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German language welcome in Hungary?

I cannot master Hungarian, but do speak German. Given the Nazi occupation in the 1940’s, how receptive are non-English-speaking Hungarians to someone speaking German?

Posted by
10715 posts

German is probably the most common language after Hungarian and English.

During the time of the Empire, before the Dual Monarchy, all of the Hungarian elite spoke German. Hungarian was considered a peasant language. Nationalism became apparent with the revolution of 1848, stronger with the founding of dual monarchy in 1867 and then the Hungarian Millennium in 1898 probably sealed Hungarian as the language of choice; although at the time of the Nazi invasion many, many Hungarians still spoke German. That didn't work out too well for them when the Russians invaded and there aren't many descendants of those folks walking the streets today.

Ohhhh, your answer is, German will work, English is better.

Now say welcome to Magyarország.

Posted by
189 posts

Hungary borders Austria on the west, so German is a reasonable second language unrelated to WWII (or the Austro-Hungarian Empire for that matter). We traveled in small towns near the border a few years ago and found German helpful. We still encountered people who didn’t speak English or German, but we got by with a few Hungarian phrases learned for the trip. I don’t think we needed the German in Budapest.

Posted by
703 posts

Brexit aside, English is the unofficial second language of the European Union so my opening gambit would be English with German as the fallback. Some people will never forgive and others have moved on so it really depends on who you are talking to. A good friend of mine was all but thrown our of a shop in Luxembourg a few years ago for using his excellent German.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks very much for your advice. I was in Finland in the late 60’s. It was interesting to discover how welcome my German was there.

Posted by
10715 posts

If the question is, will my German win me points with the locals.... No. Hungary is very nationalistic. They love their language. To compete in the world most who are under 40 know some English as well. A lot know German. Do they care about Nazis and WWII? no more than Hawaiians care about Japs.

I found a statistic, in Budapest 20% speak English, 11% German as a second language; to what proficiency it didn't say. I would guess that half of those German speakers speak English too.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks. My purpose would not be to win points, just to communicate if a Hungarian does not speak English. It looks as though communication will not be a problem.

Posted by
10715 posts

In the country and smaller towns it can be different. In Budapest, every place a tourist goes on his first 3 trips, if the person you approach doesnt speak English, then the person next to him does. I nearly 20 years not I have had no trouble communicating other than finding it impossible to pronounce the Hungarian street name so I can tell the taxi dispatcher where I am.

Posted by
6540 posts

On our last visit, we went by train to Bratislava. Although it was just 39 miles from Vienna, we didn't hear any local language other than Hungarian, and English was the secondary language. I'm sure most people can speak German--if they really want to.
In Budapest, we often heard the young locals speaking English when they went out nights--practicing the language.

Posted by
10715 posts

David, you know the wine bar I hang out at. English spoken between young Hungarians that hang out there is common. I always wondered if it were some sort of status thing. Hey, I will be back in June, you should come hang out.

Posted by
1257 posts

Also, dude, "Japs" is not the preferred nomenclature. /🎬

Posted by
12084 posts

German is defintely a language you can use in Hungary...no problems at all. German was the linga franca before the end of communism; during the Cold War German was the only language that Hungarians, red tape and all, used with foreigner visitors since they didn't know English anyway.

In the 1971 and '73 trips, I talked with Czechs in Prague and Finns in Germany in German. I don't know if they knew English, wasn't interested in that anyway, so we spoke in German. Older Hungarians , 50 and up, will be more willing to converse with you in German than in Russian if their English is lacking.

When you go to Budapest, checking out restaurants and eateries deciding which one finally to settle on, look at how many have welcome signs in German and in English. Look at your menus if German is adjacent to the English or that particular restaurant offers German menu, maybe a French too and a Russian, or even one in Italian. Point is they are multi-lingual in approach.

In the restaurants I've gone to in BP , precisely 2, I used German each time.

Posted by
12084 posts

James has it absolutely correct in terms of the linguistic history.

The Compromise of 1867 , know in German as the "Ausgleich of 1867" stipilated that in Hungary German would be the language of command (for the A-H Army) and that of admistration in Hungary, plus that Franz Joseph would only be recognise as "King" of Hungary, not "Emperor"