Being interested in at least checking all kinds of languages, it goes without saying that I had my eye on the Uralic languages at some point. I’ve never thought of anything too exotic about them though – either Finnish or Hungarian (which means that not even Estonian has ever been much of an option, let alone those with even less speakers).
In a way, I can probably say I’ve always been attracted to Finnish the most, and it’s a language I at least know a couple of specific points about even without having studied it. However – and I find this rather peculiar –, it is Hungarian, and not Finnish, that I perceive as ‘exotic’ and ‘mysterious’.
Even the highly subjective impression I’ve got of both languages differ significantly. Although it’s very difficult to put it down in words, Finnish comes to my mind in white and light sky blue, open grassy fields and soft cool breeze in early spring; Hungarian, on the other hand, flows in shades of brown and black, weathered masonry, dark, ancient facades and dull, overcast skies at sunset.
I wanted to have a taste of a Uralic language, but which after all? I usually take such decisions based on number of speakers – 5.4 million for Finnish, 13 million for Hungarian, according to Wikipedia, so Hungarian clearly wins.
Yet, Finnish’s 5.4 million speakers are way far that just a few, so I just wondered what if I put it through my secondary, abstract sieve: Catholicism. According to Wikipedia again, between 15,000 and 25,000 Catholics in Finland against 3.85 million in Hungary. This was definitely beyond arguing with – Hungarian it was.
I can probably say that, although Finnish attracted me as it is, Hungarian became an acquired taste – the more I progressed, the more I got to enjoy it, and it’s now one of those languages that I may put aside, but that I always eventually return to.
Not that Hungarian is an easy language, but it’s the pleasant kind of difficult, so to speak. I can’t objectively compare it with Finnish after all, even though my overall impression is that specific peculiarities abound in both, while exact parallels might be much fewer than expected. Is Finnish really out of the game after all?