Give me George or Enrique, but I’ll have to say no to Julio

George Enescu Museum (Cantacuzino Palace), Cal...

George Enescu Museum (Cantacuzino Palace), Calea Victoriei, Bucureşti, Romania (Photo credit: Chodaboy)

A local radio station was having a CD sale the other day at a community hall, so I went to have a stickybeak, as the Australians say (that’s a great word, I wonder what the Romance language equivalents are for it – it basically means to stick your beak or poke your nose into someone else’s affairs). Unfortunately the community hall did not look like the building in the picture, which is the George Enescu museum in Bucharest, but never mind. More on Georgie later.

It was a classical music radio station so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of foreign language CDs, but there were some pleasant surprises. For the princely sum of three dollars I picked up a two-disc set of Songs and Melodies from Portugal – by someone called Francisco Fialho, accompanied by Jose Maria Fonseca on the Portuguese guitar (which has 12 strings) and Americo Silva on classical guitar. The lyrics to the 25 songs were also included and were translated into English and German as well, and some of the biographical information was given in French and Spanish, so the comprehensive sleeve notes were a multilingual feast. I haven’t had the chance to listen to them yet but will do so soon and post some of the lyrics if they merit it – I hope they are saucy!

Representing France was the CD Comment Te Dire Adieu by Françoise Hardy, who has a lovely voice when you are in the mood for it. It’s an old record from 1968, but of course the CD version is a bit younger than that. Her 12 songs cost me six dollars.

The greatest discovery, in terms of rarity, was a Marco Polo CD Record for Rumania, featuring two Romanian rhapsodies, and two other compositions (Voix de la Nature and Rumanian Poem) by the Romanian composer George Enescu. This CD came out in 1990 and, according to the sleeve notes, it was issued by the Marco Polo label “to raise funds in aid of the Rumanian people”. It cost me only five dollars, which is not going to help solve anyone’s problems, but hopefully whoever bought it first hand helped help someone somewhere in Romania (note how Ro and not Ru seems to be the preferred spelling nowadays). It is very difficult to find CDs of Enescu’s music in Australia, which is a pity as the Rhapsody No. 2 in D major is one of my favourite pieces of classical music, and the Rhapsody No. 1 is very lively. Enescu composed them and the poem when he was very young, in his late teens, and they brought him immediate acclaim. They are based on traditional Romanian folk songs, and can be found easily enough on YouTube if you are interested.

The last two items in my shopping bag were by Enrique Iglesias: a 15-song compilation called The Best Hits which looks suspiciously like a bootleg: the cover is a photocopy and the CD inside is obviously fake. All the songs are in Spanish. The other CD is Viver from 1997 and is the real thing, the sleeve notes include all the lyrics.

Funnily enough, my partner, who is younger than me, is going through a Julio Iglesias phase and has been playing his music in the car. Unfortunately they are mainly his English CDs, which I find to be bland and rather predictable covers of other people’s songs. I think there is a real danger we could fall asleep in the car!

I mean, really, who would you pick in any language, Enrique or Julio?

Give me Enrique every time. 🙂

P.S. There is a Portuguese singer, José Alberto Reis, whom I quite like, I think of him as the Portuguese Julio Iglesias except he is a little bit younger… he’s like 75% Julio and 25% Enrique… if you want to learn Portuguese he is a good one to follow because you can usually hear the words quite clearly.

The haves and have nots in French, Italian and Romanian

Cover of "To Be and to Have"

Cover of To Be and to Have

When I first heard that a French documentary film called Être et avoir (To be and to have) was turning out to be a great success, I was really surprised. A documentary named after two verbs! Seeing it would be like going back to the first dreadful days of school, surely. What next, a comedy about arithmetic and algebra!

I had to see it out of curiosity (I am a former teacher) and of course the film, directed by Nicolas Philibert and set in a small rural school, was about a lot more than getting kids to conjugate two verbs correctly. If you have not seen it (it was released in 2002), I do recommend it. One thing we could learn from the film, in case you didn’t know already, is that the verb “to have” is as important as the verb “to be”. This is because in the Romance languages, as well as in English, to have is an auxiliary verb that helps form compound tenses (such as “I have eaten”). Furthermore, in some Romance languages the verb “to have” is often used in contexts where English would normally use the verb “to be” … for example, “I have thirst” rather than “I am thirsty”, and “I have 32 years” rather than “I am 32”. In the Romance languages to be and to have tend to be irregular verbs.

So, “to have” in French is avoir, in Italian it is avere, and in Romanian it is a avea. You can see the similarities. Portuguese and Spanish are a little bit different, as usual – it seems their respective equivalents of this verb, haver and haber, now have limited use as an auxiliary verb and ter and tener are more commonly used, particularly to indicate possession. For space reasons I will have to cover them in a forthcoming post.

Let’s look at their conjugations: I will put the singular persons on the top line and the plurals underneath, with the masculine form first in the third persons.

Language:                  first person          second person         third person

French                          j’ai                             tu as                           il a, elle a       

French                         nous avons              vous avez                   ils ont, elles ont

Italian                           io ho                         tu hai                          lui ha, lei ha 

Italian                           noi abbiamo             voi avete                     loro hanno

Romanian                   eu am                          tu  ai                           el are, ea are

Romanian                   noi  avem                    voi aveţi                    ei au, ele au

The negative form is constructed thus (with a translation of “Maria has a dog” and “Maria does not have a dog” cited as an example):

In French one usually puts a ne in front of the verb (or n’ if a vowel follows) and a pas after it: Maria a un chien. Maria n’a pas de chien

In Italian one puts a non in front of the verb: Maria ha un cane. Maria non ha un cane. 

In Romanian one puts a nu in front of the verb: Maria are un câine. Maria nu are câine

In Romanian, the nu becomes n- in front of the a of an auxilary verb. For example, here is a song I like on YouTube (posted by someone called darkrose1989) by a Romanian band, Holograf. The song is N-am stiut, which means I didn’t know. In this posting the lyrics have been translated on screen into Italian and English. It’s another song about lost love and regrets, and the accordian notes round about the 2:10 mark sound very French. Play it a few times and I expect you will be humming nu, nu, nu to yourself regularly.

For explanations of the formal and informal forms of address in these languages, see my posting from December 21, 2012 – Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use? and you can hear the pronunciation of the Romanian verbs a fi and  a avea on the YouTube link in the my posting on “Being Romanian” from January 10, 2013.

The main thing with the verb ‘to have’, I guess, is to have fun. 🙂

Cheers till next time, Bernardo

Talk like a drunk and you’ll be fine

Picture of shampaige

Picture of shampaige (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this post we are going to encourage you to cast a few slurs.

This is why we have chosen a picture of what looks like alcohol drinks, by the way. You will have to read through to the conclusion to understand why, but you can start drinking now if you want, (but do it sensibly, s’il vous plaît).

So, amigos, having studied the verb “to be” in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian and discovered great musicians such as Zazie, Voltaj, Tiziano Ferro and Rebeca along the way – I must throw in some Spanish singers next – what can we say thus far about how closely connected these five Romance languages are?

As far as the subject pronouns go, look at this:

The first person singular (“I“) is the same in Portuguese and Romanianeu.

The first person singular also looks pretty much the same in Spanish and Italianyo and io.

The second person singular (“you“) informal form tu is used in all five languages, with just one slight difference in that in Spanish it has an accent – . (But remember that in Brazil tu is rarely used, use você instead.)

The third person singular (he and she) forms are pretty much an “il” or “el” sound for him and an “elle” or “ela” sound for her in all languages except in Italian, with its lui and lei. The same applies with the plural equivalents. 

The first and second person plural forms (“we” and “you“) are the same in Italian and Romaniannoi and voi.

Portuguese seems to be the only language which no longer has a second person plural that takes a second person plural verb form – the archaic vós (as in vós sois, for example,) has been ditched in the modern era and vocês (as in vocês são) has become the norm.

As far as the verb endings go, regardless of the fact that there two variants of the verb to be in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, we can say:

Portuguese and Spanish are so closely related they could be twins… with estar, for example, the endings in the second and third person singular and third person plural are exactly the same: estás, está and estamos.

In all five languages you can see that all the various verb endings sound roughly the same. Look at the first person singular sounds suis, sou, soy, sono, sunt … or the third person plurals … sont, são, son, sono, sunt …. they are all six of one and half a dozen of the other (actually, five of one and five of the other, but hey let’s not get too pedantic).

This is why, in my opinion, if you know one Romance language, communicating to people who speak another Romance language is easy; all you have got to do is mutter in your own Romance language very badlymumble a bit, disguise the exact sounds, thrown in some shhh-type hissing and some nasal twang, in short, speak your own Romance language like a drunken idiot, and the others will understand you perfectly!

Grab yourself a glass of champage or whatever your favourite tipple is (mine’s a Pernod, by the way, but I am willing to form new allegiances) and let’s toast your success! 😀 😀

Cheers till next time … Bernardo

Be happy, you’ve got all the ‘be’s in your bonnet

Romance languages

Romance languages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The purpose of this blog is to enable you/me/us to chat up – oops, sorry, chat with, watch your prepositions, Bernardo! – the 1030 million people who speak the major Romance languages (see the statistics in the ‘Five is a plucky number’ page). The orange and yellow bits on the accompanying map will give you some idea where most of them are. There should be a tiny, tiny dot in eastern Australia, near Sydney, to indicate me – Wikipedia has left me off the map!

Mastering the verb “to be”, needless to say, is an important step along the way because once you have done that you can then go on to say things like “I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am horny” etc etc. In some Romance languages, though, they say “I have hunger” and “I have thirst”, which is why we will study the verb “to have” soon after this. (Whether they also say “I have horniness” at this stage I have no idea, but I guess sooner or later we will find out.)

In the meantime, here is a recap of the verb “to be” in the five featured Romance languages. As noted in previous posts on each, some of these languages have two verbs meaning “to be”, and some have more than one way of saying “you” depending on whether it is a formal or informal relationship. We won’t repeat the explanations here.

French (être):

singular:  je suis;                      tu es;                  il, elle est;

plural:  nous sommes;          vous êtes;            ils, elles sont

Portuguese (ser)

singular: eu sou               tu és;                ele, ela, você é

plural:  nós somos                                  eles, elas, vocês são

Portuguese (estar)

singular: eu estou;               tu estás;               ele, ela, você está

plural: nós estamos;                                      eles, elas, vocês estão

Spanish (ser)

singular: yo soy;                   eres;                él, ella, usted es;

plural: nosotros -as  somos;      vosotros -as sois;    ellos, ellas, ustedes son

Spanish (estar)

yo estoy;                          estás;                   él, ella, usted está;

nosotros -as estamos;     vosotros -as estáis;      ellos, ellas, ustedes están

Italian (essere)

singular: io sono;                         tu sei;                    Lei, lui, lei è 

plural:  noi siamo;                      voi siete;                       loro sono 

Italian (stare, which can also mean “to stay”)

singular: io sto;                   tu stai;                 Lei, lui, lei sta; 

plural:  noi  stiamo            voi state;              loro  stanno

Romanian (a fi)

singular: eu sunt;                 tu eşti;                      el, ea este

plural: noi suntem             voi sunteţi                  ei, ele sunt

Till next time….


Being Romanian gets the knees up and tongues wagging

Romanian dance

A Romanian dance …  the message on the second line of the blue banner from the Timisoara Municipality is “Together with you”. (Photo credit: cosmin_tartan)

Being Romanian means you have to look good in tights and enjoy a good knees-up from time to time. And your whites have to come out spotless in the wash, judging by the photo above. I think most people with a good knowledge of history would know that Romanians had to endure a lot of suffering under Nicolae Ceausescu‘s regime, but what are Romanians like nowadays? According to my Romanian/English Dictionary & Phrasebook, written by Mihai Miroiu (Hippocrene Books, 2009 edition) “Romanians are frank and open, gregarious and receptive, with a mild temperament. Optimism, humor, healthy laughter and zestful irony are among their characteristic features, as well as friendliness and hospitality.

It continues: “Romanians are sensitive to beauty and incline towards lyricism… Romanians can be described as individualists. One facet of this individualism is their tendency to call almost everything into question. This leads to original and creative thought, but it can also be a source of conflict. Conversation among friends may sound brusque and aggressive to foreigners, as if participants were trying to assert their viewpoint for the pure please of it. As a population, Romanians enjoy discussion immensely, spending hours – usually round a table – debating everything…”

So, Romanians are gregarious and garrulous, and if you want to talk the talk with them (preferably round a table) you will have to learn the lingo. Here is a fi, the verb to be:

eu sunt                      (I am)
tu eşti                         (you are)
el / ea este                (he / she is)
noi suntem                (we are)
voi sunteţi                 (you are, plural)
ei / ele sunt               (they are, masc / fem)

As one of my Romanian followers has pointed out in replies to some of my previous posts (Being Spanish and Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use?”), you can see the all forms and times of the verb to be in Romanian here:

Note also this: “In Romanian we have the informal Tu and the formal Dumneavoastră which is a short form of now disappeared Domnia Voastră (Your Excellency). In Romanian, Domn means Mister or gentleman but in the old language the meaning was Prince or Lord, the word originating from the Latin Dominus (Lord).”

I have found a link to a YouTube posting that covers the verbs to be and to have (a avea) in Romanian, which will be useful as in the next couple of posts we will revise the subject pronouns and the verbs “to be” in all five languages, then look at “to have” in all five languages. This is from the Rolang School. (Note how the “e” in Romanian seems to have more of a “y” sound than in the other languages.)

For those who want to jump ahead and learn a bit more about the basics of Romanian here is another useful link.

Enjoy being Romanian 🙂

Be a happy champion in 2013

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia (Photo credit: DakotaPrarieNova)

Happy new year from me and My Five Romances in Sydney, Australia (hence the choice of pic). I hope you haven’t got a hangover – une gueule de bois if you are French, uma ressaca in Portuguese, una resaca if you are Spanish, postumi di una sbornia if you are Italian and o mahmureală if you have been imbibing too much in Romania.

So, how does one wish everyone a happy new year in my five Romance languages? The French might say Je vous souhaite une bonne année, the Portuguese Desejo a vocês um feliz ano novo, in Spanish you could try Les deseo un feliz año nuevo, the Italians might say Vi auguro un felice anno nuovo and the Romanians Iti doresc un an nou fericit. Or you could just use body language … grin a lot, pat everyone on the back, hug them, kiss them … body language can be a romance language too, you know 🙂

I have a hunch that 2013 will be a good year, better than its predecessors. It’s going to be great! I wanted to find an uplifting piece of music that would set the tone for the year ahead, and have opted for one by a Romanian band called Voltaj (yup, you guessed it, the Romanian word for “voltage“). Although it’s a stirring kind of anthem aimed specifically at Romanians, I like the sentiments – no more settling for second place, it’s time to step up to the winner’s podium, everyone can be a champion. The song is entitled MSD2 which, guessing by the translation of the lyrics, is short for mai sus de 2, or “above 2“.

This is taken from a YouTube posting by “SkadiSubs” and the lyrics in Romanian and English can also be found in the “info” section there. It’s very catchy, enjoy.