My goodness me, Hungarian is a tough language.

Ildiko is a wonderful teacher at the summer school here in Budapest, but our class of seven or eight (from the US, Canada, Iran, Germany, France, Italy and the UK) is struggling something rotten with the indefinite and definite aspects of the verb.

One verb form for ‘I see THE dog’ and another for ‘I see A dog.’ And subjunctives and long convoluted endings all over the place.

Hungarian, as you of course know, is unlike pretty much any other language on earth, except Finnish and some small Siberian tongues. But as such, a marvelllous intellectual stimulation.

Ildiko, a graduate in Hungarian linguistics, tells us she had to study maths as part of her training. And indeed, speaking Hungarian is like building algebraic equations. Fine if you know the rules, but one hellova learning curve even to be able to ask, How do I get to the dentist?

Which I had to do today, a sore tooth having taken over from the now healed Achilles tendon…

However, there is also good news. We have learned 10 or so different ways of saying “to die” in hungarian – the phrases in the picture above.

Bite the dust comes out as bite the grass. Move house to another world. Close one’s eyes for ever. Hand in the keys. Turn up your heels – about the same as turn up your toes. Or, my favourite, Megbolgodul – to get really happy.

Another photo above reminds me with relief that some language is universal. Non-stop, Coke, Hamburger. But what’s that ejjel-nappal? Night and day, with an ending on each that mean With. And of course a doubling of the J and the P respectively. But you knew that anyway.

Final picture – relief also that some place names are in German, thanks to the long Austro-Hungarian traditions here and centuries of German minority settlement.

Pilisborosjenoe is the delightful little village just outside Budapest where I’m staying with old friends, cycling into town every day for school.

Weindorf in german, or Wine Village. Rather easier on the tongue.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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