Talking About the Hungarian Language

Article in partnership with Day Translations.

Hungarian is spoken by about 13 to 15 million people worldwide including countries near Hungary such as Germany, Slovakia and Romania, with about 8 million being native speakers living in Hungary.

If we are to put actual numbers against each country where people of Hungarian origin live, here is a breakdown (source):

  • United States more than 1.5 million Hungarian people
  • Romania 1 million Hungarian people
  • Slovakia more than 450,000 Hungarian people
  • Canada almost 350,000 Hungarian people
  • Germany almost 300,000 Hungarian people
  • France, United Kingdom, Israel between 200,000 and 250,000 Hungarian people
  • Serbia and Ukraine between 150,000 and 200,000 people.

What have Bela Lugosi, Tony Curtis, Drew Barrymore, Nicolas Sarkozy, Harry Houdini, Monica Selez, Joseph Pulitzer and Adrien Brody have in common? Yes, you guessed it, they all have Hungarian roots.

Is Hungarian a useful language to learn for translators? Let’s discuss it.

​The Hungarian Language

The Hungarian language is a Uralic language and has some similarities with Estonian and Finnish, with some links to local languages spoken in Siberia.

The Hungarian language or Magyar adopted the Latin alphabet with some modifications such as accents on vowels since the 13th century and properly codified in the 16th century when printed press became available (source).

Hungarian is different from Indo-European languages such as French and Spanish but also from Slavic languages such as Russian, Serbian or Polish. It also bears no relation to Turkish, even though both Hungarian and Turkish use vowel sounds in a similar way.

Learners of the Hungarian language often mention how difficult it is to study its grammar and pronunciation. There are 14 separate vowel sounds in Hungarian.

​Working as a Hungarian Translator

According to the Economic Research Institute, an American company that provides salary surveys for the private and public sectors, Hungarian translators can earn on average about 7 million Hungarian forint a year, which is equivalent to 18,000 euros or 19,000 US dollars. The hourly rate for Hungarian translators is about 3,000 forint on average or about 9 euros or 9 dollars.

Hungarian translators normally have a University degree (about 50%) and about a third have a Master’s degree.

In terms of the types of jobs and industry sectors that are likely to need Hungarian translators, there seems to be good demand to translate videogames and to provide localisation and quality control.

Technical translations are also in demand, in fields such as engineering and energy. There are translator vacancies for customer support and marketing with responsibilities ranging from translating newsletters to product specifications.

​Is It Worth for Translators To Learn Hungarian?

Considering the complexity of Hungarian grammar and pronunciation, it is easier for a native Hungarian speaker to learn other languages such as English, French or Russian than for a non-native speaker to learn Hungarian from scratch, although it is not impossible.

Another factor for consideration is the earning potential: looking at the average salary of Hungarian translators, it doesn’t seem a very viable option, combined with the actual number of people who speak Hungarian. However, native Hungarian speakers are probably in a good position if they can combine their language skills with other skills that are in demand in the job market, such as sales and technical roles, as well as government or public sector positions. Alternatively, native Hungarian speakers can look at very specific language combinations such as Hungarian and Chinese, which may have little to no competition.

That’s all the time we had to discuss the Hungarian language and whether it is worth learning it for translators – now it’s time to say goodbye, which in Hungarian is ‘szia’.