Blog 004 – Happy Birthday, Mr. Broholm

After a short easter break the normal programming is now back here on Actual Fluency. In this week's blog update I talk about my birthday, liquid courage and give an update on my current language challenges.


I just spent a week in London, helping out a friend. As is almost becoming tradition I immediately got some kind of minor flu and was under the weather for a little week. Especially recording things with my voice – such as the podcast becomes complicated when sick, so it's quite important I stay healthy.

In London I bumped into a lot of Hungarian. Some people say London is the second biggest Hungarian city in the world by population, I definitely believe that. One morning I was trying to get some breakfast in a rush, and after experiencing a particularly bad service somebody came into the café and greeted the server with “Szia!” then it all made sense.

I'm not trying to say Hungarians are rude as a stereotype, but the service you get in restaurants and cafés are typically quite a lot lower than many other places in the world. Also sometimes due to language barriers, the response can seem a bit crude.

One of my former hobbies is to play poker, and while in a casino in London I met a lot of Hungarians too. Most of them were pretty busy, but when I snuck the odd Hungarian phrase in their reaction was pretty funny.

One dealer I had totally lost track of the game when I started speaking to him in Hungarian. Some of the other players had to remind him he was actually working and not on a break. This was all pretty fun.

I had a good time in London and I particularly enjoyed the view from Greenwich Observatory. Here's a picture with that view I took:

2016-03-13 16.35.58


March 22nd is my birthday every year and ever since I was about 15 I never really cared much for it. I've reached adulthood and for the foreseeable future the number next to my name doesn't really matter all that much.

So with that in mind I simply stayed home with my stuffy nose and watched YouTube videos and played video games. Definitely not the worst birthday.

It was really lovely to get a lot of wishes from all over the world in a variety of languages. Thank you so much to everyone who took time to write a little greeting. I can't wait to see many of you in person at the events this year.

Liquid Courage

Yesterday, March 24th I went out for a pizza with one of my friends here in Budapest. After the meal we decided to go for ONE beer. Unfortunately, it never really stays with one. Without including too many details let's just say that I was quite smashed and had a relatively rough morning.

Half-way through I had a very interesting experience though.

As we were standing by the bar I heard what was undoubtedly Russian being spoken by two guys close to us. As I thought about approaching them to use some of my, probably fairly rusty at this point, Russian the fear and uncertainty rained over me.

I even had to double-check the Russian word for cheers!

However, as I thought about it more I said to myself; “You don't get such a good opportunity to use Russian very often. You'd be a fool to turn it down” so, armed with a couple of drinks I opened up the two Russian guys with: ” извините?” – “да?” – “на здоровие!” and we had a nice little conversation. Especially understanding what they were saying was extremely hard for me and as I tried to produce sentences my brain clumsily fumbled around in Hungarian and Esperanto before finding the Russian words and phrases.

Language interference is definitely real.

My friend (who grew up in Denmark but has Russian parents) said he was very impressed with my pronunciation. The two guys were also pretty impressed by the fact that I spoke some Russian without ever having been there or taken any formal classes.

It's always nice to be complimented for your efforts in another language.

Hungarian Status

My Hungarian is definitely getting better, albeit way too slowly. I'm procrastinating way too much, and save for a few HungarianPod101 lessons I hardly get anything done on a weekly basis.

What I am proud of is that I do use it whenever I can.

Also I'm beginning to understand signs, menus and other places where the language might be.

Speaking of reaction it's also interesting to see the reaction in my local café. This is a café I've been to since the first week I was here, because I used their Wifi when I had none at home. For the first many months I didn't speak or pretend to speak a word of Hungarian.

Now I order almost exclusively in Hungarian, and the staff there usually smile as fumble through an order of cream soup and fried fish fillet.

It's extremely encouraging to use the language more, but unfortunately it hasn't pushed me to put in significant desk time right now.

In the near future I hope to schedule some tutoring online and in person to try and get some external accountability to keep working on it. The Polyglot Gathering is coming up in May and I would love to have much better levels of Hungarian and Russian before then.

As always, I hope you're doing well in your language learning. See you for the next one!

  • Israel Lai

    Like a true Dane 🙂
    I don’t think we’ve ever heard your Russian ever since you moved your focus away from it. I wonder how good your pronunciation is!

    • You’re not missing out on much 😛 I think it’s definitely getting better, but I struggle with the S-sounds and the ы sound still….

  • dandiprat

    Happy birthday! Glad to hear your studies are coming along. I know progress seems like it’s “too” slow; that’s how I feel, too. You’re not the only one. They say that people who are bad at something tend to overestimate their ability and people who are good at something tend to underestimate their ability (the Dunning-Kruger effect).

  • Boldog születésnapot, Broholm úr! 🙂
    I love the timing of this blog because just yesterday, i was pondering over liquid courage too. I am in Budapest now for a short holiday and while I really want to be able to practice my Hungarian, my fear and shyness always get the best of me. But after a pálinka or two, I suddenly get confidence and i would just yak away. 😀 while it is a good effect, I don’t want to rely on pálinka forever!

  • Dot Read

    Belated birthday wishes Kris. Glad you (sort of) enjoyed it!

  • Happy belated birthday! That’s awesome you got to practice your Russian, with good feedback, too. I don’t drink much, so I haven’t gotten to experience liquid courage, but I’m sure it would make my life easier since I’m generally loathe to speak any of my languages! haha