Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why I don’t speak Hungarian, the simplified version

At least once a week, I have the following conversation (or some variant) with a student:

Student: Emily, beszélsz magyarul? (Do you speak Hungarian?)
Alternatively: Emily, érted? Érted magyarul? Érted amit mondok? (Do you understand? Do you understand Hungarian? Do you understand what I’m saying?)
Me, always: Yes.
Student, always: Akkor miért nem beszélsz magyarul velünk? (So why don’t you speak Hungarian with us?)

I never have a good answer, at least not one that I could explain to them (“Well, children, I do understand about 90% of what you say, because my listening comprehension is about a 5th or 6th grade level. My speaking abilities, however, are closer to 1st or 2nd grade, if not kindergarten. I think it stems from lack of confidence...”)

Last week, one of the students finally answered for me:

Student 1: Emily, érted amit mondok?
Me: Yes, just like last week.
Student 1: Akkor miért nem beszélsz magyarul?
Student 2 (in Hungarian, of course): Because, stupid, she’s not allowed to! She has to speak English because the school pays her to teach English!

Apparently, this explanation spread around the school at the speed of light, because I’ve heard it now several times in the past week. And the incessant questioning of why I don’t speak Hungarian has tapered off. Well, slightly.

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