It is rather unusual for a German to offer Hungarian courses. How did you come up with the idea?

I began taking Hungarian courses two weeks after my arrival in Budapest. I felt terribly uncomfortable not being able to buy a simple loaf of bread, let alone to say thank you. That's why I was shocked when I met expats who did not speak any Hungarian.

But soon I realised a huge problem. Again and again I met expats who had started learning Hungarian but eventually stopped. Rather than being practice-oriented, the courses focused on the difficult grammar. "After several months of learning, I still couldn't order a coffee," one person told me. Someone else had tried three different teachers and finally gave up in frustration.

Personally, I did not learn important everyday terms in my own courses. Zacskó (bag) or készpénz (cash) are just a few examples that were missing from the courses I took.

Are all Hungarian courses so little practice-oriented?

Unfortunately, a lot of them are, although there are some positive exceptions. But these are individual teachers, not institutions. The approach is similar to how I learned English and French in high school: learning the language from A-Z. This is not up-to-date for expats who only stay in a country for two to three years.

What is special about your classes?

Our classes are practice-oriented. First, we carefully select the vocabulary, which we then build into expat-relevant stories. Second, all our modules end with a practical session: in the module "Food" students buy vegetables, in the module "Socialising" they talk to strangers, in the module "Having fun with Boring Stuff" they buy stamps. Finally, we offer the possibility to use a babysitting service, to allow mothers to learn Hungarian.

Is your concept successful?

Yes. The students speak Hungarian and are more open to the Hungarian culture. I remember the radiant face of an American woman when she told the teacher how she had bought eggs at the market. "I was so proud we communicated!", she said.

Of course, there is always scope for improvement – as a German, I'm a perfectionist. For example, I'll record the vocabulary in the coming weeks, so students can go through it at home.

How do you find new teachers?

Finding good teachers is not easy. I have specific ideas about which qualifications the teacher should bring and how they should teach: patiently, demanding and supportive, providing quality rather than quantity. For example, it is a bad sign if a teacher teaches me all the declinations of a verb during the trial lesson. But through intensive searching and referrals from acquaintances, I have managed to put together a good team.

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Do you only offer language classes?

No, in addition to the language classes we offer both a cultural and a support program. The cultural program is all about Hungarian culture: In December, expats can explore the Christmas market with us, in January and February we go ice-skating in Városliget and organise a wine tasting – all including mini language courses, of course.

The support program offers events to make expat life easier. Our first event in that series will be on February 7 for moms looking for a job.

How good is your own Hungarian?

When I'm out and about on the street, I usually speak Hungarian. Shopping, asking for information, that’s all fine. But I still talk to my Hungarian friends in English or German. Another thing that would make a huge difference for me is to be able to roll the "r".

What do you recommend new expats to do?

Apply every Hungarian word that you know. Hungarians can be quite introvert. But most Hungarians – as in most cultures – really appreciate it when you can say a few words in their language. A Hungarian word brings out a smile and can open doors.

How can expats sign up for one of the classes?

They can contact me directly via email: mvk@hungarianforexpats.com Then I can let them know about the next classes or we set up private classes for them.


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