Hello! Did you know that Romanian is the only Romance language spoken in Eastern Europe?

And that Dracula hadn’t actually lived in Bran Castle?

Anyway, here you are now, in Romania, not speaking a word of the language.    

Maybe your job brought you here,  your studies, maybe it was your cute girlfriend or your fascination with ex-communist Kusturica aesthetics.

Either way, here are five particular features of Romanian followed by some basic phrases to help you begin your language journey.

Romanian is spoken by 28 million people, of whom 25 million are native speakers.
It belongs to the Balkan-Romance group, which includes Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian Greek, Hellenic, Albanian and Romani and it is the only surviving Eastern-European Romance language.

Since it kept close contact with the Balkan population (the above mentioned Balkan Sprachbund) this language developed quite differently compared to other Romance languages. It is like that weird uncle who grew a mustache and decided to do its own thing.

Source: unravellingmag.com

About 80 percent of Romanian words are of Latin origin[1], and there is a big number of French (almost 40% of the modern Romanian Vocabulary, how fancy) and Slavic loanwords, especially from Russian, Bulgarian, Slavonic. I guess this explains the quirky sound of the language, like Italian spoken with a strong Russian/ Slavic accent.

Before we talk about pronunciation, take a look at the word prieten-friend coming from Slavonic and how standoffish it looks here.

A bit lonely, ey?

A bit lonely, ey?

 

The Romanian alphabet has 31 letters, 5 of which have diacritical marks: ă, ș, ț, â, î. Meet the 5 little weirdos, everyone. The letter ț appears only in the Romanian alphabet. Fortunately, we read words the way they are spelled in Romanian (phonological orthography), so what you see is what you get, generally. Probably that’s why there are no spelling contests in Romania.

However, there are some elements that deserve special attention, so pause and stare before reading the words that have these:

  • the vowel I
  • the 5 little weirdos mentioned above
  • the 8 clusters (see below).
    The 5 little weirdos choir

Regarding the pronunciation of the vowel i, keep in mind it is usually silent when placed as the last letter. This means that when you read the word surori –sisters, you will barely hear the final sound i. This is not the case for the final E though. Different letters, different rules.

The 5 little weirdos and the 8 clusters: ce, ci, che, chi, ge, gi, ghe, ghi (which began to be used at the end of the 18th century on the model of Italian orthography) have a special pronunciation[2].

The little weirdo that tends to create most confusion is  , which does not have an English equivalent sound. It is a guttural sound, like that sound you make after you take a sip of rotten milk, eugh.

In other Romance languages, nouns are either masculine, either feminine, but surprise, Romanian preserved the 3rd gender: neuter.

This is usually reserved for inanimate objects and loanwords such as weekend, job, laptop. Yes, those are words that we actually use on a daily basis.
Another feature that individualizes Romanian is the fact that the definite article takes the form of a suffix, unlike Spanish, French or Italian. So we say casa for the house, and the final a in casa stands for the definite article.

Something that makes Romanian special in a not-the-easiest-language kind of way is the declension of nouns. This means the nouns are inflected for number, gender and case and the adjectives have to match them in form. Next time you read a sentence in Romanian, take a second to observe how all the elements modify one another to line up properly. Check out those naughty sentence patterns and smile lovingly cuz learning languages is good for your brain anyway.

And finally, here are some basic phrases.

Welcome!Bine ați venit! *formal*
Thank you!

 

Mulțumesc!

Mersi!

You are welcome!Cu plăcere!
Hello!Salut!
Good morningBună dimineața!
Good afternoonBună ziua!
Good evening Bună seara!
Goodbye! La revedere!

Pa pa!

Good luck/Cheers!Noroc!
How are you?Ce mai faci?

Ce mai faceți?

Fine, thanks.Bine, mulțumesc.
Așa și așa.So so.
Nu prea bine.Not that well.
What is your name?Cum vă numiți?* formal
My name isMă numesc

Mă cheamă

Sunt

Where are you from?De unde sunteți?
I am fromSunt din
Nice to meet youÎmi pare bine

Îmi pare bine de cunoștință!

Încântat!

Enjoy your meal!Poftă bună!
Excuse me Scuzați!
SorryScuzați-mă
FoodMâncare
I am hungry Mi-e foame
I am thirstyMi-e sete
Do you have anything vegetarian?Aveți ceva vegetarian?
Do you have anything without meat?Aveți ceva fără carne?
How much is it?Cât costă?
I would like a coffee, please.Aș dori o cafea, vă rog.
What does.. mean?Ce înseamnă…?
How do you say..?Cum se spune..?

If you like watching movies, I recommend this channel, where you can find Romanian short movies with English subtitles:  https://cinepub.ro/scurtmetraje/.

If you are into podcasts, then check out these:

https://www.decatorevista.ro/satul-madalinei/#episodul1

https://player.fm/series/morning-glory-cu-razvan-exarhu

[1] Romanian Grammar, Mika Sarlin.
[2] The Grammar of Romanian, Oxford Linguistics.

 

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