Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Other, Other Europe: A Hungarian Restoration

Der Spiegel tells us that Viktor Orbán is demonstrating that he really meant it when he laid out his populist-nationalist agenda for Hungary ("Goulash Archipelago"--oh, Spiegel, you're such as kidder).  Meanwhile, from the Wall Street Journal, I learn that the Hungarian government doesn't want the folks to learn English as a "first foreign language" because it is too easy.

Boy, I can relate.  I'm not a good foreign-language speaker but in Europe I am a fairly adept guesser and in Hungary, I am toast (unless I want someone to serve me gulyásh in my kocsi).  But it is not just the utterly unfamiliar language, stranger than Klingon; it's the pronunciation of that strange language.  The Hungarians appear to trade in vocal subtleties that are beyond anyone other than, perhaps (just guessing) the Cantonese.  I recall one day in Budapest when a tourguide was trying to give us a bit of history.  In a desperate and forlorn attempt to show I had done my homework, I piped up:

"Was that Rákosi?"  I asked.

"No," she responded. "It was Rákóczi."
Or maybe it was the other way round.  Would have been lost on me either way.

By the way, that language point--would it have anything to do with the fact that Viktor was an English major?

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