Online learning opportunities for Hungarians

Today’s post will be somewhat irregular but, don’t fret, it still has something to do with Hungary.

During their discussion of yesterday’s post about teacher salaries, commenters ventured into the field of education in general. From there we found ourselves debating the pros and cons of online learning. There are several people, myself included, who see tremendous potential in the new technology and what it has to offer. Enterprising souls can take a wide range of courses given by professors at leading universities.

A few years ago I received an e-mail from the Yale Alumni Association calling my attention to the university’s first experimental lectures. A year or two later several new courses were offered. You can’t get credit for these online courses. Rather they are designed for people who are interested in learning something new out of intellectual curiosity.

I began with a course on the Old Testament which turned out to be absolutely fascinating and continued with Greek history. From there I moved on to Roman architecture. Every time I had an hour to spare I tuned in. I couldn’t have passed the exams because I didn’t do the reading, didn’t really take notes. But that wasn’t my aim either. I just wanted to know more about the subject than I knew before. I think I succeeded in achieving this modest goal.

I also discovered the benefits of online dictionaries. For example, The Free Dictionary gives not only the British but also the American pronunciation of English words. The Beolingus German dictionary does the same for German words. These are useful resources for people learning languages and they should be especially so for Hungarians living in Hungary trying to learn a foreign language.

After this glowing introduction I would like to make it clear that I don’t mean to replace the “college experience” with sitting in front of a computer and writing e-mails to the professor who apparently may have as many as 100,000 “students” on line and therefore is unlikely to reply. But I would highly recommend such courses to people who are interested in adult education and who think that learning should be a lifelong experience as well as to students who don’t have access to such courses in their own schools. And to those who would like to keep up their foreign language skills or even improve them. And since the Hungarian situation is pretty bad in this department, I looked around to see what the Internet offers to Hungarian speakers. While I was at it I also looked at offerings for those who would like to learn Hungarian.

oneline learning

We are all familiar with the problems of teaching foreign languages in Hungary. Naturally, there are some very good teachers who through tremendous extra work and devotion manage to teach their pupils the language, who learn it in such a way that they can both speak and write. But there are very few such talented teachers. This year 30% of college graduates in Hungary will not receive their diplomas because they failed their standardized language exams.

One problem is that there is not enough exposure to spoken languages. At the moment movies and soap operas are all dubbed although, I just learned, come August TV viewers will have the option of choosing whether they want to watch a program from abroad in its original language or in Hungarian. I hope that more people will take advantage of this opportunity than DVD viewers currently do. Movies on DVDs can be listened to in their original language but apparently very few people opt for this feature. As a result people rarely hear extended conversations in English or in any other foreign language. And this is where the Internet comes in handy–at least for those who are interested.

Admittedly, there is a lot of inferior, useless junk online. On the other hand Eduline, a Hungarian website on education, published a piece in August 2012 which gives a fairly respectable list of websites. And naturally there are many others, including the BBC’s English language course for foreigners.

I read an article about an enterprising young Hungarian woman who decided to sign up for one of the courses offered by an American or British university. Obviously her English had to be pretty good because she sailed through her first course. Emboldened, she signed up for another, more advanced course which she found much harder. However, she got through this one as well. What an opportunity for somebody living in Hungary.

As for foreigners trying to learn Hungarian, it is slim pickings, but one site looks promising. I haven’t tried it out myself, but I looked at some of their other offerings which were very good.

As for adult education, as far as I know there is only one possibility for Hungarians who would like to expand their knowledge. It is called Mindentudás Egyeteme (University of All Knowledge). I found some of the lectures truly outstanding. The problem with Mindentudás Egyeteme is that it offers only a single lecture per topic, not an entire course.

Anyway, I think that online learning has its place in the world of education. Of course, there are subjects that simply cannot be mastered online. For example, learning the natural sciences without hands-on lab work is pretty unimaginable. However, the internet is used extensively, for example, in courses on the history of art. By now practically all works of art can be seen online. More and more books and articles are available online and I’m sure that their numbers will multiply. It would be a terrible waste not to take advantage of these opportunities. Especially in a country where continuing education is an almost unknown phenomenon and where relatively few people can handle a foreign language.

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Member

As much as online learning is a great concept, I cannot imagine that this would fly in Hungary at the current time. Many of the courses are very expensive for a “regular” Hungarian, let alone for a Hungarian student. No courses would be accepted by Hungarian universities and colleges as soon as any of Orban’s friends would see the hidden money making venture that they could deliver in Hungary online. As Orban implemented the “no free education” system, he would never allow those courses to be taken seriously in Hungary at the expense of his money making model. The only benefit would be for those who already tapped into ways to leave Hungary behind.

LwiiH
Guest

I’m now watching a movie in English after switching from hungarian dubbing. The kids switch many of the programs they watch to the original English as they find the dubbing quite annoying. However, they live in a bilingual world where as all of their friends (with one exception) would never consider watching anything not dubbed.

LwiiH
Guest

Online learning is clearly going to be a part of any educational system. For Hungarian educational systems to ignore this will further put them behind. But then you have jobbik saying that deals with Microsoft should be canceled in favor of local company offerings. Clueless!!!

Ron
Guest

A friend of mine developed software for English e-learning in Hungarian (he is a foreigner himself), and after years of developing (together with an English language school) he finished it. Unfortunately, he could not get any subsidy for it. Only Ministries and State Companies could get significant amounts.

So he left only English/Hungarian and not as he was planning other languages as well.

http://www.dover-elearning.hu/

Stohl Buci
Guest
An
Guest

Eva, I absolutely agree that online courses are wonderful opportunities for those who would like to broaden their horizons or don’t have access to quality education.

But the change brought on by online technologies won’t stop here. You said you wouldn’t replace the college experience with online courses… but it is exactly the direction this is likely to take. In a better case, not fully replacing the traditional college experience, only partially. It is already happening and it is going to change higher education. As with any new technology, in some ways for the better, and in some ways for the worse.

In California, they are already thinking about replacing some introductory level college courses with MOOCs (massive open online courses).

“But navigating MOOCs isn’t easy, and it’s now the subject of a legislative debate in California. Lawmakers there are considering a proposal that would allow students to replace some introductory courses with MOOCs in the state’s three higher education systems, which together enroll nearly 1 million students.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/11/moocs-top-colleges-and-universities/2509883/

An
Guest

@Stohl Buci: Oh well… hope lawmakers are taking note 🙂

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

A vast subject indeed. A report about e-learning in Hungary was published in 2008 by the European Commission. I doubt that the shortcomings that had been identified then have been seriously addressed since.

http://ipts.jrc.ec.europa.eu/publications/pub.cfm?id=1575

That said, this is also a field where private initiative can trigger significative and unexpected leaps. For instance, ‘training videos’ for action computer games (walktroughs by an expert player commenting his moves) are among the top viewed clips on YouTube… It is striking to hear that the voices and speech of the successful trainers borrow from the style of radio or tv (mostly sports) hosts.

One might think this is due to the subject matter and the core audience being teenagers. But actually the same trend can be observed in other fields such as distance training in computer techniques for adults, including professionals. My guess is the medium itself calls for a whole new breed of teachers.

An
Guest

@Eva: Definitely, the main drive is money… and especially for public universities that have to make do with less and less money each year as states are cutting back on funding. For the same reason, they’ve been increasing tuition and are on the look for anything that may help them bring down costs. Of course, the two for-profit companies offering these courses are also in it for the money… profit (the third company is nonprofit).

Paul
Guest

We have the Open University in the UK, which is effectively an on-line university. Most courses have a few live tutorials as well, but these aren’t compulsory, and often, with the less popular courses, many students can’t get to them anyway.

Having completed just over half an OU history degree, I can tell you that it is just as difficult as taking a ‘real’ degree, and in many ways OU students work much harder than normal undergrads, as they have full-time jobs and lives to fit in as well.

Back in the 70s, when the OU started, it was regarded as a bit of a joke and the degrees considered second-rate, but these days people appreciate the work that goes into an OU degree and the quality of the teaching, and they are now regarded as perfectly good degrees – in fact often better than those from the ‘new’ universities.

The cost is also considerably less than distance courses with other universities, typically only in the hundreds of pounds a year, rather than thousands.

JGrant
Guest
Switching between original language and Hungarian dubbing in television programs had existed for many years in Hungary. It was back about 8-10 years ago I was watching UPC satellite broadcasts in my village with switchable language. Cable is more limited and in my BP flat I get frequently annoyed when I am watching a film that was made in English and I can’t get rid of the Hungarian dubbing. I was told that it depends on the programming, but thankfully there are quite a few channels where not only switching between Hungarian and the original language, but a few other languages are available as well. Alternatively, there are also a few cinemas that will offer non-dubbed films either with subtitles or just in the original language. However, recently I have noticed that it is getting harder and harder finding these performances as if the increasing departure of ex-pats would have caused the variety of offerings to subside. The question of who would use these opportunities for language study/practice is another one altogether. Television is primarily entertainment in any country, not only Hungary. You have to be into serious study to give up just being amused and combining your bit of… Read more »
Guest

Everywhere there are discussions now about the future of the school/education systemin general and of course some companies want to profit but it’ll take some time to find a balance between online and “personal” teaching.

Anyway all possible means and channels should be used, knowledge is the capital for all, especially languages (not only English).

A bit OT:

I had French and Latin first in school, English came much later but I was interested in American Rock and books (Science Fiction) so I learned English on my own …

And similarly, much later my wife’s son who learned German in Hungarian school as a student worked in a Videothek and had the chance to watch English/American films and improved his English in that way – and of course later by talking to me …

PS and even more OT:

The language courses at that Hungarian school (Gymnasium!) were unbelievably bad:

The teacher told the pupils they shouldn’t worry about he/she, his/hers etc – so still today he regularly makes mistakes there …

Guest
London Calling! One of the problems Hungary has is its sheer backwardness in internet use. Eva is right – hardly any imaginative use of the internet. An easy life is hobbled by the lack of a supporting infrastructure, for example, to support ordering stuff on the internet. In addition business is stifled if customers are mainly only able to buy goods in person in disparate shops. I have had strange experiences chasing down a medical support garment – travelling kilometres because only a particular type of medical shop sells the item. All day spent chasing down ONE item! I have regaled you with my lawnmower problem recently – but that was caused by sheer lack of any internet portals to buy spare parts. And you have the ridiculous ‘Posta’! Mostly women, it seems, delivering the occasional letter to a few households. It must be making a colossal loss! I have just ordered 40 (yes 40!) spare halogen lamps here in England for my sparkly bathroom – for £6.99 (2,380Ft) with FREE postage! These spares will last until I’m pushing up daisies and all done in two minutes on the internet. I can’t imagine chasing these down in Gyor. I just… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
One of the problems Hungary has is its sheer backwardness in internet use.
Eva is right – hardly any imaginative use of the internet.
An easy life is hobbled by the lack of a supporting infrastructure, for example, to support ordering stuff on the internet.

There are many sides to this issue. Some (like the low usage of Internet by the very people distance learning could disenfranchise) affect mostly free education initiatives, public or non-profit. Others affect business.

Since you mentioned shopping, have you noticed how few Hungarian web shops actually allow you to pay online? I have no problem with ordering goods online in Budapest, but most of the time it’s cash on delivery. Moreover, the national market share for debit cards (like Maestro and Visa Electron) is very high, while those same cards are among the least accepted by international online payment systems…

Clearly, whether you’re a Hungarian entrepreneur or a Foreign company planning to sell online educational services to Hungarians, the context isn’t easy.

sebt
Guest
What Hungarian I do speak and understand (formulate and process in real time, rather than read or think up beforehand and then speak) is thanks to this site: http://www.livemocha.com. They’ve just updated the site to a new version, which to my eyes looks a bit toy-like (and requires you to accumulate points before you can unlock lessons) – but the legacy site, which I’ve used for a few months, is fantastically useful, and free. (For anyone interested, it’s accessible once you’ve registered, through the drop-down menu next to your username). The crucial element is the element of on-line community. It’s incredibly encouraging to submit a written or spoken exercise, and then see notifications that native Hungarian speakers have corrected my mistakes, posted encouraging comments, or recorded their own pronunciation of an exercise for me to listen to. Every time I log on or post an exercise, I’m encouraged to do the same for other people (including the Hungarian speakers who are helping me, if they’ve posted exercises) in English and French, which are my fluent languages. A “points” system gives you a feeling of acknowledgement when you contribute by helping other people, and shows others that you’re doing this. There… Read more »
sebt
Guest
On the dubbing of TV and films: I grew up in the Netherlands, where Dutch people’s command of English is so good that it’s actually pretty difficult for an English speaker to practice speaking Dutch. (They detect you by your accent, and roll out their near-perfect English!) I don’t really know systematically why this is; but I’ve heard anecdotally more times than I can remember that one factor might be that foreign TV/film (of which, of course, a large proportion will be in English) in Holland is always subtitled rather than dubbed. And that this in turn has become established because of the relatively small size of the market: it’s far cheaper to subtitle than to hire a whole set of dubbing actors. So I was surprised to read that in Hungary dubbing is the norm. Technology has opened up some great new possibilities here. With DVDs you can choose from subtitles in various languages, or none at all. Don’t know much about TV, but digital TV might do this as well. So, in the other direction, I can watch a pretty cheap DVD of Csinibaba, with Hungarian subtitles switched on; and then, when the going gets too hard, “wimp… Read more »
Member
CharlieH : London Calling! And you have the ridiculous ‘Posta’! The Posta is not cut out to deliver small parcels because there is no critical mass of people to support a road-networked distribution system. Regards Charlie Do not start me on the Hungarian Post. At many countries the registered parcel and such is being out phased and replaced by other ways to track parcels. Tracking parcels is a very expensive business when you are only sending something small. I stopped sending small parcels to my relatives in Hungary as most of the time the parcel does not arrive. Recently my mom told me about this particular musician who is she crazy about. I tried to fins some of his album on Hungarian portals, with not to much luck. (Either they do not have it or you cannot pay for it online.) I went on eBay UK and eBay Germany, got lucky purchased the CD and it never arrived. I contacted the eBay store 99% good rating from gazillion transactions, and they were kind enough to send a new CD again. It never arrived. (I have 100% rating on eBay from about 100 transactions, buying and selling.) If you try to… Read more »
Guest
London Calling! sebt firstly thanks for the recommendations – I will certainly look at them – and Eva’s site looks good too. Re your Netherlands experience: Several years ago I was sent to Amsterdam at short notice – with no chance even to learn even the most basic Dutch words. Imagine my luck then when I got a taxi – and after establishing that he could speak English – got me to my hotel. Then amazing! The next taxi I got to take me to the Rai conference centre spoke amazing English! Of course I soon discovered that EVERYONE speaks English! They tired quite easily of my joke that the closest language I could speak was ‘double-Dutch’! (For those that don’t know – ‘doubledutch’ is a synonym in English idiom for ‘rubbish’- as in “You’re talking doubledutch!” – nonsense.) At least two Taxi drivers explained that Dutch is so difficult that no one bothers to learn it – and so they have to speak English. One also told me that the Dutch were very friendly to the English (as I later understood) and absolutely hated Germans! (Which I suppose is understandable after the war efforts.) I stopped apologising and engaged… Read more »
Member

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :
Since you mentioned shopping, have you noticed how few Hungarian web shops actually allow you to pay online? I have no problem with ordering goods online in Budapest, but most of the time it’s cash on delivery. Moreover, the national market share for debit cards (like Maestro and Visa Electron) is very high, while those same cards are among the least accepted by international online payment systems…
Clearly, whether you’re a Hungarian entrepreneur or a Foreign company planning to sell online educational services to Hungarians, the context isn’t easy.

Sorry, I posted before I read your comment, so I wrote something similar that actually supports your post.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Theft and the Hungarian postal service. Outrageous. A bunch of thieves. What an advertisement of the country abroad. Shameful. I have given up sending anything. It may not be a surprise but I simply arrange to buy something in Hungary.

Guest
London Answering! Yes – with my partner’s help – I too have tried ‘internet shopping’ in Hungary with complete lack of success. One of the problems is a complete lack of prices – one of the necessities is to know what price the goods are! My particular case involves trying to buy a fitted kitchen for the property near Gyor. Hungarian fitted kitchens are 99% ‘bespoke’ – you have to give the ‘carcass manufacturers’ a ‘cutting list’ and tell them which edge you want the melamine edging. Very expensive kitchens. In England we have at least 8 major fitted kitchen manufacturer’s websites – with the assistance of design software to work out the dimensions and facilities of your kitchen. Competitive retailing and good design. Very competitively priced kitchens. The quality of ‘bespoke’ Hungarian kitchens is poor, depending on the expertise and quality control of the machinists who cut the wood. On several cupboards I have examined from these facilities the housings have all the signs of blunt router cutters. On the products from the English vendors the melamine is perfect and safely packaged in much protecting cardboard. So only ‘Mobillix’ (A German company I think) – were prepared to give… Read more »
Guest

Goodness! Thanks for the warning, Eva – (and Some1) – I’m obviously being lulled into a false sense of security

Guest

And yes – Oh goodness yes! Cash in Delivery

How quaint! How risky!

I was amazed that the ‘post-woman’ collected about 5000Ft in cash (!) for a useless Vodoofone internet dongle (that didn’t work btw!).

Someone had to be in to receive it – and the Posta deliverer had to have change!

All the expense of having to Bank such small amounts and the risk of being ‘intercepted’ and all those receipts.

Yes the Posta must be making an enormous loss – which I think I read about somewhere that they are.

But no surprise.

(Ok the English contributors will say that Royal Mail is unprofitable – but ‘Parcels’ are making an absolute killing from all the internet parcels even with cut-throat competition. And Royal Mail is about to be privatised – it’s survival being due to all the junk mail being delivered!)

Yes ‘Posta’ and those bikes – and COD! So so ’50s era! So Commocracy!

Do you still have telegrams delivered by bike?

Regards

Charlie

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Theft and the Hungarian postal service. Outrageous. A bunch of thieves. What an advertisement of the country abroad. Shameful. I have given up sending anything. It may not be a surprise but I simply arrange to buy something in Hungary.

I concur with you and Some1 on this. I stopped ordering dvds from Germany, the UK and France two years ago, especially from famous vendors who advertise their brand name on the package. Bigger, unmarked items go through fine, though.

But is it the postal service, the customs or both ? I’m still amazed that, when I’m not at home to get the parcel, I have to go to a special customs booth at a special post office… for parcels sent from within the EU !

@Some1 : Perhaps the Government could spend less time arm-wrestling in the news those foreign (boo, hiss) banks, and more time enticing them to promote online payment systems to Hungarian businesses.

Lumpy Lang
Guest

re foreigners learning Hungarian…

For anyone wanting to learn Hungarian, and is willing to put in a lot of old-school effort, I strongly recommend the free materials (recordings, exercises, grammar lessons and a Hungarian Graded Reader from beginner to advanced) made available onine (from archival books and tapes) by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute.

The FSI recently discontinued the online portal, but the materials are still available on many other sites. The books and recordings seem to have been devised in the 60s or 70s and in many respects are laughably out of date (according to my Hun contacts)… but this is more than compensated by the thoroughness of the program.

IMHO the lack of thematic drills, grammatical explanations and other back-up resources a consistent shortcoming of Livemocha, Hungarianpod101 and other contemporary e-learning systems. Though these are terrific as a supplements, personally I’ve found studying Hungarian in particular demands way more than these systems offer (at least so far).

Ivan
Guest

It was repeatedly heartbreaking, when our child was born, to receive empty wrappers – originally sent from abroad – in the Posta. We would then receive bizarre visits from a Posta rep and had to sign some form confirming that the Posta had managed to lose whatever had once been inside those wrappers (with no hint that they were actually going to do anything ABOUT the theft)! So my child might have lost some toys or clothes or good wishes – but at least I got to sign a form, in triplicate, as is traditional.

Bowen
Guest

The very first package I had sent to Hungary, around ten years ago (some pullovers knitted by my mother!) never arrived. Since then, it’s very common to receive packages where it’s clear that someone has opened it. Sometimes, things have been stolen (e.g. cosmetics) whereas other things (English-language books) remain.

Having said that, we haven’t had anything stolen for a long time, ever since we get things sent to my wife’s work address (she works for a well-known NGO, and perhaps they wouldn’t dare steal things sent there).