Published: June 08 2023
Language diversity has played a significant role in the history and culture of Hungary, with several foreign languages being spoken among its population. While the official language of Hungary is Hungarian, German comes as a popular foreign language, with Hungarian Germans forming a historical ethnographic group. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the relationship between German and Hungary, the reasons for its prominence, and its impact on the Hungarian society.
History of German Influence in Hungary
The history of German-speaking people living in Hungary dates back to the 18th century, when the Habsburg Monarchy ruled the regions of current-day Hungary. As a result, German settlers were invited to repopulate the war-ravished areas in the country. These settlers brought their language and culture with them, contributing significantly to the development of the Hungarian landscape.
Over the centuries, German-speaking Hungarians have formed their distinct identity known as the Danube Swabians; they reside in settlements throughout the country. By the end of the Second World War, the German-minority population totaled over 700,000; however, the consequent mass expulsion and migration reduced their number dramatically.
Current German-speaking Population in Hungary
According to recent data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the German minority in Hungary comprises approximately 185,000 people, or 1.9% of the total population. German remains a prominent language among minority groups living in Hungary, including some Danube Swabians who still speak their unique German dialects.
Interestingly, German is also among the most popular foreign languages taught in Hungarian schools. A 2018 report by the European Commission revealed that German is the second most popular foreign language studied in Hungary, after English, with nearly 36% of students learning German in lower secondary education.
Impact on Hungarian Culture and Society
German-speaking communities in Hungary have made a lasting impact on the country's culture, and their presence is still felt in many ways today. The German language's prevalence, for example, is widely evidenced in the Hungarian countryside and urban areas, with signs and advertisements often appearing in both languages. Additionally, German-language newspapers and TV channels target the German-Hungarian community, further supporting the sizable influence of the language.
Hungarian Germans often celebrate their own customs, festivals, and traditions, while also participating in Hungarian cultural life. Events such as the annual Tata Oktoberfest or the Pécs Wine Festival offer a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of German influence in Hungary.
Although German is not an officially recognized language in Hungary, its presence is deeply rooted in the country's history and continues to be a significant aspect of contemporary Hungarian society. A diverse blend of Hungarian Germans, expats, and German language learners make up the country's German-speaking community. Although small in number, their cultural, linguistic, and societal contributions leave a lasting imprint, thus further enriching Hungary's linguistic landscape.