Both are to be answered 'Yes.' In most areas that tourists venture, most people speak more than enough English for you to get by comfortably. I speak no Hungarian and have been spending 2-7 months each year there (and have renovated 6 apartments with a myriad on contractors and bureaucrats) and have never had a problem.
It is also true that people speak primarily Hungarian, so you won't find much in the way of deep or subtle conversation unless you seek out expats or academics...
Since roughly 1990, the schools have taught English as a universal second language (before that, German). So anyone 25 years old or younger will have at least a dollop, no matter what they say. And I have never had a need to communicate when the person I was speaking to (or someone nearby cheerful enough to volunteer) didn't follow my English.
We had more trouble in Barcelona and Paris (in Barcelona we found many small shops did not have any english; in Paris, although many were happy to help us limp along, there was it seemed more resentment about our very limited french).
hey, John, come on: you mean "before that : RUSSIAN"!! :-)
(A long before that, yes, it was german.)
Yes, it was Russian: my wife learnt it (under duress) for years, funnily enough she can't remember a word of it.
that's the first time i'd heard that ... my impression comes from three of my friends who are in their 40s and 50s and went to school postwar and said they were taught German in school (and still actually speak it well) but not Russian ... i wonder how that can have been ... i'll have to ask them now
All my friends in their 30s had to learn Russian, but many also learned German because it was Germans who were the loud, obnoxious tourists before us Yanks and Brits were allowed in :-)
Well, maybe during the communist times Russian was not considered "foreign" language, and the first foreign language would have been german. Basically everybody had to study russian those days (at least if you wanted to be successful).
All my friends who used to go to school during those days studied it. What is remarkably is that so few people of those generations actually seem to speak any Russian nowadays, which is obviously pity, it is marvelous language. I have noticed the same phenomenon in most countries around here, Czech, Poland, Estonia - they seem to have been actively forgetting it.
The post change generation of 20+'s on the other hand seem to be interested in russian again, considering it cool and sexy...
It was possible of course to learn any other language but everyone had to learn Russian as it was mandatory until 1989. Nobody wanted to learn it and it was not used anywhere at all so people just forgot it after leaving school.
You will have no problem with "English only" in Budapest. Most people know enough English and if you learn to say: hello, please and thank you, in Hungarian "you are in". Budapest of our favourite spots and we have never had a problem. A smattering of German can help, but most people are more than willing to help you. In 5 trips we have never experienced any problem and this from a Canadian who does not even speak French. Get a "Buda Card" at the airport and enjoy.......
Hungarians don’t expect tourists to speak their language.
They don’t even expect foreigners who live there to speak it, which is amazing. Personally I think anyone who spends large amounts of time there and doesn’t make any effort to learn the language to be a rude ignorant peasant.
I was in Budapest 2 years ago for a week and had almost no problems with the language barrier. Most everyone I met understood English. I took Chinese and Russian language classes at the University of Alabama and learned a little German for my last trip, but Hungarian is beyond my abilities. Rosetta Stone language programs don't even have it.
Ya'll will be fine.