Back to the books

In what would appear to be an exercise in empathy, I’m undertaking another scholastic quest: attempting to learn a foreign language (again).

Despite Hungary being a European country, Hungarian is not part of the Indo-European family tree. It’s actually part of the Ugrian subgroup of Uralic languages, and it’s nearest ‘relatives’ are Finnish and Estonian. It is considered to be one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to master, which isn’t surprising really considering Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet and nouns can have up to 238 possible forms.


In light of my complete mathematical incompetence it’s difficult to say whether learning Hungarian is a more or less realistic aspiration than achieving a C grade at Maths GCSE. But nevertheless I am undeterred! In my quest I’m employing a nifty little app called Memrise that uses flashcards and mnemonics, and I’ll take up classes once I get to Hungary.

I realise this may sound all too familiar to some of you. Last year, after a promising start (I managed to learn the Korean alphabet and half a dozen key phrases before I left the UK) my dream of learning an ultimately useless foreign language floundered somewhat , and in the end I never got any further than the basics.

But I vow that this year will be different! I will master a language spoken by a single community of people if it’s the last thing I do.

Got any tools or tips for conquering Hungarian? 


Leaving the D Team


One of two things happened yesterday:

  1. I added a seventh D in Maths to the total amassed by Laura, Bianca and myself over the last decade. If this is confirmed I will likely disappear to live out the rest of my existence in some snowy waste, where I can be alone with my ineptitude forever more


  1. I officially became as accomplished as a (mediocre) sixteen-year-old. The irony being that ultimately the reason I’m putting myself through all of this is so that I can spend more time with the descendants of the sneery-faced, teenage boy who sniggered when I dropped my protractor during the exam

As much as I like the number seven and have enjoyed the comrade of the D Team over the years, I’m actually hoping for the latter outcome.

My fate lies in the hands of the maths gods now. Pray they be kind.


Location, location, location

For those who care to know, this is where I’m off to in August.

Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Aerial view

Székesfehérvár (pronounced Sey-cash-fey-heyr-vahr, apparently) means “seat of the white castle”, in reference to the numerous kings and queens who got crowned there, back in the day. It’s a small city or big town, whichever way you want to look at it, that sits about 40 miles southwest of Budapest, the county’s capital.

According to reliable old Wikipedia, there’s about 101,973 people living in Székesfehérvár, and 95.7% of them are ethnically Hungarian, so it really does promises to be an “authentic Hungarian experience” as the recruiter put it. If my limited research is anything to go by that experience will feature generous amounts of public nudity (there are many natural springs about), goulash (the national dish), dodgy dessert wine (Tokaji is measured by its sweetness), and horses (apparently all things equine are in here).

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also pretty looking.