How a Language App Elevated My Trip to Budapest

How a Language App Elevated My Trip to Budapest

How a Language App Elevated My Trip to Budapest 5616 3744 Atomic Scribe

If you’re looking for a city that showcases the best of Europe without breaking the bank, I cannot recommend Budapest, Hungary enough. Located on the Danube, the city is split into Buda and Pest, and both sections offer different yet equally appealing options for sightseeing, food, and shopping. The history and beauty is staggering. Best of all, it’s a very affordable city to visit, especially compared to big European cities that lie to the west.

The only thing I was scared about before heading off to Budapest was the language barrier. Though I had read online that many people in the city could communicate somewhat in English, I was also cautioned that it was nowhere near as easy to get by without some knowledge of the home language than in places like Berlin or Paris.

So, how do you learn a complete language in a few weeks’ time? Well, apologies, but you likely can’t. But don’t despair! Here’s my story of how just 20 minutes a day of using the language-learning app Memrise got me through two weeks of Budapest and heightened my travel experience.

My trip to Budapest was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision, so I only had a few weeks to prepare. I did as much research as I could, which advised me that learning some basic Hungarian phrases would make a huge difference to my trip.

Using the app Memrise was a no-brainer for me because I was already using it to learn German. It’s not perfect, and I think it would be difficult to become fluent in a language using only the app. But it’s a great tool when needing to learn quickly, or by using it in addition to other resources.


To Do in Budapest

  • Visit a famous bath, like the Széchenyi Baths
  • The Castle District
  • A river cruise down the Danube
  • The Christmas markets around the holidays
  • Pub crawl through the Ruins bars
  • Visit the extraordinary parliament building
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • House of Terror Museum
  • Shoes on the Danube Holocaust memorial

Best Things To Do in Budapest:

  • Visit a famous bath, like the Széchenyi Baths
  • The Castle District
  • The Christmas markets around the holidays
  • A river cruise down the Danube
  • Pub crawl through the Ruins bars
  • Visit the extraordinary parliament building
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • House of Terror Museum
  • Shoes on the Danube Holocaust memorial

The app (or web site version) teaches you basic words and phrases through courses. Many language courses were created by Memrise staff, but currently Hungarian is only available through user-submitted courses. Fortunately, there are a lot of options for these. I strongly suggest trying a course with audio so that you can hear the pronunciations, which was a huge help for me.

I tried out a few different courses through Memrise and then settled on two. The first was “Hungarian w/ AUDIO: Level 1”, which taught me “yes”, “no”, the days of the week, “coffee”, “tea”, “thank you” and other useful words. The second was “Basic Hungarian Phrases”, and it is exactly as titled. In total, I spent about 20 minutes a day combined on both, and I took the courses for about three weeks. Was my pronunciation perfect? Absolutely not. But I had at least a small amount of knowledge, and that gave me confidence to test out what I had learned.

Finally, the trip arrived, and I was so excited to try out a new language. Here is the the thing: my Hungarian was far, far from perfect. I knew “thank you”, “please”, “hello”, “how much”, and some other basic phrases that I butchered with my pronunciation, but I in no way could carry on a conversation or, in my case, understand basic questions. Mostly I was pointing and then saying basic words in Hungarian. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

But what I found was that the locals appreciated that I was trying and that I took the time to learn. I feel like I gained an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise if I had just stuck to English the whole time and expected everyone to understand me (spoiler alert: they can’t!).

But thanks to my effort, I had a waitress who taught me a few less formal phrases to use. A women at a shop felt more comfortable trying out English on me since I was trying out my Hungarian on her. Everyone was so nice, and I’m grateful that I learned something new and put myself out there despite being afraid of being wrong. And all that from using an app for 20 minutes a day.

Kathryn Burtner

Kathryn Burtner

Kathryn is the director and lead project manager at Atomic Scribe, focusing on transcription projects.

All posts by : Kathryn Burtner