Hungarian/Finnish: Which one is more difficult?

Discussion in 'Magyar (Hungarian)' started by avalon2004, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. avalon2004 Senior Member

    Merseyside, England
    UK- English/Spanish
    Hello all,

    Which of the two major Finno-Ugric languages is harder for an English speaker, Hungarian (Magyar) or Finnish (and why)? At first sight I would say Hungarian looks harder, but I know next to nothing about either language! I would really like to study one of them but I realise it will be a challenge to say the least!

    Thank you for your help.

    Nagyon köszönöm/Kiitos paljon :)
     
  2. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Hi Avalon2004! :)
    I wouldn't dare to make suggestions which language - Finnish or Hungarian - would be more difficult for a native speaker of English, but you may find this discussion of interest. We were talking about the difficulcy of Finnish, but we talked about Hungarian as well.
    As for me, I'm a learner of Finnish, and I enjoy it greatly. :)
     
  3. ronanpoirier

    ronanpoirier Senior Member

    Porto Alegre
    Brazil - Portuguese
    I study Hungarian. I had a little overview in Finnish. I think Finnish is harder. But I don't know it VERY WELL to tell...
    I think both languages are like a "mystery". Once you get to understand them, they'll get easier and easier. :)
     
  4. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I believe that at least visiting Finland is easier for an English speaker than visiting Hungary because in Finland practically everywhere you can find someone who speaks fluent English. According to my experience in Hungary it's sometimes very difficult. Anyway the situation seemed to be like this a couple of years ago, but it may be changing...
     
  5. peti New Member

    Slovakia
    hungarian, Slovakia
    Hi my friend

    As a native hungarian and a fromer learner of finnish, I think that these two languages have a very similar structure and the grammatical scheme is the same. This means the learning-difficulty is most likely equal. Hungarian may seem to you a little more difficult because of the strange new charachters, but the pronunciation is clear and regular.

    Good luck in the bussiness
     
  6. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    I have always thought Finnish is difficult, but it seems to me my native language is more difficult. Hungarian has definite and indefinite article (Finnish does not), although English or other European languages have articles, too, the usage of them differs, so one could get confused by differences. The definite and indefinite conjugation of verbs is the most difficult thing for learners of Hungarian (Finnish has not), the choice of vowels in vowel harmony is bigger in Hungarian (4 in Hungarian, 2 in Finnish?). Possessive suffixes in Hungarian are more complex. On the other hand Finnish nominal declension is complicated and Finnish has more tenses (Hungarian 3).
     
  7. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    Finnish tenses aren't much more difficult than the English (or Italian) ones. I believe that Hungarian is much more difficult than Finnish, but don't forget the negative verb in your list!
     
  8. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Well, actually I did not intend to compare the two languages, that's why I did not mention the Finnish negative verb, because it is something unique but do you think there are problems to learn how to use it?
     
  9. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    Well, it's certainly something unique that speakers of other languages are most likely not used to. That's why they may compose their Finnish sentences as if not were an adverb. But of course, it all depends on how well you study the grammar. Some people can catch up with new models easily.
     
  10. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    As for the original question, I'd think the only sure answer could be: Hungarian for a Finnish and Finnish for a Hungarian learner. :)
    For an English (or any other) learner I don't think it'd make much difference.
     
  11. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    As a Hungarian native my objective opinion is: Hungarian is more difficult. :) And for others the same.
     
  12. bibax Senior Member

    Czech
    For Czechs and Slovaks Hungarian is easier than Finnish. We often visited Budapest or Balaton, so we knew at least the basic vocabulary: csemege, bor, paprika, szilva, barack, cseresznye, pálinka, gyöngyhajú lány, etc.

    When I was in the army (as an ordinary soldier - szegény legény) there were many Hungarians from Rimaszombat, Dunaszerda and other Slovak cities. I remember that the most frequent and useful word in the army was "bazmeg", a word of Hungarian origin. Literally any thing could be called bazmeg (Take that bazmeg! Pass me that bazmeg! ...) Especially all complex machines and weapons were composed from bazmegs.

    Later I added some Hungarian declensions and conjugations and now egy kicsit tudok magyarul.

    On the other side Finnish is still Greek (or a Spanish village, as we say) to me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  13. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Well, Bibax, I think you speak more than a little Hungarian. :) It is true Hungarian was influenced by Slavic languages, so you can find many similar-sounding words (I am not sure and cannot check now, but szilva and cseresznye must be of Slavic origin), many vulgar words are of Slavic origin, too. But when speaking of the fact which one is more difficult I am thinking of proficiency in those languages and especially of the grammar. All can memorize words, but memorizing e.g. gender in Czech or German is a little bit difficult, just like e.g if you put 3-4 suffixes at the end of a word respecting the vocal harmony.
    *ordinary soldier = baka :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  14. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    As another Hungarian native speaker (and language teacher) I'd like to know: how do you know? What is the basis of your comparison? :)
     
  15. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    I feel it. ;)
     
  16. gilon Junior Member

    English UK
    I think maybe there's a tendency for people to think that their own language is more intricate than others.
     
  17. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    In any case, unfortunately, I don't think there are many English native speakers on the forum who studied both FI and HU and could provide a comparison that was asked originally...
     
  18. vianie Senior Member

    Slovak
    To be in the army with some Slovak Magyars is a capitulum alone for itself. "bázmeg" has definitely became a modern Slovak word there (eventually with all possible words around it).

    Bibax... According to the new Slovak language rule and to the new Slovak bilingual school books for geography and history I translate these as Rimavská Sobota and Dunajská Streda. :):)
     
  19. Söndag Junior Member

    Litauen
    as I know Finnish language is hard to learn atleast their words are very long.... :)
     
  20. bibax Senior Member

    Czech
    Thanks. I'll remember it. It resembles the Czech word bakanče = shoes worn by the infantrymen.
     
  21. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    As for the long words. The basic words are not long either in Finnish or in Hungarian: The most frequent Finnish word likes: on, ei, ja, joka, se, hän, että, tämä, mutta, saada.. are not longer than those one in other European languages. But those short words can become very very long after 4-5 suffixes and that is what, I think, is difficult in Finno-Ugric languages in general. So from the short word sano you can get a longer word sanottavissako. Word compounds are not difficult, and I think are much easier to memorize than Romance or Slavic compounds, because you just put 2-3 words together [ aika (time) + matka (voyage) = aikamatka (time travel)].
     
  22. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    And I remember having seen some basic Hungarian words that are even longer than ours. :)
     
  23. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Can you remember them? Maybe they are not of Finno-Ugric origin. :)
     
  24. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    No, unfortunately. On the other hand, they had a great lot of suffixes, so maybe we can't consider them purely "basic words". Naturally you can make up long words, but they don't necessarily have any sense. Probably long Hungarian words have more sense than long Finnish words? :)
     
  25. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Well, even common long words like Viszontlátásra (Bye-bye) can be dissected into parts like viszont- (German: wieder) + lát (to see) + -ás (suffix like -ing) + -ra (suffix of the English preposition on). So the basic word is only lát. :)
     
  26. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Apart from other things I think linking vowels are the most difficult thing in Hungarian. Finnish has not it. Can you exlain (let's say I am a foreigner :)) why you say: fog (tooth), fogak (teeth), using the linking vowel -a-, but fog (will) - fogok (I'll) using the linking vowel -o-. Then sor (queue) - sorok (queues), using linking vowel -o- and not -a- as mentioned above. :eek: Where is the logic here?
     
  27. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Just because there is no logic in general (except in your first example: to indicate a different meaning) it doesn't mean to say that it is a "big"/"main" problem for a language learner.
    I can assure you that some of my students couldn't care less and I can't blame them either: it is 1) not the real issue 2) and you can pick it up on the way, eventually.
    For an English speaker, there is the extra bonus that whether he says "fogak" or "fogok", a native speaker may not be able to hear the difference anyway!
    So I'd say that even if that aspect can be a bit of a pain, in practice it isn't. (Unless somebody is a maniac and wants to know the reasons and rules for absolutely everything. But any language would be difficult to learn for such a person!:))
     
  28. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    Finnish has it in nouns. Pilvi - pilviä, kasvi - kasveja, muna - munia, kana - kanoja*. But all these stem changes have sane explanations.

    __
    * nominative singular, partitive plural
     
  29. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Sakvaka, we have stem changes as well in Hungarian (not many and with fairly regular changes) but even they (as well as the choice of the appropriate linking vowels, Encolpius mentioned above) would not make a significant a difference if (as a learner) you made a mistake about them.
    I would say that e.g. learning the difference between long and short vowels is much more important in Hungarian than these issues.
    Would you find difficult to tell short from long?
    ("short" vowels): a, e, i, o, ö, u, ü
    ("long" vowels): á,é, í, ó, ő, ú, ű

    What really counts is not necessarily difficult to learn (in any language)...
     
  30. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    When I spoke about difficulty I really tried to consider the problem in the least subjective way. We can easily say it is easy for someone and very difficult for others, so do you claim we can't compare and distunguish languages according to their difficulty for foreigner's? (I do not mean natives becasue we all learn our mother tongue properly). Maybe I should open a new topic. :)
     
  31. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    I think probably you're right there... I don't really believe that any language is more difficult to learn than another - maybe it depends more on the learner what turns out to be difficult for him and what not...
     
  32. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    The linking vowels seem to be different from stem changes.

    Long and short vowels are important, especially for the Englishmen who may not be able to tell them apart. But I think the stem changes and totalily/partiality are crucial as well, and they're all the most complicated things in our grammar. Long and short sounds are the smallest problem for Finnish learners.
     
  33. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    I can only talk about what I think ("in theory") but just because they are "complicated", it doesn't mean to say that a foreigner would find it the same (he may or may not - it also depends on him, on his teacher, etc.!).
    Yes, he may also find it difficult (to learn/understand/deal with) but even then he may find (in the end) that he doesn't have to worry it about too much...
    (Like the case of the Hungarian linking vowels: you could learn their use till the end of your life but it'd be completely useless... and it is up to a good teacher to discourage you wanting to waste a lot of effort on that!) (Teachers are there to help after all...:))
     
  34. Norfren Junior Member

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    My native language is Hungarian and I'm nearly fluent in Finnish (as second language though). I don't accept the "easy" and "difficult" differentiation of languages - Chinese or English or Hungarian or Finnish or Navaho children learn their native languages equally rapidly.

    However... in my opinion Finnish is somewhat easier to learn in two respects:

    - the vowel harmony is very strict in Finnish, in Hungarian there are many irregularities, exceptions.
    - conjugation and declension of the verbs and nouns are more systematic in the Finnish. Difficult, but once you've got known the system and start to "feel" the language it is less problematic compared to Hungarian. When I happen to come across an unknown word in Finnish, conjugation is not problem, it is automatic. This is often not the case in Hungarian.
     
  35. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    According to my dictionary baka is related to the Hungarian bakancs. And also related to the boka (ankle), just like the Latin talus > talaria. And the Czech dictionary says you adopted the Hungarian word.
     
  36. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Welcome to the forum!
    I'm glad to hear that! :)
    (Although learning your mother tongue is not the same as learning a foreign language but I'm sure we'd agree on that, too.)

    I meant to say that "baka" is not used anymore, so bibax, I wouldn't use it in a more recent context.
    In WWI it was still in use (maybe) but not really after that.
    When you were in the army, you were a "katona". (Apparently there were lots of other - collloquial - terms according to where one served - but that'd really need a new thread.)
     
  37. Trauer

    Trauer Junior Member

    Finland
    Polish
    Someone studying Hungarian for 5 years as a main subject told me that for her learning Finnish (which was obligatory since 3rd year of study) was more difficult.
    Even though I know nothing about Hungarian I assume that Estonian is the most difficult of all the 3 biggest Finno-Ugric languages that people speak nowadays. Often there are no obvious rules in this language, this overlong thing is really annoying as it isn't marked at all in the words and still intonation changes the meaning of the words, the loss of vocals in the end of the word or in the middle of it and so on...

    In my opinion Finnish is more difficult than it could be because of having so different colloquial and literature language.
    BTW is there a big difference between written and colloquial Hungarian?
     
  38. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Well, well, we have almost forgotten about Estonian.
    That's true, it is quite annoying there is that difference between spoken and written Finnish. well, nothing is perfect. :) But I think there is also some logic in there. Finns (just like seldom we Hungarians, too) drop the middle of the word, so they can get shorter words, actually English do something similar, too (I am going = I gonna), Hungarian: nem tudom = nemtom. And no, there is no difference between spoken and written Hungarian.
     
  39. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungary
    Hungarian - Hungary
    It is true in some ways but in some others one can get really nasty surprises... e.g. when dubbing or subtitling documentaries in Hungarian!:)
    Incredible.
    Native speakers speak in such a way that it simply does not make any sense and you just guess what they really mean!
     
  40. nemesis666 New Member

    magyar
    Szia, as a native and a professional speaker of Hungarian I can tell you that even native speakers do not always know the appropriate use of the language. Hungarian is considered to be one of the hardest languages in the world, and I can confirm it. There's no doubt that foreign people will be suffering learning it, as there is no other language that is similar to it. In conclusion, I say give it a try and if somrthing is not clear just ask me. It's a very beautiful language.
     

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