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Forgotten Romance: The Romanian Language

Eastern Europe

Romania has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. From snow covered mountains, lush rolling hills and evergreen forests. This place will be sure to take your breath away. This is no exception when it comes to the Romanian language as well.

Romanian is one of five romance languages. This makes it quite useful and also reasonably easy to learn (in comparison to languages such as Russian and German) for native English speakers. Over 800 million people speak one of the five major romance languages; those five languages being Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

The Romanian language is the official dialect of Romania and Moldova. It is spoken by around 23 million people in both. Originating from Vulgar Latin, it was brought to the region by Romans. After they left the area around 271-272AD the language stayed and transformed over time.

Because Romania is mostly surrounded Slavic countries such as Ukraine, about 28% of its current vocabulary is credited to Slavic descent. The other 72% or so is credited to the Romance languages. At one point during the 1800’s their was an effort to “Re-Latinize” the language. Linguist went through and removed many of the Slavic words that had infiltrated the Romanian language. At one time Bucharest was called “Little Paris” and much of Romanian was under French influence. Naturally, this influenced the language towards the more romantic sides of it.

What does all this mean for you?

Well, for starters it means you will have a much easier time learning it than a Cyrillic based language like Russian or Ukrainian. Since Romanian is derived from Latin it uses a very similar alphabet to English.

  • Although the letters Q, W, and Y are formally part of the Romanian alphabet they are mostly only used in foreign words.
  • The letter K is rarely used.
  • Romanian also has a few additional letters:  Ă, Â, Î, Ș and Ț. These all have their own unique pronunciation.

When you speak English as a first language, it’s fairly easy to pick up languages that at least use the same letters as you. The Romanian language is one of those.

However, Romanian grammar is not the easiest to learn. Words have genders, and they also pluralize with a vowel at the end of the word. It is often referred to as the closest language to Vulgar Latin. This can make it more difficult to master than say, Spanish.

Only about 40% of the population speaks English so that means you will want to learn some of the local language before you visit Romania.

Picture this, you just left the bar and call a taxi. The taxi shows up but you soon find out the driver speaks almost no English. You pull out your phone to translate only to see that your battery is dead. Yeah, that’s the time you’re really gonna wish you’d at least started to learn Romanian–even if just a little bit.

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If you need to get up and going with the Romanian language quickly, Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 MonthsConversation Countdown is excellent (and comes with a ton of bonuses regarding other languages that may interest you).

Romanian Language

How to Learn Romanian

I’ve used the aforementioned Fi3M (link) and buckled down on it. My intention was to learn Romanian online by utilizing it and supplementing it as needed. Having to coordinate local instructors is the stone age of language learning. It’s all about being able to get online and learn the basics before you touch down.

Can you really learn the Romanian language online?

If you’re a self-learner, you’re absolutely going to love Fi3M.

My issue with learning languages has always been the practicality of it. It doesn’t do me any good to know how to say ‘Mom/Dad/Sister/Cousin/Second Uncle twice removed’ when I’m out and about in a place like Bucharest. I need to know the basic stuff that makes life easier to live.

Things such as…

Which bus stop is this?
May I have a [insert food/drink]?
Where is [insert attraction]?
Maybe even an “inside joke” or two.

I don’t need to ask someone about their family because I’m simply not going to be doing that, and if we do it’ll be because I made a new friend…and they’ll likely speak English.

Sure, there is a time and place for that, but if you’re traveling abroad you need to learn how to handle yourself in day-to-day conversations, not have intimate conversations with people.

That’s a flaw that many language study programs have—they teach you too much fluff. While this is “easy” as it’s only a matter of saying individual words, it’s absolutely useless in real-world application.

Pronunciation in the Romanian Language

Let’s narrow down the pronunciation on Romanian. If I had to choose from what I’ve studied so far I would say that Romanian sounds like a combination of Italian and Spanish. Their is a good amount of rolling “r” sounds and long “a” sounds. A fair amount of “cu”, pronounced “coo”, is also used.

Here is a comparison of some sayings in English, Romanian and a neighboring Romance Language to give you an idea of how close Romanian is to them.

How much is it?
Romanian- Ma scuzati, cat costa acesta?
Italian- Mi scusi, quanto costa?

Thank You
Romanian- Mersi
French- Merci

You can see with “thank you” just how close Romanian is to its neighboring Romance Languages. They are pronounced exactly the same and the only difference is in the spelling.

Being able to enunciate words in their proper way will greatly help you out if you end up in a sticky situation. When in doubt sound the word out like you would in English but add a French or Italian accent. Chances are you will be close enough locals will understand you.

Conclusion

Whether you want to start to learn Romanian or become fluent, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than Fluent in 3 Months. It gives you practical advice that you can use and practice in the real world, while foregoing a lot of the unnecessary work that many other learning methods choose to dedicate themselves too.

If you are coming from a Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese background then you should have no problem picking up Romanian. Conversely if you have aspirations to learn the other Romance languages then Romanian might be a good starting point.

Mersi!

PS: To sign up for Fluent in 3 Months, just click here.

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