Let’s start by taking a look at the history and current state of the Hungarian language.
📜 How old is Hungarian? 🔗
The first written records in Hungarian date to the 10th century; however, the first full text in Hungarian that remains undestroyed to this day was written in the 1190s. Are you wondering if this text can still be understood by contemporary Hungarian speakers? Well, probably not.
The orthography, grammar, and vocabulary have changed so much throughout the centuries that most current speakers couldn’t even read it out loud and would need a “translation” to understand it. For example, the original Hungarian language had diphthongs and used six verb tenses. The diphthongs were lost over time, and today only two or three verb tenses are used.
🗺️ Where is Hungarian spoken? 🔗
With approximately 13 million speakers, Hungarian is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe and occupies the 12th place on the list of the most populous European languages. It goes without saying that Hungarian is the oﬃcial language of the Republic of Hungary, but fewer people know that it is also the official language of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, as well as of three municipalities in Slovenia and that it has approximately four million speakers from outside of Hungary. How come? To answer this question, we have to have a look at the history.
As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Hungary lost 71% of its territory, and one-third of Greater Hungary’s population ended up as citizens of the neighboring states: Austria, Croatia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia. Today, the Hungarian language is ofﬁcially recognized as a minority or regional language in all these countries, with the largest community, comprising approximately 1.5 million speakers, located in Transylvania, Romania.
📍 Hungarian as a pluricentric language 🔗
Understandably, the language used in these minority communities differs from the standard Hungarian used in Hungary. These non-dominant varieties, i.e., dialects, include Transylvanian Hungarian (Romania), Vojvodina Hungarian (Serbia), Transcarpathian Hungarian (Ukraine), Slovak Hungarian, Slovenian Hungarian, Croatian Hungarian, and Austrian Hungarian.
Beyond some differences in vocabulary created by the influence of the neighboring languages, all these dialects are mutually intelligible. However, dialects are unfortunately often invalidated and criticized, which leads to a controversial relationship between the Hungarian speakers in Hungary and the minority speakers.
🤔 What language is the closest to Hungarian? 🔗
Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family, distantly related to Finnish and Estonian, and is a member of the Ugric branch, along with Mansi and Khanty. Mansi, its closest relative, is only spoken by less than 1000 people today.
However, it’s very important to clarify that these languages are only related in terms of having a common ancestor and are no longer mutually intelligible. That’s why Hungarian is mostly known as an isolated language: not only are all the other Finno-Ugric languages geographically far away, but they evolved in completely different ways.
Therefore, unlike the speakers of the Germanic, Romance, or Slavic languages, Hungarian speakers have no “similar” languages that they can mostly or almost understand or at least learn easily. When learning a foreign language, they mostly profit from their second language, which, in the case of the minority speakers, is primarily the official language of their home country.
💼 Professional Hungarian translation services 🔗
There is an inexplicable tendency among Hungarian speakers to translate literally everything, the best example probably being the world-famous Hungarian film dubbing. This is, however, a bit of a double-edged sword. As most speakers are not forced to learn a foreign language, according to Eurostat's latest statistics, more than 50% of Hungarians living in Hungary do not speak any foreign language. And though among younger speakers, this number is already changing, the work of the Hungarian translation services is essential; this also applies to the minority speech communities, which have a much greater need to nurture the use of their mother tongue.
What makes a Hungarian translation service professional? 🔗
When searching for online Hungarian translation services, the most important thing is to make sure you are working with native speakers. Hungarian is quite a unique language, professionally spoken mainly by native or bilingual speakers. Of course, this doesn’t mean that any native speaker can do a proper translation for you, but we surely recommend you find Hungarian translation service agencies that work with native translators to deliver professional services.
In addition, because of the complexity of the language, proper machine translation technology has not been developed yet, and in many cases, even professional translation software can be wrong.
For example, there are inﬂected word forms in Hungarian that can have several meanings: the word várunk can mean ‘we are waiting’ as well as ‘our castle’. These forms cannot be properly translated without analyzing the context, which machine translation can’t always do.
The most common language pairs 🔗
Despite the high cost of manual translations, for the reasons mentioned above, they are essential in order to receive high quality results. Naturally, the prices may vary based on language pairs. English–Hungarian translation services are the most common and, therefore, the most suitable. Still, you can easily find professional bilingual translators among the minority speakers as well, especially in combination with the official language of their home country.
🚩 Hungarian localization with Localazy 🔗
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Fun fact: The traditional Hungarian dish "gulyás" (goulash) is mentioned in a Czech/Slovak idiom. The word is guláš and means "mishmash", typically used as "mít v tom guláš": to be disoriented or to lack understanding of something.