Commentary

Why Hungarians Don’t Speak Languages

The short answer: Because those who do have already left.

The long answer will reveal itself from a little piece of news that came out last week. 

According to Eurostat, only 37% of adult Hungarians claimed to speak at least one foreign language. That’s last in the EU.

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According to a study by the European Commission published in April 2018, Hungarian youth are also the least willing to learn languages (38% said so – EU average was 23%).

Let them learn languages!

Our Party and government wants to extend student loans to cover language learning. Apparently, the good king ordered a survey (results are secret) and concluded that languages is what we need to make the country a better place to live in. (“To make the country a better place to live in” is the new theme.)

A simple mind may find this whole thing a heart-warming gesture of benevolence for the people. But a less naive mind will immediately look for the real beneficiary – and that’s not the language-learning poor little saps.

Turns out, a lesser crony (right hand man of an oligarch) was allowed to buy a language school just a few months ago. And not just any language school. The school that suddenly caught his attention is the same school that became licensed to cash in on the language student loans. I’m sure he just happened to have bought it due to his dedication to language teaching and he sensed the business opportunity in English intermediate level “A” exam processing. But he can now also luckily cash in on student loans.

Reminds me of the minister’s 83-year-old former schoolteacher mother, who never did any business in her life but reached out of retirement to buy a pig farm for millions of euros – just before it received tens of millions of EU funding. That’s some luck in business indeed!

To understand why language schools are such a great business, you need to understand why Hungarians are so desperate to have the language exam. It is because they can’t get their degrees until they have at least one or two. That’s another rule Fidesz made a few years back, and I’m pretty sure lesser minds were contentedly gloating that “good for them, people should speak languages”.

But rules and laws don’t solve problems. They just create different ones. This particular law created its own spin-off problem: by 2018 a total of 91 595 higher education degrees were withheld by universities because the recipient didn’t have the required language exams. Because universities were not required to teach languages, only check if the students have them. Makes very little sense, but this is what you deserve when you expect the state to solve a problem with a law.

Those 91 595 people are a considerable number – but instead of scrapping the stupid rule (exams don’t make language speakers, otherwise half the population would be fluent in at least one language) or at least the stupid follow-up rule, the government found a way to enrich a lesser crony and reward him for his services: he was allowed to buy the school that now received the license to teach and collect student loans. That’s 91 595 clients straight away, and they can all pay.

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Fun fact: The Council of National Competitiveness (the overpaid dumbasses who proposed the language loans) also proposed to scrap the dubbing of foreign films to boost the language skills of youth. The voice actors’ lobbying group already announced shrieking opposition and listed reasons why that’s not fair. I leave them here, maybe you can make sense of it:

  • Germany, Switzerland and Belgium also has dubbed films and yet people speak languages (I  wish they included a few more multi-lingual countries)
  • In Scandinavia, films are in the local language and people still speak languages (not kidding they claim that)
  • They just want to take the livelihood of the dubbing industry away (About time, folks, about time. Firstly, why should you be the only sector that doesn’t get hurt. And more importantly, when can I watch a movie in a cinema without your rushed but totally heartfelt dubbing?)
  • Their translations are quoted (What other version could be quoted???)
  • Without dubbing, most people would never hear dramatized speech in Hungarian
  • They demand legal protection to Hungarian dubbing.

Haven’t they done enough damage already?

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