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What language do they speak in Budapest? (A 2024 Travel Guide)

If you are planning a trip to Hungary’s Capital you may find yourself asking, ‘What language do they speak in Budapest?’ It can be daunting visiting a destination for the first time, unsure if you will be able to speak to locals, order food or navigate your way around. 

Well, in today’s post, we are going to discuss just that. What it is like visiting Budapest as an English speaker. I will be giving you first-hand advice on how to get by, the languages you are likely to hear and some key phrases to help you make a good impression while exploring this beautiful city.

Section 1: Languages Spoken in Budapest

In this section, we will take a look at the Languages spoken in Budapest. While Hungary has its own official language, Budapest is a diverse city and you will find many other languages spoken here.

What language is spoken in Hungary?

The official language spoken in Hungary is Hungarian, often referred to as ‘Magyar’ by the locals. What blows my mind about Hungarian is it does not share any major links with any other European language. It somewhat resembles Finnish and Estonian but is ultimately unique. Therefore, as a tourist, you may find it difficult to understand but don’t worry to much about that. 

Do they speak English in Budapest?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Budapest. I have never had a problem trying to communicate while in Hungary. 

Tourists can usually find English speakers in hotels, restaurants, and popular tourist spots. And the younger generations tend to have an excellent level of English. So, if you find yourself lost or in need of some help. Don’t be afraid to stop a local on the street. Generally, they are quite friendly and approachable.

However, it is important to remember, not everyone is fluent, so a little bit of patience and understanding can go a long way. It’s always appreciated when you can throw in a few Hungarian phrases too! I will highlight some useful phrases later in this post.

What other languages are spoken in Budapest?

As mentioned, Budapest is a diverse city and attracts many people from around the world. Due to this, you will find that English is widely spoken amongst locals, but you will be surprised to know that there are over 13 minority languages spoken in Budapest. Some of the most commonly spoken ones apart from Hungarian and English include German, Slovak, Romani, and Croatian.

Section 2: Language in Budapest Travel Tips

So, if you are planning on visiting Budapest for the first time, one of the key considerations is the language barrier. But don’t worry. This guide will give you some useful language tips to help aid your travel plans to the beautiful city.

A picture of a menu board with the menu translated to english using google translate app used as an example for a blog post on What language do they speak in Budapest?

Download the Google Translate App

This may seem like an obvious tip but honestly, this saved me on my backpacking trip through Europe

Google Translate on the Chrome browser does not have the same features as the app.

On the app, you can take a picture of a piece of text and it automatically translates it for you.

This made it so much easier to order in restaurants, café and small shops.

The image demonstrates how it looks once it has translated all the words for you.

This example is in French as I did not think to take a screenshot while in Hungary.

Tips for visiting Budapest as an English Speaker

Budapest is a wonderful city to visit, and one essential tip I have for English speakers is to learn a few basic Hungarian phrases. Not only does this help in making your way around the city, but it also shows respect and admiration for their culture. 

Basic Hungarian Phares:

Here are some basic Hungarian phrases along with their phonetic pronunciation:

  1. Hello – Szia (SEE-a)
  2. Thank You – Köszönöm (KO-se-noem)
  3. Yes – Igen (EE-gen)
  4. No – Nem (Nem)
  5. Please – Kérem (KEY-rem)

Hungarian Phares to use in a restaurant:

Here are some useful phrases that you can use when eating out in Budapest:

  1. I would like to order – Rendelnék (REN-del-nake)
  2. Menu, please – Étlapot, kérem (ET-la-pot, KEY-rem)
  3. Bill, please – Számlát, kérem (SA-ma-lat, KEY-rem)

Hungarian Phares if you need help:

Here are some essential phrases to use when you need help in Budapest:

  1. Can you help me? – Tudna segíteni? (TOOD-na SEY-gee-ten-nee)
  2. Do you speak English? – Beszél angolul? (BES-zel AN-gol-ul)
  3. Help! – Segítség! (SEY-geet-sheyg)
  4. I’m lost. – Eltévedtem. (EL-te-ve-dem)

Now, I know this looks incredibly difficult, but what I suggest is choosing three or four of these phases and asking a local in a shop or restaurant to pronounce it for you. Then record the pronunciation on your phone. That way you will have it at hand if you need help. 

But, for the most part, making an effort is just nice and polite. Someone in the area will more than likely be able to assist you in English.

Tips for tourists regarding language barriers

  1. Use a Text to Speech:  Many smartphones nowadays have built-in text to speech software that can help you communicate with locals in foreign countries. You can type in what you want to say, and the app will speak it out loud in the local language.
  2. Learn Body Language: Despite language barriers, human emotions are universal. A smile, nod, or a simple thumbs-up can go a long way in communicating.
  3. Keep Screenshots of Common Phrase:  Take screenshots of common phrases in the local language and keep them on your phone for easy access. You can even use the text in this blog post 😉
  4. Patience is Key: Remember, you’re in a foreign country with a different language. Be patient with yourself and the locals when misunderstandings occur.
  5. Ask for Help: Don’t hesitate to ask locals for help. Most people are accommodating and will try to assist you, even if it’s through gestures or pointing.
Related Post: Is Budapest Cheap to Visit?
A sign sating open in both English and Hungarian

Section 3: Official Language of Hungary

how many people speak Hungarian?

Hungarian is spoken by approximately 13 million people worldwide. Making it the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe. 

 9.8 million of Hungarian Speakers live in Hungary, while the rest of those speaking the language are living across the world, with many in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Israel, the U.S., and Australia. 

How old is the Hungarian Language?

The Hungarian Language is unique, with its own individual characteristics and complexity. The language’s deep-rooted history goes back thousands of years.

The origin is traced back to the Uralic Family of Languages which is believed to have evolved from the Ural Mountains area. 

It is estimated that the language we know today started approximately around the 4th to 7th centuries AD. 

Despite the influences from other languages Hungarian has remained rather unique to this day.

What other languages are closest to Hungarian?

Contrary to what one might assume, Hungarian doesn’t share many similarities with most European languages. 

It’s a part of the Uralic family, making it a linguistic sibling of Finnish and Estonian. However, even though they’re from the same family, these languages have significant differences due to the geographical distance and varying influences from other languages. 

This makes Hungarian truly unique, standing out among the other languages spoken in Europe.

Language in Budapest: FAQ Summary

What language is spoken in Budapest?

The primary language spoken in Budapest is Hungarian. As the capital and the largest city of Hungary, Budapest is a linguistic hub where the Hungarian language thrives. 

Is English spoken in Budapest?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Budapest, especially among younger generations. It is also common for most workers at tourist attractions to have a high level of English, so whether you decide to explore hidden gems like a caving tour beneath the city or take part in the iconic boat tours along the Danube. Odds are someone working there will be able assist you in English.

Can I get by in Budapest if I only speak English?

While the primary language spoken in Budapest is Hungarian, English is widely understood and spoken, especially in tourist areas and among the younger generation. Therefore, visitors who only speak English should be able to navigate the city without significant language barriers.

Budapest also has a pretty easy to understand public transportation system, which is reliable and fast. And Taxi’s are easy to come by, so if you do find yourself a little stuck you can also hail down a local taxi driver for help getting to a destination.

Do people in Budapest speak other languages?

Yes, in addition to Hungarian and English, you’ll find that many Budapest locals also speak German, French, and Italian. This multilingualism is primarily a result of the city’s education system that emphasizes foreign language learning.

What language do they speak in Budapest: Conclusion

To sum things up, while Hungarian is the primary language spoken in Budapest, you will not face significant communication barriers if you can speak English. The city is largely multilingual, with English being commonly understood and spoken, particularly in tourist hotspots making it a rather safe and enjoyable place to visit for English speakers. So, pack your bags and get ready for a wonderful trip to Budapest without worrying too much about the language!

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