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After years of rubbing language books on my face and put-putting my way through online classes off and on, Hungarian has yet to click for me. My original goal was to be conversant enough to get by in Budapest. My French and German are passable, so I thought this was a realistic goal that wouldn’t take too long to accomplish. Then the difficulty of this language hit me and I moved that first rung down a few notches: My grandpa had a few books of Hungarian poetry and I really want to be able to read and understand them. There aren’t many words in poems. This I can do.

Nope.

While I sort of comprehend the language when spoken in slow motion, I haven’t yet figured out how to pronounce words the way they sound in my head and my sentence construction is embarrassing. I’m trying, but the problem is I’m all struggle, struggle, struggle and not having any fun.

Then I started watching the newest season of Louie. It’s one of my favorite shows already, but now it’s a super favorite as his new love interest is…Hungarian. A real Hungarian who speaks the language and makes the food and plays violin! And I understand about half of what she says so maybe I’m not as linguistically dense as I think.

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Refreshed by the glory of letting my boyfriend (who just loves speaking Bengali without offering translation) stay as confused as Louie, I returned to my lessons with new energy. At last I’ve made a little progress and that feels like a gigantic leap for me. I’ve also found a new medium to learn by – film and TV. A dream come true.

My boyfriend watches Hindi films to improve his Hindi, so I’m not sure why it hasn’t occurred to me to do the same till now. The actors speak at a normal pace, which makes comprehension harder, but hopefully this will help me learn faster. It’s like running with a buddy who’s faster than you are. Before you know it you’re topping your old slow self.

I decided to start my journey into Hungarian films with a comedy. Stop Mom Theresa! was the first one I found on Netflix, so here we go.

Stop Mom Theresa

This is a 2004 Hungarian film based on a bestselling book. From the reviews, I expected a fun, breezy comedy about a 20-something woman going through the bumps of being 20-something complete with breakups, job loss, crazy friends and that hysterical sense that everyone is having more fun than you.

I gave up on watching sans subtitles within the first 5 minutes, but the movie seemed promising. The opening scenes were funny and stylized with goofy jump cuts and fantasies not unlike the French hit Amelie. The humor was a mixed bag of physical comedy, over-the-top wackiness, neurotic awkwardness and Sex and the City-style brassiness. I enjoyed the first 20 minutes, but I realized I was still waiting for the story to start going somewhere. This is always a bad sign.

It took me two days to make it through the first hour. I gave up on day 3 when I saw there was still another hour to go. One interesting thing I noted was the abundance of man butts. I wasn’t keeping count, but there seemed to be way more male nudity than female, which was a nice change from American films that seem to average a ratio of 10 naked women for every half naked man. Again, not that I’m counting.

As soon as I turned the subtitles ON the language-learner in me took a nap. I’ve heard a lot of first generation Americans say they learned English by watching shows. I wonder if they did this with the subtitles off? Do you need to enjoy the content, be engaged enough to gain anything from a language perspective? I’ll only be able to tell once I find a few Hungarian films to love. Got any suggestions?

 

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