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Do They Speak English in Hungary?

Do They Speak English in Hungary

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageHungarian (Magyar)
Percentage of English SpeakersApprox. 20-30% of the population
Commonly Spoken AmongYounger generation, urban areas, tourism sector
English ProficiencyRanges from basic to fluent
Reason for English LearningEducation, business, tourism, media influence


Hungary, located in the heart of Central Europe, is a nation with a rich history and a unique culture. Hungarian, or “Magyar”, is the official language of Hungary, a language that belongs to the Finno-Ugric group, making it quite distinct from most other languages in Europe. With that said, the influence of globalization and the necessity for international communication has impacted language trends in Hungary. So, do Hungarians speak English? Let’s delve into it.

Historical Context of Foreign Languages in Hungary

Historically, Hungary has been influenced by various foreign powers, from the Ottoman Empire to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This has led to a polyglot culture where learning foreign languages has been a norm.

During the 20th century, especially under socialist rule, Russian was a predominant second language. But after the fall of the Iron Curtain, there was a shift.

The Rise of English

With the end of the Cold War and Hungary’s integration into the European Union, English started to gain prominence. Today, English is one of the most popular foreign languages taught in schools. The reasons for this shift are manifold:

  1. Globalization: English has become the lingua franca for business, technology, science, and entertainment.
  2. Education: Many Hungarian students aspire to study abroad, and proficiency in English opens doors to institutions in the UK, US, and other English-speaking nations.
  3. Tourism: Hungary, especially Budapest, has become a popular tourist destination. English helps bridge the communication gap with tourists.

Proficiency Levels and Demographics

The proficiency of English varies widely among Hungarians. While the younger generation tends to have a better grasp, older generations might only have basic knowledge or none at all.

Age GroupEnglish Proficiency
18-29High (most have studied English in school)
30-49Moderate to High
50 and aboveLow to Moderate

Places Where English is Widely Spoken

While English isn’t an official language, there are certain places and situations where you’ll find a lot of English speakers:

  • Budapest: The capital city, being a major tourist and business hub, has a high concentration of English speakers, especially in the service sector.
  • Universities: Most universities offer courses in English, and there’s a significant population of international students.
  • Tourist Spots: Places like Lake Balaton, Eger, and Pécs, which attract international tourists, have locals with a decent grasp of English.
  • Business Districts: Multinational companies operate in Hungary, and English is often used for communication.

Tips for Travelers

For those traveling to Hungary and wondering about the language barrier, here are some handy tips:

  • Learn Basic Hungarian: A few phrases can go a long way in making local connections. “Köszönöm” means “Thank you”, and “Hello” is a casual greeting.
  • Use Technology: Translation apps can be lifesavers.
  • Gesture and Smile: Sometimes, non-verbal communication can be just as effective.
  • Stay in Urban Areas: If you’re concerned about the language barrier, sticking to larger cities might be easier.


While Hungarian remains the dominant language in Hungary, English has carved a niche for itself, especially among the younger generation and in sectors that frequently interact with foreigners. So, if you’re traveling to Hungary or interacting with Hungarians, you’ll likely find someone who speaks at least basic English. However, as with any foreign country, showing an interest in the local language and culture is always appreciated.