling the newbies, one of the most frequent questions was, “So, after a year, how much Hungarian do you know?” To which I repeatedly gave the modest and vague answer, “Enough.”

Until one girl, who shall remain nameless, twirled her hair and asked us ingenuously, “So, wait, after one year you guys aren’t fluent yet?” Which made my blood boil just a little bit. But the more I thought about it...

And the three things I am so sick of hearing:
1) “You’ll just pick it up.”
2) “You’ll learn it if you get a Hungarian boyfriend.”
3) “You’ll learn if if you’re motivated.”

To which my responses are:

1) Really? Is it like osmosis? I’d like to see some statistics to back up this claim. For example: with what degree grammatical accuracy can I anticipate ‘picking it up’? What percent and which topics of vocabulary will I ‘pick up’? What is the ideal level of exposure for maximum ‘picking up’? And, most importantly, when exactly will this phenomenon lead to a noticeable improvement of language skills? ’Cause I’m still waiting...

2) First, I laugh heartily. Then, choking through the laughter, I reply: if this were true I’d be at least three times as fluent as the average Hungarian. Plus some.

3) First, I sigh tiredly. Then, I have another drink and wonder exactly how motivated I have to be. In one year, I could be a citizen - how much more could I want it? When does motivation become real? What will push me over the edge, from, ‘yes, I desperately want to learn Hungarian’ to ‘yes, I desperately want to learn Hungarian and will make an active, sustained, regular effort to do so?’

I guess, for the first time, being fundamentally lazy is becoming a bad thing.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, naivte is great, isn't? Wait a month until these newbies start to live hungarian life and then you'll see how many eat their words! I remember thinking how "easy" it was going to be for me... haha. It is to laugh, indeed.

Anonymous said...

I comment from the newbies: don't let the one put you off (remember her eventual fate...) I was, and still am, impressed with where your Hungarian is and with anyone and everyone who can successfuly get their point across in daily situations. (i.e. what is that piece of meat vs. please can I buy half a pig)

jrj said...

i learned no hungarian from the whole petra/cucumber deal...