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Polish and Hungarian, how similar?


Pauli
9 Jan 2010  #1
I speak neither Polish nor Hungarian. I am writing a novel about a young Polish Jew who flees to Hungary in 1940. I am told that the two languages are similar enough that she would be able to understand much of what is said in Polish. Is that true? Just how interchangeable are the two languages? Would it be unrealistic for her to use a phrase book to learn new Polish phrases to delight her new Polish friend each day?
Englishpoznan 4 | 102
9 Jan 2010  #2
Not an expert but from what I know they are completely different and i think what you are asking would be pretty unrealistic.
strzyga 2 | 993
9 Jan 2010  #3
Not similar at all. Different language families. There are probably more similarities between Polish and English than between Polish and Hungarian.

As for the phrase book - well, I don't know, depends on how gifted linguistically she was.
BrutalButcher - | 391
9 Jan 2010  #4
Hungarian is closer to Estonian and Finnish than to Polish. I am sorry, but that idea is a bit too unrealistic.

You could make that Polish Jew have a Hungarian father and therefore know some Hungarian ;) How about that?
Englishpoznan 4 | 102
9 Jan 2010  #5
Or she could have an ex Hungarian lover that would spice the book up a bit!!
Amathyst 19 | 2,702
9 Jan 2010  #6
Nothing alike...I dont even think they have many (if any) words in common.

Kocham cię

Szeretlek
OP Pauli
9 Jan 2010  #7
The following, from a neighbor of mine who read a few chapters of my manuscript, is what made me come to this site and start this thread: "I grew up in a Polish neighborhood where many of the elders spoke the language and my own father spoke Polish. I remember some of our neighbors being Hungarian and Czech and I remember my father telling me that he could understand much of what they said, although a lot was different. Still, he could basically follow their conversation and/or converse with them --and many of the elders did not speak English. I know this from having stood there as a child while my father spoke with them over the fence or on a Sunday in the driveway, and I remember asking him what they said because it was all gibberish to me."

This made me wonder whether I needed to revise the parts of those chapters where my main character understands nothing of what is being said in Hungarian. I'm relieved to learn that my neighbor's memory may be faulty and that my chapters can stand as written--at least in that respect. In one chapter, the Polish girl teaches herself Hungarian phrases from a textbook to greet her new friend when she comes to visit (otherwise they speak Yiddish). I hope that part also rings true enough.

A big thank you to everyone who has responded.
BrutalButcher - | 391
9 Jan 2010  #8
I hope that part also rings true enough.

Hungarian is a hard language. Make the Polish girl be Jewish so that she is able to do the impossible and learn from a textbook without actually needing a teacher for that.
Amathyst 19 | 2,702
9 Jan 2010  #9
"I grew up in a Polish neighborhood where many of the elders spoke the language and my own father spoke Polish. I remember some of our neighbors being Hungarian and Czech

It wasnt Czech is was Czechoslovakia in the 1950s - so they were not Czech, whilst Czech's and Slovaks and Poles can (kind of) understand each other, Hungarian is a different language all together...

I have Czech, Slovak and Polish friends so I know they can communicate to a certain degree...But its not the same language.

Get her to befriend a nice guy, just as friends who teaches her...and then take it from there...BBut's idea of books is good, but you need the personal touch in a book...
strzyga 2 | 993
9 Jan 2010  #10
I remember some of our neighbors being Hungarian and Czech and I remember my father telling me that he could understand much of what they said, although a lot was different. Still, he could basically follow their conversation and/or converse with them

The father was probably conversing with the Czechs, then it rings true enough. Unless the Hungarians could also speak some Czech, which is possible, depending on which part of Hungary they came from. He definitely wouldn't have been able to talk with the Hungarians not having any common language with them.

Make the Polish girl be Jewish so that she is able to do the impossible and learn from a textbook without actually needing a teacher for that.

It's possible to just memorize simple phrases, although with Hungarian you need to know the pronunciation rules.

It wasnt Czech

why not?
Amathyst 19 | 2,702
9 Jan 2010  #11
why not?

Because:

Czechoslovakia

Maybe that was an Abr. But it was always referred to as Czechoslovakian in the UK and not Czech.

But I do agree with:

Unless the Hungarians could also speak some Czech, which is possible, depending on which part of Hungary they came from

But I would have said more, what part of Slovakia they came from (former Czechoslovakia) - borders have changed, in which case they would have spoken Slovakian or possibly Hungarian but lived in Czechoslovakia and an area which was Hungarian formally territory..
strzyga 2 | 993
9 Jan 2010  #12
. But it was always referred to as Czechoslovakian in the UK and not Czech.

The country was named Czechosłovakia, still there were Czechs and Slovaks living there, both groups speaking their relative languages, out of which Czech was the country's official language.

But I would have said more, what part of Slovakia they came from (former Czechoslovakia) - borders have changed, in which case they would have spoken Slovakian.

You're right in that Czechoslovakian-Hungarian border was actually a Slovak-Hungarian border. Still, ethnicity issues in that area were a rather complicated affair for many years after the fall of the Habsburg Empire; they might have been Czechs as well as Slovaks.
vetala - | 382
9 Jan 2010  #13
It's never a good idea to write a book about events that happened in another country a long of time ago without active help from people who possess wide knowledge about those times and places. A lot of research is needed and, unfortunately, quite often people read a book about another nation's culture and think that all customs and traditions mentioned there are the same for people from all parts of the country and from all social backgrouds, which is usually false.

My advice is that you should show your manuscript to someone who specializes in East European studies before you decide to publish it. It's better to recieve help from an expert than risk making a mistake which would be later pointed out by reviewers.

Anyway, I'd love to read your book. Could you say more about the plot and the genre?
marekmroz - | 6
9 Jan 2010  #14
the language is very different.

a part of the family of my grandma came from hungary, but this is a long before her, she never were there.
pawian 159 | 9,428
9 Jan 2010  #15
Polish and Hungarian are as different as English and Chinese.

Hungarian isn`t IndoEuropean language. Some words which in European languages sound similar, e.g., milk, mleko, Milch, moloko, in Hungarian is tej..
Wine, wino, wein, in Hungarian - bor.

Look at this site.
translation-services-usa.com/hungarian_vocabulary.php
Lodz_The_Boat 32 | 1,535
9 Jan 2010  #16
Hungarians are Asiatic people ... now Europeanised... mixed! etc!
Lenka 2 | 1,366
9 Jan 2010  #17
From what I know there are few similarities(few words in common) but not as many as to understand Hungarian without learning it.
papagarth 3 | 20
12 Feb 2010  #18
Magyar, i.e. Hungarian, has a handful of barrowed Slavic words, both Slavic and Magyar have barrowed Germanic (Gothic, Norse, in Russian, Ukrainian, et c. and modern German ) Iranian ( from Scuthian and Sarmatian ) words, as well as barroings from French. Both countries had their turns being Emperial. Beyond this, however, unless a minor language is shared by all three countries (Selesian? ) Magyar - which, strictly speaking is not Asiatic, but Uralic with Turkish loan words. - And, of course, there's Yiddish. - Oh, and of course there are Latin, Greek and some Hebrew barrowungs in all three.
jwojcie 2 | 763
12 Feb 2010  #19
As some clever Pole put it (hm... Stomma), Hungaria is wonderful place, Pole can go there on vacation and get some rest like almost nowhere else in Europe because it is impossible to understand anything including newspapers and other media :-)

Definitely language is not similar at all.
Trevek 26 | 1,702
12 Feb 2010  #20
I am told that the two languages are similar enough that she would be able to understand much of what is said in Polish.

Totally different. Hungarian/Magyar is a Uralic, Finno-Ugric language, more related to Finnish than to Polish (a Slavic, Indo-European language).

Perhaps if you talk about paprika (Hungarian word) or Gulasz (Goulash... another Hungarian word) you might have some luck. Otherwise, no real relation other than loan words, as far as I'm aware.

As for your Polish Jew understanding Hungarian, it's doubtful. Just consider "Good Soldier Schweik", who is Czech (a language much closer to Polish), who complains about the Magyars and how he can't understand them.

Your Jew might speak Yiddish ( a language similar to German and widely spoken throughout European Jewish communities).

As for your neighbour knowing several languages, it's possible in that way, as a former student of mine in Macedonia lived on the edge of the Gypsy quarter and played with Gypsy and Turkish kids, so she knew a little of each language (Romany, Turkish) and her own, Macedonian, even though the languages are totally different. if your girl already has some familiarity with Hungarian she might find it easier to teach herself. Not impossible.

There is always the possibility, as Poland, Hungary and Czech(oslovakia) were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, that many different ethnicities could converse in German. Not sure how easy a Yiddish speaker and German speaker can converse, but I can sometimes read Yiddish with my basic German knowledge. German, of course, was also a language of education for many.
beckski 12 | 1,617
13 Feb 2010  #21
I've found that some of the foods are very similar. When I visit I mother, we buy food at a Hungarian sausage factory. They also sell stuffed cabbage & pierogies. Not 100% the same as authentic Polish food; but it does the trick for me.
gumishu 11 | 5,012
13 Feb 2010  #22
As for your Polish Jew understanding Hungarian, it's doubtful. Just consider "Good Soldier Schweik", who is Czech (a language much closer to Polish), who complains about the Magyars and how he can't understand them.

Polish Jews understanding Hungarian Jews is a no-brainer - they both spoke yiddish and that's it - some Jews in Poland could hardly speak Polish before the war - I stress the word some
mira - | 115
13 Feb 2010  #23
Polish and Hungarian, how similar?

Those two languages are completely different, thus a person who knows Hungarian won't understand Polish and the other way round. There are a few similar words in those two languages, but grammar, spelling and all the rules are way different. Even the way the Hungarians read some words for us, Polish, sounds ridiculous.
Trevek 26 | 1,702
14 Feb 2010  #24
Polish Jews understanding Hungarian Jews is a no-brainer - they both spoke yiddish and that's it

I do say that later in my post, although perhaps I didn't stress it much. But when I say "Hungarian", I'm referring to the language (which the post was about), not "Hungarian Jews."
Trevor 6 | 66
16 Feb 2010  #25
Ok here i am, multi-cultural boy. My family is split between Hungarian, Polish and German. Well, when we get together, TRUST ME, The Magyars cannot understand a word of Polski! They usually split off into 3 rooms, speaking their own languages! It is quite interesting. So now, Polish and Hungarian are NOTHING alike. One is slavic, the other is Uralic
strzyga 2 | 993
16 Feb 2010  #26
My family is split between Hungarian, Polish and German.

Nice mix... would your family name be Habsburg by any chance? ;)
Trevor 6 | 66
17 Feb 2010  #27
Habsburg

Not in polish or Hungarian. I am no to polish either. The germans are Schultz and heinz something. i forget it was heinz?????? oh well, but no, no Habsburgs in my family.
Trevek 26 | 1,702
17 Feb 2010  #28
I think it was meant to be a joke.
marqoz - | 195
17 Feb 2010  #29
I remember some of our neighbors being Hungarian and Czech

The only one trail which can lead us to the statement that Hungarian is intelligible for common Poles is that before the end of the WW1 Slovaks where citizens of the Kingdom of Hungary for more than 900 years. There were even no province of the name Slovakia and the area was called Felső-Magyarország (Upper Hungary) or Felvidék (Upland).

It is proven that people from the other side of the frontier on Karpaty Mountains were addressed as Węgrzy, Węgrowie, Węgrzyni (Hungarians) in local Polish dialect of southern borderland people. But they spoke Slovak dialects which are very similar to Polish dialects and are bilaterally intelligible. And yes there were also many Jews in different state of assimilation or enrooting in emerging national sociaties: German Jews, Hungarian Jews, Yiddish Jews, Slovakian Jews and Hebrew Jews (zionists).

On the other hand - if I dare to add you some background or ideas - in this really multicultural regions of former Imperial-Royal Austro-Hungarian Monarchy knowing languages was one of the most important skill useful not only in career planning but in every-day use with shop-owner Yiddish speaker, bureaucrat - German, wagon-craftsman Slovak, nobleman - Hungarian or Polish and wife - Ukrainian.

A good example were:
1. my great-great-grandfather Austrian officer who knew "deutsch, ungarisch, wallachisch u. polnisch" (German, Hungarian, Romanian & Polish).
2. my grandfather small shop owner who knew Polish, Ukrainian, some Yiddish/German, some Russian.
Exiled 2 | 425
17 Feb 2010  #30
Czechs don't like Hungarians at all I heard some rather depreciating comments about them.They regard them as stupid,arrogant and nationalistic.
On the other hand there are quite a few secret supporters of the austrohungarian ideal and sometimes they declare open their sympathies.


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