Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby carsongundersen » Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:11 pm

Dtmont wrote:SO there are many people on here who are very knowledgeable about specific languages and I would love to know how they would recommend someone to learn the language they spent time learning. What are the best materials you have ever used, what are some things you would recommend focusing on, what mistakes did you make that you would avoid?



I would definitely use lots of youtube to learn! Also listen to music. But all in all, the best way to learn a new language is by total immersion
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Chung » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:30 am

Out of laziness, I've reused the same structure and some of the same phrasing as in my post about Finnish. What're you gonna do about it? :P

==

If I were to give advice right now to my monoglot Anglophone friends on how to start studying Slovak by themselves, I'd tell them the following:

1) Despite being associated with Eastern Europe, don't let hearsay or its relative obscurity discourage you. It's not exceedingly difficult to learn the basics when you have a sufficiently open mind and realize that learning any language is like a lot of things in life from cooking to standup comedy to sex. It takes practice, sometimes a little self-confidence, and other times a little humility.

2) Nevertheless, it'll also help to keep things in perspective, and realize that the language is not endowed with much learning material for outsiders. This means that you have to make do with the relatively few resources that are available and won't have the luxury of being picky when looking for a textbook or dictionary (as you would be when studying FIGS or another higher-profile language such as Arabic or Mandarin). In addition, it'd be your lucky day if you were to meet a Slovak through something like Couchsurfing, Meetup or just a chance encounter through work or school outside Slovakia since the speech community isn't that large or dispersed to begin with. Getting a personal connection to the language will depend at on some luck and likely a trip or two to Slovakia.

3) Use material on the internet as supplements or reference material when you're coming to grips with the basics. Tutors are expensive and rather few while the time difference when you're not in the same time zones as Europe will make online lessons a pain to schedule. There's too much in the way of distractions or temptation to goof off on YouTube or Facebook when you're supposed to be learning with an online course (especially at the beginning). Build a base of knowledge in Slovak the old-fashioned way, with a textbook, course audio in a MP3/CD player, lined paper and pen or pencil at hand. A bidirectional dictionary between English and Slovak is optional at the beginning, but you can forget scrounging for a respectable reference manual of Slovak grammar issued in English. The only one of note ("A Grammar of Contemporary Slovak" by Józef Mistrík) has been long out of print, and no one has still bothered to write a Slovak counterpart to "Czech: An Essential Grammar" in Routledge's series of reference grammars. I'm not big on flash cards, but feel free to make them for yourself if you'd like.

Since I recommend that you avoid using an online course as your primary learning resource at the beginning, be prepared to shell out about $50 for "Colloquial Slovak" (q.v.)

4a) Recommendation for the first textbook

- Colloquial Slovak (textbook and audio) by James Naughton.

It's very slim pickings for self-contained courses for total beginners to learn Slovak. This is the usual offering in the "Colloquial..." series with 16 chapters each led off by a dialogue or two, followed by notes on grammar and then some exercises backed up by an answer key in the appendices. Be grateful that this course exists since Naughton put together a serviceable work with decent explanations of grammar, lists of vocabulary that aren't absurdly long, and some dialogues that are somewhat ha-ha funny. The only real weakness is the lack of exercises but that's common to courses in this format. The few other courses in hard copy that exist for English-speaking beginners are really meant for classes as they lack answer keys (e.g. "Beginning Slovak" by Oscar Swan, "Slovak for You" by Ada Böhmerová).

4b) Recommendations for reference material

In case you need a second opinion on the grammar explanations in "Colloquial Slovak", your best bet is to print out the rather sparse notes on grammar in Slovake.eu which are available without registration or cost.

For a bidirectional dictionary in hard copy, the best one for a beginner is Anglicko-slovenský / Slovensko-anglický praktický slovník published by Lingea. The list price of 20 € could pick up a fair bit depending on shipping costs from Slovakia to your address, but fortunately you can also look things up for free in an online version of this dictionary on the publisher's website. A hard copy of the larger version of this dictionary is available for 59.90 €.

Once you're in the second half of "Colloquial Slovak" and have the barest abilities to get the gist of a simple sentence in Slovak and/or recognize some words in that sentence, you might want to take note of aspectual pairs of verbs that you encounter or see exceptions in declension of some nouns. For that, you could use the online monolingual dictionaries of Slovak. Just enter the word in the field in the top left, and press "Find". The hard copies of these monolingual dictionaries are expensive and your Slovak needs to be fairly advanced to take full advantage of them.

5) Recommendations or ideas after finishing "Colloquial Slovak"

- Review some basic grammar using the Peace Corps' material for Slovak. You can use a textbook, workbook (with answer key), and bare-bones reference manual on grammar that's all in Slovak (followed by a laughably brief translation to English). This was all meant for volunteers attending classes in basic Slovak, and so the teacher and exposure would complement these books.

- Consolidate and then build on your knowledge with "Beginning Slovak" by Oscar Swan or either of the series "Krížom krážom" by Renáta Kamenárová et al. or the textbooks published by Comenius Unversity. Expect to set aside between $100 and $200 for each of these materials since Swan's course is expensive but thorough enough for a beginner's self-instructional course with its fat textbook and 6 CDs while the resources from Slovakia aren't that cheap to begin with and you'll have to pay something for customs/international shipping.

"Beginning Slovak" dates from the end of the Cold War, and is something like an old course from FSI adapted for a course for undergrads with its droll dialogues followed by notes on grammar and a lot of exercises including audio drills. Unfortunately it has no answer key, and the full set can cost over $150 (make sure you're getting the 6 CDs and the book).

"Krížom krážom" is meant to for classrooms and explanations and instructions in Slovak only. The series consists of four textbooks (with audio) each corresponding to CEFR A1, A2, B1, and B2. There's also a workbook of grammar exercises for students at A1 and A2 looking for more practice in the basics. Each book includes an answer key, and so someone who's just completed "Colloquial Slovak" could probably do self-instruction and jump in using the book for A2 (or even B1) instead of A1.

The textbooks published by Comenius University form heterogeneous competition to "Krížom krážom" with A1 and A2 covered by the series "Tri, dva, jeden - Slovenčina"; B1 and B2 are covered by the series "Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk - B - Hovorme spolu po slovensky!" (the old volumes for A1 and A2 seemed to have been phased out in favor of "Tri, dva, jeden..."). "Tri, dva, jeden - Slovenčina" consists of a set of textbook plus CD for each of A1 and A2 (it's unclear to me if an answer key is included) while "Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk - B - Hovorme spolu po slovensky!" consists of a pair of books for each of B1 and B2, and a reference manual of grammar. Only the workbooks have full answer keys, and like the "Krížom krážom" series, these books from Comenius University use only Slovak for explanations of grammar and instructions.

- If you have enough discipline to learn online, sign up for Slovake.eu which has free courses meant for A1, A2, B1, and B2.

- To train your ear and see the basics in action, watch short videos of Slovak as used in everyday situations at Slovak in Slovakia or learn a few things from the Learn Slovak series by Radio Slovakia International.

- Native comic strips on the internet are rather few with Slovak translations of popular strips such as Garfield or Peanuts even fewer on the web (although Slovak versions of popular strips in hard copy are fairly easy to find in the big-name Slovak bookstores Martinus and Panta Rhei). However, Martin Šútovec is well-known and in addition to his political satire which could be tough for learners to figure out because of the political/cultural references, he also has an archive of a few hundred strips combined of the more accessible ...som Grogy and Jana. If in Slovakia, you might be lucky enough to find a treasury of Jozef Babušek's "Jožinko" which was a popular strip running in the communist era

- Books in Slovak for children and teenagers/youth (knihy pre deti a mládež) might also be worth looking into as a beginner or intermediate student, although buying them outside Slovakia could become expensive when shipping and customs are accounted for. As mentioned earlier, Panta Rhei and Martinus are big-name local bookstores, and do stock lots of kids' books, although you'd need to be reasonably comfortable reading Slovak since the online ordering is in Slovak only. Note also that some translations of popular or familiar children's literature such as this collection of comic strips of "Le petit Nicolas" are into Czech instead of Slovak. This is not a big problem for Slovaks and reflects the realities of the high mutual intelligiblity between Czech and Slovak as well as how unprofitable it still often is to translate into Slovak. In any case, learners could be in for a surprise when they end up with a Czech translation of a book they believed was in Slovak (a clue in the product description is when the book's language is marked as Czech (Jazyk: český or similar) rather than Slovak (Jazyk: slovenský or similar).

- Travel to Slovakia, and if possible befriend Slovaks so that the language comes alive. It can get very lonely and discouraging studying a language which has few learning resources and a fairly insular speech community.

===

After a certain point in your studies, you may want to move on to more advanced material or books/movies/songs/TV shows natives would enjoy. It's probably just as well since the market for Slovak textbooks for advanced foreigners is a mirage. Unfortunately, there's nothing like "slow news" in Slovak, and unless you're a literature fiend, delving into Slovak literature (even when free) may not be to your taste. Fortunately, there are a few other options depending on your interests. Slovakia is a hockey nation, and in addition to following the local and international leagues on hokej.sk, you could go to nhl.com in its Slovak version with game reports and articles in the language. YouTube also has some goodies which you can try out ranging from video recipes to sometimes coarse comedy/humor with Meliško or hockey players Start a search on YouTube with "slovensky" ((in) Slovak), "slovenčina" (Slovak language), "slovenský film" (Slovak film), "komédia" (comedy), "rozprávky" (fairy tales), "Meliško" (the (infamous) Meliško), "recept" (recipe) etc. Whatever's in your imagination...
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Serpent » Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:37 pm

Chung wrote:Serpent certainly has something to say as a foreigner who learned the language to fluency (C1 for her) without moving to Finland

- Finnish for Foreigners Vol. 1 (textbook, workbook, drillbook, audio) by Maija-Hellikki Aalto.
I've concluded that this is the best course to get grounding in Finnish after having a false start with the first half of “Teach Yourself Finnish” by Terttu Leney, trying out “Tavataan Taas!” which is in Web 1.0 style, and later comparison "Suomen Mestari" (vols. 1-2), "Hyvin menee!", "From Start to Finnish", "Mastering Finnish", "Beginner's Finnish", and "Kieli käyttöön", which are also meant for beginners.

3b) Recommendations for reference material at the start

- Suomi-englanti-suomi sanakirja (published by WSOY) or Suomi-englanti-suomi-perussanakirja (published by Gummerus)

- Finnish: An Essential Grammar by Karlsson or A Grammar Book of Finnish by White.

- Improve your reading/listening comprehension with Ymmärrä suomea!, Korvat auki!, or if you’re up for it, Reagoi suomeksi! which will test your abilities to react orally in Finnish after listening to cues or clues in basic Finnish.

- Get acquainted with colloquial Finnish with any of the following: Colloquial Finnish by Abondolo, Kato Hei! by Berg and Silfverberg or Suomen Mestari (vols. 3 and 4) by Gehring et al.
I've mostly used Russian-based textbooks like Учебник финского языка by Чернявская and Opi puhumaan suomea by Mullonen (not a monolingual textbook). I also went through the audio of Teach Yourself and I shadowed most of Assimil to improve my speaking. I also remember subscribing for a livejournal community where native speakers were trying to teach Finnish, based on Leila White's materials. Maybe it still exists.
Oh and I found a PDF of a German-based Langenscheidt textbook. It was very thorough.

Both WSOY and Gummerus are great publishers. I've used a WSOY monolingual dictionary before (5+ years ago), nowadays I just look up stuff online.

Ymmärrä suomea was gold for me. Despite the phonetical spelling, at some point I found myself able to read, write and think but failing at listening. (I did listen to lots of music) I used this site and later got a Da Vinci Code audiobook on 17 CD's. (published by WSOY, narrated by Lars Svedberg - I highly recommend anything by him)

I also got Kato hei at the same time, and I wrote my own dialogues based on it. (I also wrote a lot of example sentences in standard Finnish)

Later I found myself going to the library to find some more obscure structures to practise, but I can't say this was necessary.

And yeah, try to find something Finnish to like (music, hockey, whatever) and find Finns who like the same things. I used forums, nowadays fb is your best bet of course.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby javier_getafe » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:17 pm

Serpent wrote:And yeah, try to find something Finnish to like (music, hockey, whatever) and find Finns who like the same things. I used forums, nowadays fb is your best bet of course.


I'm so interested in knowing how many years took you reaching your C1 level of Finnish? :?: :?: :?:
I suppose that you began from A0, isn't it?
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Serpent » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:18 pm

Everyone begins at A0 :lol:
I gave it a try in 2002 when I was 12, and I did learn a little. I also listened to music in Finnish so I could recognize many words.
In 2005 I started learning it seriously with Russian-based textbooks. I reached "basic fluency" in a couple of years and passed C1 in 2011.
All of this absolutely required being obsessed with Finnish. :D
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby SGP » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:42 pm

Serpent wrote:Everyone begins at A0 :lol:
I gave it a try in 2002 when I was 12, and I did learn a little. I also listened to music in Finnish so I could recognize many words.
In 2005 I started learning it seriously with Russian-based textbooks. I reached "basic fluency" in a couple of years and passed C1 in 2011.
All of this absolutely required being obsessed with Finnish. :D
How did you overcome the usual Getting Really Used to Agglutination Plateau? Yes, you have got some agglutination in Russian too... but still... suomi is suomi :).
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Serpent » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:46 pm

I found it very logical and easier than German or Latin. So there was no such plateau, unless you just mean not knowing enough compound words.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby tiia » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:58 pm

Serpent wrote:I found it very logical and easier than German or Latin. So there was no such plateau, unless you just mean not knowing enough compound words.

The main advantage of being a German learning Finnish. The compound words are built pretty much the same way. :D

Btw. I used at the beginning courses and German based material since I did most of the grammar study still in Germany. In the very beginning also Tavataan taas, Chung had already mentioned above. Would recommend every German native to use at least some German based explanations, because they don't cover the extra hazzles English natives have to go through (pronounciation; you might know more about cases already).

(And maybe I should do some level evaluation for Finnish again. No idea where exactly it is now.)
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby javier_getafe » Sun Jan 27, 2019 9:49 am

Serpent wrote:Everyone begins at A0 :lol:


I guess :D . But, I ment, it is not the same to try hard a language after years of ghosting, the words and pronuntations come to mind so quickly again, than start off with knowing nothing. (if you know what I mean).

Serpent wrote:I gave it a try in 2002 when I was 12, and I did learn a little. I also listened to music in Finnish so I could recognize many words.
In 2005 I started learning it seriously with Russian-based textbooks. I reached "basic fluency" in a couple of years and passed C1 in 2011.


So, in 2012 you were a false beginner and it took you around 6-7 years to reach your goal, isn't it? This information is so worth for me. Thank you so much.

Serpent wrote:All of this absolutely required being obsessed with Finnish. :D


I bet you did :D and I imagine it is essential being obsessed and a little bit mad to reach certain goals in life. :D
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Chung » Sat Feb 09, 2019 8:09 pm

If I were to give advice right now to a monoglot Anglophone on how to start learning Hungarian by him/herself, then read on:

1) Hungarian is not really the shining example of an impossibly intractable language as sometimes portrayed by outsiders (especially those who revolve in within Romance, Germanic or Balto-Slavonic). It's learnable when you have an open mind, and can resist the urge to compare it to one of those other European languages which are ultimately related to each other. Like Estonian, Finnish or Saamic languages, with which Hungarian shares a distant relationship, Hungarian grammar makes distinctions that are either shown with different techniques in English or not marked at all. For example, neither Hungarian nor English have grammatical gender, but Hungarian word order is much more flexible than in English as it's a way to signal emphasis or focus of a sentence. If learning these and other features of Hungarian create too much of a headache, than learn Afrikaans or Scots instead as you can then give your mind a break, and exploit their obvious similarities to the Queen's English. A monoglot Anglophone's whining about how difficult Hungarian is won't ultimately build a lot of goodwill among Hungarians (if he/she ever runs into them).

2) Learn the basics with material hard-copy; use the internet only as a supplement in the early stages. The truth is that using on-line material as the primary means to learn Hungarian independently from scratch is an exercise in frustration as it either sucks (*cough* Duolingo *cough*) or uses explanations in Hungarian (or if in English, then they're too skimpy to be useful). Tutors are often out of the price range for a lot of people, while online ones are available to the learner at sometimes inconvenient hours of the day when the learner's time-zone differs by more than a couple of hours from that of the Hungarian tutor (who's most often in Europe). At least when studying away from the computer, there's less temptation to look at cat memes or dig up clips of favorite songs/movies on YouTube after 30 minutes of studying with something on a screen. Flash cards are optional, but I've never had much success with them.

If you're ready to get going in Hungarian as I was in the time when dial-up and Netscape were things, then be prepared to set aside anywhere from $50 to $100 (unless you're going pirate).

3a) Recommendation for textbook at the start

- "Teach Yourself Get Started in Hungarian" (textbook with CD) by Zsuzsa Pontifex

This is something like an adaptation of the first half of "Teach Yourself Hungarian", which is also by her. Dialogues are somewhat colloquial and in settings that are appropriate for a beginner or tourist. The ratio of exercises to dialogues and explanations is also good, and looking back, I wish that this course existed when I started learning Hungarian (as it was, I completed "Colloquial Hungarian" before "relearning" with "Teach Yourself Hungarian" since the latter reinforced what I had studied in the former). I found that "Colloquial Hungarian" and "Teach Yourself Hungarian" worsen the problem of intimidating an English-speaking beginner of Hungarian lacking knowledge of any foreign language by not providing quite enough exercises in each chapter to let that chapter's grammar and vocabulary sink in.

Off the record remarks: One problem for total beginners of Hungarian in the English-speaking world is how little suitable self-contained material is available. There are other textbooks out there, old and new, but I'm not convinced of their merits to an independent learner in the Anglosphere because they can be expensive to ship out of Hungary ("MagyarOK"), are in Hungarian only ("Lépésenként magyarul" series), lack self-contained explanations of grammar ("Halló, itt Magyarország" and "Hungarian in Words and Pictures"), have far too few exercises ("Assimil Hungarian with Ease"), or are mind-numbingly boring to use (not to mention old) without a teacher to provide supplements or liven things up ("FSI Hungarian Basic", "Learn Hungarian"). The biggest release in Hungarian from Pimsleur is the kit with 16 CDs making you parrot survival phrases; no instruction in grammar, reading or writing with this one.

Once this book is complete, then one should have enough confidence to move on to another course.

3b) Recommendations for reference material at the start

- Hungarian-English/English-Hungarian Practical Dictionary by Éva Szabó

This is a decent two-way dictionary in hardcopy that's suitable for beginners, and not overly expensive. A annoying aspect of Hungarian lexicography is that almost all other modern dictionaries between English and Hungarian (outside those nearly useless mini-/pocket-dictionaries - kisszótár or zsebszótár in Hungarian - with about 10,000 entries total) are sold in two volumes (i.e. English to Hungarian, Hungarian to English) which means twice the financial outlay when getting a two-way dictionary between English and Hungarian. There is a competitor to Hippocrene's dictionary published by Grimm Könyvkiadó but it's hard to find outside Hungary, and will likely mean ordering it from a Hungarian bookstore and paying a fair bit for shipping and customs.

If buying the dictionary is too much for the start, one could look things up in Lingea's online dictionary, which isn't bad for a beginner.

- One of Hungarian: An Essential Grammar by Carol Rounds, Hungarian Verbs & Essentials of Grammar by Miklós Törkenczy or Gyakorló magyar nyelvtan - A Practical Hungarian Grammar by Szilvia Szita and Tamás Görbe.

The first book is my top choice for a reference manual of Hungarian grammar in hard copy as it goes into a fair amount of depth but its explanations remain reasonably clear and often free of jargon. However the second book isn't a bad choice for beginner who's OK with shorter explanations and a little less coverage; it's also cheaper than the latest edition of "Hungarian: An Essential Grammar" (although it's possible to find cheap but second-hand copies of the first edition of Rounds' book on Amazon Marketplace and similar). The third book is a solid reference manual of basic grammar but also has a set of exercises following every sub-section. Like other books from Hungary, it can be hard to find outside the country and so may be an expensive choice after accounting for shipping and customs.

As free but non-professional alternatives to the preceding books, print out relevant pages of Hungarian Reference or There Is More to Hungarian Than Goulash!.

4) Recommendations or ideas after finishing "Teach Yourself Get Started in Hungarian"

- Complete at least one of "Teach Yourself Hungarian" by Pontifex or "Colloquial Hungarian" by Rounds and Sólyom, as these are very similar in layout to "Teach Yourself Get Started in Hungarian" but do go a little beyond what you've already studied, and won't be as intimidating to use with that background in some of the fundamentals.

- Continue your studies with any of the following:

    - "Halló, itt Magyarország!" (vol. 1 is meant for A1-A2, vol. 2 is meant for A2-B1, vol. 3 contains the answer key to the drills, the vocabulary list with translations to English, German, and Russian, and terse demonstrations of grammar points with diagrams and tables - very little explanation)
    - "MagyarOK" (as of February 2019, a set of textbook plus workbook is available for each of A1, A2, and B1. The books are in Hungarian only although notes and glossaries in English, answer keys, and audio are available for free download on the series' website)
    - "Assimil Hungarian with Ease" (standard course in the series with 80 short dialogues/narratives, short explanations of grammar, and very few exercises)
    - "FSI Hungarian Basic Course" (at the very least, its subsutiton and transformation drills can be valuable to build up confidence in building sentences and getting the endings right after hearing the cues. If have you have the stomach for it, read the introduction on how it's to be used, and dig into it)

- Get acquainted with Hungarian in action with short clips from Easy Hungarian and Hungarian in Hungary.

- Read short comic strips (with the help of a dictionary as needed) by Hungarian artists or Hungarian translations of syndicated strips. Examples include Sziluett, Impex, Garfield (Hungarian translation of "Garfield"), Hagar, a tulok (Hungarian translation of "Hägar the Horrible", Kázmér és Huba (Hungarian translation of "Calvin and Hobbes") and Heathcliff (Hungarian translation of "Heathcliff"). It could be a little easier for learners to get into the Hungarian translations of the syndicated strips since they were created by American artists, and so the jokes there may be more accessible than in the strips created by Hungarians for a Hungarian readership.

- If comic strips are too short, then try books for Hungarian children including A kis Nicolas (the Hungarian translations of the French short stories "Le petit Nicolas") or Egy ropi naplója (Hungarian translation of the series "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"). For an introduction to literature there's also "FSI Hungarian Graded Reader" with literary excerpts, comprehension questions, and some audio.

- Travel to Hungary, and befriend Hungarians whenever the chance arises so that the language comes alive. Hungarian is not the language most of us would hear every day, and learning it with so little interaction with native speakers could make for a somewhat dull or lonely experience.

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After gaining a certain background in Hungarian, you'll probably think about diving into authentic material. There's much literature available for free download from Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár including works by some of the big names of Hungarian literature up to the mid 20th century including Karinthy, Kosztolányi, Illyés and Arany, if that floats your boat. If you're into sports, then catch up on some of the action with Sport365.hu or similar. You could also listen to a stream from a Hungarian radio station listed at MyOnlineRadio.hu (one of my teachers recommended that I play radio or TV in my target language in the background while having breakfast just for a bit of immersion). Then there's YouTube with various movies in Hungarian dubbing as well as in the Hungarian original, in addition to shorter clips such as ones for cooking/recipes or comedy. What you can find is limited by your imagination.
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