German subtitles on Romanian Eurovision song and life in Germanic-Romanian ghost towns. What more could you want!

Hello. It’s been more than three weeks since I posted anything. Been a very busy boy. I’ll boast about that more during the week. To get back into the swing, I’m going to dabble a bit in German, a language that should get some attention next month when Vienna hosts this year’s Eurovision song contest (May 19-23)

Romanian band Voltaj have released a YouTube version with German subtitles of their Eurovision 2015 entry, De la Capăt, which is a good excuse for me to play one of my favourite songs of the moment. Here it is, German speakers sing along now:

German and Romanian are, of course, quite different, but German is a language you will hear in Romania quite often, particularly during the summer holidays in Transylvania, which was once part of the Habsburg empire. According to Wikipedia’s list of ethic minorities in Romania, though, Germans now make up only 0.2 per cent of the total population. The number was originally much higher, but due to various political circumstances since the second world war, none of them pleasant, it has fallen considerably. You can read about the overall German population here, and about the largest group, the Transylvanian Saxons, here. When I did my language course in Sibiu in 2013, I visited some of the Saxon villages not far from the city, such as Cașolț and Roșia. As you will see from my picture gallery, these villages are quaint but have a forlorn air of decay, like sad little ghost towns. Many people have left these villages to seek fortunes elsewhere, their houses stand empty; some have been taken over by gypsies or vagabonds. Yet there is still a certain beauty and serenity to the place, and the people who remain are very hospitable.

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One prominent German-Romanian is the country’s recently elected president, Klaus Iohannis. Another is the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Hertha Müller, who left Romania in 1987 after being hounded by the Communist regime’s secret police. One of her most recent books is The Hunger Angel, which graces my bookshelves, but let me tell you it is a harrowing read.

The Hunger Angel cover, Portobello Books, 2012. Shot by Bernardo on his iPhone using the Snapseed app.

The Hunger Angel, Portobello Books, 2012. Shot by Bernardo on his iPhone using the Snapseed app.

It tells the story of how Leo, a young lad from Sibiu, was sent into a Soviet forced labour camp for five years from 1944. In that year the Red Army occupied Romania and Stalin demanded that all German Romanians aged 17-45 be sent into labour camps to “rebuild” the Soviet Union. Many never came back. The war might have ended in 1945, but the atrocities continued long after that. When Leo returns home in 1949 he is still only 22 but in spirit he is a broken old man.

Later Ceausescu’s communist regime really made life hard for the ethnic minorities as policies were introduced to, let’s say, stamp out the Hungarian and German cultural identities, including clamping down on language (this is why some towns in Romania have a Romanian name, a Hungarian name and a German name). Some of the German-Romanians people I spoke to in Cașolț told me of the grievances that they or their parents had to put up with. And that, sadly, is mostly what human history is all about, really. One tribe or grouping taking advantage of, bullying, coercing or persecuting another. On that fun note, good night!

Stunning Danube scenery in short film linked to Romania’s Eurovision song

When you watch the original videoclip to Voltaj’s song De la Capăt (subsequently chosen as Romania’s Eurovision 2015 entry) you can’t help being impressed by the cinematography and the spectacular riverside setting. The imagery is taken from a short film (scurt metraj in Romanian) entitled Calea Dunarii (Way of the Danube, in English). It was filmed near Orșova, very close to the magnificent “Iron Gates” – the narrow gorge between Serbia and Romania which is probably the most striking part of a river cruise along the length of the Danube.

The film – shown here with English subtitles – is well worth a look if you have 12 minutes to spare. It features a well-known Romanian actor Constantin Dinulescu as “Bunicul” (the grandfather), while the little kid playing Ion – the local equivalent of John – Razvan Schinteie, is superb too. Great actors are those who can convey meaning and emotion when the script asks for silence.

The aim of both the film and the song is to raise awareness of the loneliness of the “orphans of the economy“. Here is the music clip.

Of course, it is easy for professional musicians to sound good on disc after hours in a recording studio, but some are caught short badly in live performances. So how do Voltaj rate? Check them out live in Radio Zu’s cramped studios.

I can’t get enough of this song, so here for good measure is another performance, this time in the studios of another popular Romanian music station, Kiss FM.

Can Lenor Andrade do a Lúcia Moniz and surprise for Portugal at Eurovision 2015?

Portugal’s entrant in the 2015 Eurovision song contest is a Lisbon law student and TV actress, Lenor Andrade. She rose to fame as a contestant last year in season 2 of The Voice Portugal (won by Rui Drummond), usually performing soulful, bluesy numbers that enabled her to show off her powerful, gutsy voice.

Here she is, for example, doing a cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good – see how quickly she convinces judge Mickael Carreira!

Lenor subsequently took part in, and won, the annual Festival da Canção (from which Portugual’s Eurovision representative is chosen) with a more upbeat pop/rock song Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa (There Is A Sea That Separates Us). It is a song suited to a nation perched on the western coast of Europe, and which has a fascinating maritime history.

I like the song, it grows on me, but I find it a little subdued, vocally – at least as recorded here. Perhaps it comes across better live. English and Spanish versions of the song will be on their way soon, apparently.

Funnily enough, you won’t hear the exact title in the song. Instead the chorus starts with Se é o mar que nos separa… (If it’s the sea that separates us...)

The Portuguese lyrics and English translation are here on the Lyrics Translate website., where Dutch, Catalan, German, Spanish and French translations can be found too.

Mickael Correira, incidentally, sang on the Portuguese market version of Enrique Iglesias’s big hit Bailando – you can see it and the Brazilian and Spanish versions here.

Portugal’s best performance at Eurovision was in Oslo in 1996 when Lúcia Moniz came sixth with O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor (My Heart Has No Colour).

Lúcia was very young at the time, but went on to have a successful singing and acting career, both in Portugal and overseas: British heartthrob Colin Firth proposed to her in the film Love Actually! Perhaps similar opportunities are in store for young Lenor.

Here’s a more recent performance from her… the song is smooth, she is sultry.

Romanian verbs (present tense, Bernardo funky non-extended remix)

brain-494152_1280Recently in two different publications I came across articles on how learning languages is good for the brain and keeps you youthful etc. No wonder I am looking so good in the mirror!

Well, I feel obliged to add some more elixir of youth, so I am about to pour myself a strong coffee, and get stuck into revision on Romanian verbs. I might make it an Irish coffee, because drinking in many languages keeps you youthful too.

Now, exactly how many conjugation groups there are with Romanian verbs is a matter of … well, let’s call it learned speculation. It all depends how you most efficiently categorise the many slightly irregular verbs, and different teachers do it in different ways. For example,

  1. Romanian, An Essential Grammar by Ramona Gönczöl (published in 2008 by Routledge) says there were traditionally four, but now there are eleven sets of conjugations.
  2. Conjugarea Verbelor Româneşti by Ana-Maria Barbu (2013, eDidactica) divides the verbs into the following:
  • question-mark-460868_1280Conjugation I (split into 12 groups)
  • Conjugation II-a (split into four groups)
  • Conjugation III-a (split into eight groups)
  • Conjugation IV-a (split into 13 groups)

 

When I did my summer language course in Romania in 2013 our excellent teacher tried to keep it simple for us, so rather than go into 11 conjugations, or four conjugations and 37 groups (!!!), I will use my revision notes from the course.

VERB CONJUGATION, PRESENT TENSE

In Romanian, verbs in their infinitive form end in one of three letters – a, e or i – and each one has two possible conjugations so all up you have to learn by heart six sequences of endings for the present tense. (Then I added, somewhat optimistically: Plus, of course, there will be irregular ones). Some examples of infinitives are:

  • a lucra, to work; a spune, to say; a vorbi, to speak

letters-565096_640 1) Verbs ending in -A

These verbs take either the -EZ set of endings or what we might call the  or zero suffix. There are no particular clues as to which verb takes which ending. The –a of the infinitive is dropped to form a stem and the following suffixes are added to it.

 

PRONOUN               EZ ENDINGS            ∅  ENDINGS

eu (I)                            –ez                         -∅ (no suffix)

tu (you)                         –ezi                         –i

el/ea (he/she)               –ează                      –ă

noi (we)                        –ăm                         –ăm 

voi (you)                       –aţi                           –aţi

ei/ele (they)                  –ează                       –ă

  • Note how with -a verbs the endings for the third persons singular (el/ea) and plural (ei/ele) are the same.
  • Where you see the t with a curl under it as in –aţi it is hissed and the i after it is silent (so it sounds a bit like the last bit of “psssst!” in English).

Examples

Let’s conjugate a lucra, (to work, which is lucrative for some) and a cânta, to sing. Our stems are lucr– and cânt

eu (I)                            lucrez                         cânt

tu (you)                         lucrezi                        cânti

el/ea (he/she)               lucrează                     cântă

noi (we)                        lucrăm                        cântăm 

voi (you)                       lucraţi                         cântaţi

ei/ele (they)                  lucrează                      cântă

letters-565117_640 2) Verbs ending in -E

This group of verbs appears to be much simpler. They all take the ∅ endings except for a scrie (to write) which has a -u component – the u is inserted where normally there is no suffix.

 

PRONOUN               -U ENDINGS            ∅ ENDINGS

eu (I)                            –u                         -∅ (no suffix)

tu (you)                         -i                         –i

el/ea (he/she)               –e                        –e

noi (we)                        –em                     -em 

voi (you)                       -eţi                       -eţi

ei/ele (they)                  -u                       -∅ (no suffix)

  • Note, with -e verbs,the first person singular and third person plural endings are the same.

Examples 

Let’s put this into practice now comparing a scrie with the verbs a face, (to do or make), so our stems are scri– and fac

eu (I)                            scriu                         fac

tu (you)                        scrii                          faci

el/ea (he/she)              scrie                         face

noi (we)                       scriem                      facem 

voi (you)                      scrieţi                       faceţi

ei/ele (they)                 scriu                        fac

letters-565103_6403) Verbs ending in -i

These verbs either take the ∅ endings or -esc endings, and again there are no discernible patterns as to which of the two options it might be, you just have to learn by heart which takes what.

 

PRONOUN               –ESC ENDINGS            ∅ ENDINGS

eu (I)                             -esc                               ∅

tu (you)                         -eşti                                -i

el/ea (he/she)               -eşte                               -e

noi (we)                         -im                                 -im

voi (you)                        -iţi                                  -iţi

ei/ele (they)                   -esc                                ∅

  • Note, as with -e verbs, with -i verbs, the first person singular and third person plural endings are the same.

Examples 

Let’s have a go using a vorbi (to speak) and a fugi, (to run), so our stems are vorb– and fug

eu (I)                             vorbesc                               fug

tu (you)                         vorbeşti                               fugi

el/ea (he/she)               vorbeşte                              fuge

noi (we)                         vorbim                                 fugim

voi (you)                        vorbiţi                                  fugiţi

ei/ele (they)                   vorbesc                                fug

question-mark-460868_1280 IT’S NOT AS COMPLICATED AS IT LOOKS!

While this may seem a lot to learn, the first and second persons plural (noi şi voi) are very easy to remember.

  • With -a verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are –ăm and –aţi
  • With -e verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are –em and –eţi 
  • With -i verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are –im and –iţi

You will notice, too, that the ∅ endings are pretty similar across the –a, –e or –i verbs, apart from the change of vowel.

conclusion

So, how was that, eh? I bet you feel rejuvenated and mentally alert after digesting all that brain fodder. You may even be craving more Romanian verbs, in which case you’ll find a fi (to be) and a avea (to have) up there in my Verbs drop-down menu.

Noapte bună – good night!

Is life good or bad ‘fără tine’? Let these musicians sway you

Fără is an important word in Romanian and I learnt it by trial and error on the first day of my language course in Sibiu in the summer of 2013: outside the classroom was a big coffee machine and the first time I used it I hit the fără zahăr (“without sugar”) button. Yuck! Thereafter it was cu zahăr mereu (with sugar always).

Just as “without you” is fairly common in English song titles, so is fără tine in Romanian music. Usually it is an expression of sadness and doleful longing. Take this example, from highly rated band DJ Project (a couple of musicians/DJs from Timişoara who have used a number of female vocalists over the years): the lyrics include: fără tine nu sunt eu, am stiut asta mereu, nu mai vreau sa plang, dar doare, doare, doarefără tine n-am nimic (without you I am not myself, I knew it all along, I don’t want to cry anymore, but it hurts, without you I have nothing..)

In a similar vein, musically and lyrically, is this effort from Anda Allexa, who says that fără tine her life is drab and colourless, and she has no sun or moon!

Now it’s Dana Nălbaru‘s turn with this gentle ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ type of song, which illustrates the beauty of the Romanian language)…

It’s not only women who get morose with the fără tines. Here’s Voltaj (Romania’s representatives at Eurovision this year) with Mi-e greu fără tine (It’s hard without you).

You’ll also hear the line n-am nimic in this lovely song Alături de îngeri (Near or Among the Angels) by 3 Sud Est, but in this case is is followed by în afară de tine which means “apart from you” or “except for you”. I really like this song.

But it’s not all bad news!

Sometimes breaking up isn’t so hard to do. Here’s a big hit from the summer of 2013. It’s the band Vama (formerly Vama Veche) and the song is Perfect Fără Tine – I don’t particularly like it but found myself humming and singing along to the jaunty chorus whenever I heard it played. And why not? It’s a happy song … perfect fără tine, e mai bine, am timp şi pentru mine … perfect without you, it’s better, I have time for me….

Film festivals: now you see them, or – oops! – now you don’t

 

Some of the films in the 2015 French Film Festival

Some of the films in the 2015 French Film Festival

Quel imbécile je suis! About a month ago I saw adverts starting to appear in Sydney for the 26th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival, and I thought, “Oh great, it’s festival time again, I must see what’s on.”

Then what happened? I forgot about it. For a month. Today I remembered. So I go online and what do I find….?

2015 french film festival

The Sydney leg of the festival is past the halfway mark already, ditto for Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra. But people in Brisbane, Perth, Byron Bay and Hobart have a lot to look forward to. For the programs etc, go here.

You may be thinking, that Bernard, quel imbécile! Il est très oublieux... (very forgetful) but the truth is on top of my normal job I am editing an 180-page magazine (the 2015 edition of How Busy Women Get Rich, no less), it’s due to go to press just after Easter – on sale from April 27 – and I don’t have time to think about anything else apart from women’s finances! In my opinion, ladies, speaking as a finance guru now, any subscription to a foreign language film festival is a worthy investment. I doubt I will make it to even one French film in Sydney before the festival ends on March 22, but Hobart from April 16-21 looks tempting (I have never been to Tasmania).

So, what other film festivals am I in danger of missing?

Oh look at this….

spanish film festival

Tickets and programs for the Spanish Film Festival will be available on March 19 (that’s this coming Thursday) from Palace Cinemas.

The German Film Festival will follow shortly after…

german film festival

Look out for the Arab Film Festival too …

arab film festival

The Italian Film Festival and Windows On Europe Film Festival usually take place in the second half of the year, as does the Greek Film Festival. and the Latin American Film Festival.

Sorry, everyone, the Eurovision 2015 winner has already been decided…

Great news! OMG! OMG! Exclamation mark extravaganza!

Much to my joy, much to my excitement, much to my exaltation, much to my relief, my favourite song of the moment is going to be in the Eurovision 2015 final!

Yes, De La Capăt by Voltaj beat 11 other contenders in the Romanian play-off, including a number of Johnny-come-lately reality TV talent show winners, to earn the well-credentialled Voltaj a spot in the final in Vienna from May 19-23. Encouragingly, the band got top points from both the musical jury and the televoting public. Incidentally, out of the 12, it and only one other song were in the local language – the rest were in English.

Let’s have a look at the winning performance.

If you were wondering why it started off strangely with a woman putting a teddy bear to bed and kissing her sleeping child goodnight (goodbye, actually) – and why the stage was covered in suitcases – it’s because the song aims to raise awareness of the loneliness of what I call the orphans of the economy.

While Voltaj will sing in Romanian in Vienna, an English version of the song, titled All Over Again, has just been released. I hope it charts somewhere in the English-speaking world. Hello, Australian music stations, put this on your playlist.

 

Multilingual portals that can fast-track your language learning: try Deutsche Welle

Hello, here is another look at how international broadcasters and their websites can help you with your language learning, with a focus on my five Romance languages. In the first instalment, we looked at the BBC with its online coverage in French, Spanish and Portuguese. In the second part of the series, we found Radio France Internationale went one better by adding Romanian to the above. But alas, no Italian.

Now we will look at the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle. As you will see (if you have good eyesight!) from the screen grab below, taken from its English website here, its languages component is pretty impressive: 30 all up, including French, Romanian, Spanish, and both Portuguese for Brazil and Portuguese for Africa. When you go to the DW site, you have to click on the “DW.DE IN 30 LANGUAGES” on the far right of the thin light grey panel at the top of the page, and then the language options will appear as a pop-up above that.

DW languages

OK, let’s have a look at what stories DW is running on the weekend beginning February 28, and bearing in mind that sometimes these broadcasters’ websites are not so much news services but more of a platform to promote their radio or television features.

(I will switch to different coloured text from now on to distinguish my writing from DW’s. Otherwise you will get long slabs of black on white.)

Let’s start with French: the lead story on the home page (the Africa section) looks back at how 130 years ago the superpowers partitioned Africa – with little or no consideration of the needs of the Africans themselves. 

dw french newsOn the “International” page the lead story is how Islamic State militants are destroying archaeological treasures. 

dw french news2

DW’s Spanish site has a strong focus on Latin America. One of its main stories is the capture of a Mexican drug baron.

dw espagnol

On the Português do Brasil website, the assassination in Russia of former Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is given the most prominence. 

DW portuguese brasil

But Brasil does get a mention, at least via the front cover (“capa“) of The Economist

dw portuguese brasil 2um atoleiro = a quagmire, mire, marshy place, puddle, embarrassment, mess, difficulty, pickle, immorality or degradation. 

On the Português para África website, the lead story is Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s controversial and opulent 91st birthday party or “festa“.

dw portuguese port

Finally, to the Romanian page. As you would expect, much of the focus was on new Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’s recent visit to Berlin and meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss, among other things, Romania’s desire to enter the 26-nation Schengen Area, the security situation and possible Russian aggression in Moldova (which is between Ukraine and Romania). The Schengen talks also brought up the controversial issue of the emigration of Romanians to other parts of Europe, and whether this migration was good (buna) or bad (rea), and for whom, depending on whether they were skilled or unskilled workers. 

dw romanian

To read a report in English on Merkel’s and Iohannis’s meeting, go here.

Three of the best from quirky Argentinian band Tan Biónico

If you like synth and guitar-driven pop-rock along the lines of US band The Killers, with the occasional bit of camp disco thrown in (à la the English hits of Romanian band Akcent) then Argentina’s Tan Biónica might be worth investigating (tan means “so”). Very popular on their home territory, they make colourful theatrical videos, and their latest single, Hola Mi Vida, (Hello My Life) is doing well.

That song is taken from their new album Hola Mundo (Hello World). Their last release, Destinología, from 2013, spawned two No. 1 singles – Ciudad Mágica and La Melodía de Dios – but I prefer these tracks from 2011 and 2013 instead.

If you want to know more about Tan Biónica, their Spanish entry on Wikipedia is here – the English entry (the link in the first paragraph of this post) is very basic.

Two tenses, same endings: the conditional and imperfect in Portuguese made easier

blackboard-583692_1280Recently I covered the conditional and imperfect tenses in Portuguese, now here’s something to make it easier to master them, at least as far as –er, and –ir verbs are concerned ( –ar verbs are a little different, but we wouldn’t want to make it too easy, would we?)

The thing to remember is that with regular er and –ir verbs, the suffixes are the same in both tenses, only the verb stem is different.

The common suffixes (verb endings) are: -ia, -ias, -ia, -íamos, -iam

  • To form the conditional, these endings are added to the infinitive.
  • To form the imperfect, these endings are added to the shortened verb stem (the infinitive minus the –er or –ir).

Let’s use a common –er verb as an example, vender (to sell)

CONDITIONAL                               IMPERFECT

  • eu venderia                            eu vendia
  • tu venderias                           tu vendias
  • você/ele/ela venderia             você/ele/ela vendia
  • nós venderíamos                   nós vendíamos
  • vocês/eles/elas venderiam    vocês/eles/elas vendiam

 

angel-298494_1280The same applies to a common –ir verb such as dormir (to sleep)

CONDITIONAL                               IMPERFECT

  • eu dormiria                            eu dormia
  • tu dormirias                           tu dormias
  • você/ele/ela dormiria             você/ele/ela dormia
  • nós dormiríamos                   nós dormíamos
  • vocês/eles/elas dormiriam    vocês/eles/elas dormiam

So, it’s pretty simple; because the imperfect uses the shortened verb stem, it is less of a mouthful than the conditional, which doesn’t always slip off the tongue easily.

Remember, these five endings also apply to –ar verbs in the conditional (eu falaria = I would speak) but not the imperfect, where a different set of endings is used (eu falava = I was speaking, tu falavas, etc).

For more information, go to the Verbs tab on the main menu bar. An explanation of Portuguese subject pronouns can be found under Grammar on the same menu bar.