Hungarian (magyar) is a Uralic language (more specifically Ugric), spoken as a native language by approximately 13 million people. Most speakers live in Hungary (one of the oldest countries in Europe), though a significant number live in neighbouring communities, including those that were previously part of the Kingdom of Hungary, e.g. Transylvania, Romania. There are important Hungarian communities in Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Ukraine. It is an official language of the European Union (Hungary joined the EU in 2004).

Hungarians were previously known as Magyars, derived from the Megyeri tribe, thought to mean ‘talking man’. The word ‘Hungary’ derives from the Turkic word ‘onugor’ meaning ‘ten arrows’, in reference to a tribal alliance.

The first written records of Hungarian date back to the 10th century, when the language had its own writing system (Old Hungarian Script). The Kingdom of Hungary was founded in the year 1000, following which the Hungarian language gradually shifted to the Latin alphabet. The language also adopted a lot of Latin vocabulary, e.g. ‘templom’ (church) and ‘pásztor’ (shepherd). The oldest surviving entirely Hungarian text, Funeral Sermon and Prayer, is thought to date back to 1192. By the 17th century, French, German and Italian loanwords appeared, as well as from Turkish (during the Ottoman occupation of the country). Language reform took place in the 18th century, which led to Hungarian replacing Latin as the official language of Hungary in 1844. English loanwords are increasingly common, particularly in technical fields, e.g. ‘szkenner’ (scanner). The English language has also adopted some words from Hungarian, e.g. ‘biro’ (from its Hungarian inventor, László Biró), ‘goulash’ and ‘paprika’. Other noteworthy Hungarian inventions include the Rubik’s Cube and holography.

There are a number of Hungarian dialects, but these are all largely mutually intelligible. Hungarian uses the standard Latin alphabet but also includes some modified characters (accented vowels). Written Hungarian is almost completely phonemic, so very easy to read, making it attractive for foreign learners.

Hungarian is regulated by the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which also publishes a comprehensive dictionary of the language. The Hungarian Cultural Institute, funded by the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture, is an organisation that promotes Hungarian language and culture abroad.

Business Language Services Ltd. (BLS) specialises in Hungarian translation (both English to Hungarian and Hungarian to English). We have a broad network of highly experienced, qualified professional Hungarian translators, who only translate into their mother tongue. What’s more, all our Hungarian translations are proofread by a second, independent linguist. BLS has an extensive database of Hungarian interpreters, selected according to their expertise, specialist knowledge, friendly attitude and professional reliability. BLS also works with some of the best Hungarian language tutors, enabling us to offer you tailor-made courses to match your precise needs and suit your ongoing work commitments.

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