Let’s talk about language study. According to a survey by the British Foreign Office among its diplomatic staff, one of the most difficult languages for adult English speakers to learn is Hungarian.
As a student at Clara High School, my English teacher for all four years was Mrs. Flanagan. No foreign language was offered. Then at JCJC, Spanish was taught but it was at the same time of a required course for my major. So when Rose and I became missionaries and started studying a foreign language, we quickly found out that we were beginning to study one of the most difficult languages in the world – Hungarian.
Meanwhile, both of our children were born and raised in Hungary. They both speak Hungarian at native level. For them, learning the language was natural. For us adults, it was (is) blood, sweat and tears!
I was walking down the street in Budapest and happened to meet a Dutch missionary serving with the Hungarian Reformed Church. We were talking in Hungarian and all of sudden she said: “I have been in Hungary for 20 years and you speak the best Hungarian of any American that I have met”. Well, I was really floating on cloud nine! Then a couple of days later, I was getting my hair cut and the barber asked me why my Hungarian was so bad! That really burst my bubble!
Just recently I was asked to travel to the other side of Hungary to translate in a church for a visiting Brazilian minister who pastors in Florida. I arrived in time to meet the guest, and then we were in a church service before having lunch at the pastor’s house. In the afternoon the pastor and his wife wanted to take the guest on an excursion and I was still the translator as well as the chauffeur. After I left, the Brazilian told his host that I spoke English really well. The entire day, he thought that I was Hungarian!
When Daniel was just a little baby, I spoke to an American who was on a mission’s trip in Hungary. She said: “O, you speak English really well.” I thanked her. Then she asked me where I learned to speak English so well. I told her that I studied English for 14 years (12 years at Clara and 2 years at JCJC), I listened to English language radio and English language TV and in fact, in the family, we spoke English. I never told her that I was an American and that we were from neighboring states!
Then a few weeks later it happened again. I started the same story…. “I studied English for 14 year, listened to English language radio . . .”
Rose interrupted and said: “Tell the truth Dan, you’re an American!”