Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Hungarian Song: Mindig az a perc a legszebb

My friend Laci has been teaching me this Hungarian song, Mindig az a perc a legszebb. It's a beautiful and melancholy melody about longing. Longing for the kiss and the beauty that escapes, that eludes, that one dreams of...

Fortunately the melody comes easily ...the lyrics not so easy. The Hungarian language is so difficult for me to just pronounce and even mimic with fourteen different vowel sounds and strange letter combinations like "gy" making a sound that doesn't seem at all familiar to my English speaking ear or to my mouth. Polish is a hard language but Hungarian makes Polish seem like it will be easier to learn in comparison. With Laci and with my cousin's husband, also Laci, I am learning a handful of songs I can practice and I can try to learn to pronounce the words.  All songs are in minor keys and heart wrenching... my favorite kind of song.

The singer here is Katalin Karady, a famous and very beautiful Hungarian actress and singer who appeared in 20 movies prior to WWII. Both tragic experiences and examples of human goodness are a part of her life during the war years. She was in prison for 3 months where she was beaten and tortured. She was rescued and was in bad shape for awhile. However she did remain strong and went on to rescue numerous families who were waiting to be shot by the Arrow Cross guards on the bank of the Danube. After WWII she became more and more disregarded as a star and moved abroad to various countries spending most of her later life in Brazil then later to New York where she died in 1990.


  1. My mother used to tell me how smart my grandmother, Mary Cerno, was by telling me that she could look at a newspaper in Hungarian and read out loud in Slovak (two unrelated languages.)

    One young Hungarian man once told me that the Hungarian language is "Hungary's national tragedy."

  2. Hungarian song, eh? It's a big world, but don't you think this melody has more than a glancing similarity to "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"?

  3. Wow, being a Hungarian I've never heard this quote "Hungary's national tragedy." yet.

  4. I hear you, there are lots of strange combos of consonants and sounds in Sanskrit too!

  5. Danusha and Anonymous:
    What I've heard about the Hungarian language is that it is a true part of Hungarian's national pride. It is a fascinating language. Certainly not a tragedy...although I assume this young Hungarian man was joking around? I do not want to offend any of my readers.

    There are not many similar languages in the world. It's a Ugric language and shares the most similarities with two languages in western Siberia. There are some corresponding relationships with Finnic languages as well.

    I have to disagree. I think the sound of the time period captured in both songs is similar...the style in which they are recorded. I hear them as two distinct songs. The way I'm learning the Hungarian song is less 1930's pop jazz and more slow and ballad like.

    Good luck with the Sanskrit. We'll have to talk about how it is learning a new language in our 30's when I see you in Sept.!