Forgotten Romance: The Romanian Language

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.

And, even though it is in Eastern Europe and surrounded by Russian-sounding Slavic languages, you will probably be surprised to hear that it has more in common with Italian or Spanish than, say, Russian or Bulgarian.

Romanian is one of five romance languages in the world. 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.

Linguists 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?

romania flag
The flag of Romania.

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.

Although much of the population speaks English, you will still want to learn some of the local language before you visit Romania – at least to impress the locals.

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.

Of course, you don’t really have to start learning the language if you don’t plan to stay here for long.

A few greetings here and there just to show off will suffice in most cases. Especially if you’ll stick to the larger, more touristy cities and places, you should have no problem getting by with English alone.

Pronunciation in the Romanian Language

romanian language pronunciation

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.

Excuse me, how much is it?
Romanian: Ma scuzati, cat costa?
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

I hope you learned some interesting things in today’s article about Romania’s language. It is an interesting language to learn and even though not extremely easy to become fluent in it, you don’t really have to if you only visit for a short while.

Most Romanians do speak English at least to a conversational degree, but they will all appreciate you taking the time to learn at least some basics. How are you, thank you and hello are some good things to learn if you really want to.

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!

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