Limber up for the limba română

We’ve been on the phone with the Francophones. We’ve opened a portal to Portuguese. We’re improving our histrionics with Hispanics and we’ve added to our tally with Italian. It’s time to turn our attention to the baby sibling of the My Five Romances family, the limba românâ, or Romanian language, the sole survivor of the Latin languages spoken in the old Eastern Roman empire. So let’s roam into Romania and find some exotic locations where we can have a chinwag with the locals who, in case you didn’t know, love to chat.

Monastery of Horezu

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed monastery of Horezu. (Photo credit: Marcel Ionescu)

Luckily Romania is blessed with many beauty spots and has its fair share of UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Danube Delta, the Monastery of Horezu and the eight churches of southern Bucovina that are often labelled the painted monasteries. In all likelihood, a trip to Romanian would involve Bucharest as a starting or leaving point (you won’t help but notice Ceausescu’s grand palace, which is now the house of parliament), but Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu feature most prominently on tour groups’ itineraries, and while you are exploring them do pop in and see Peles Castle and Bran Castle. Nature lovers, meanwhile, should consider a hike in the Transylvanian Alps, part of the great Carpathian Mountains. Personally, I have a soft spot for Timisoara, partly because it looks very scenic in places and partly because of its importance in the events leading up to the Romanian revolution at the end of 1989 (a fascinating year for history and a busy year for journalism). You may also hear Romanian spoken in parts of Hungary and Serbia that are close to the Romanian border, and you will definitely hear it in Moldova, an area that was once part of greater Romania, once a Soviet socialist republic, and is now a republic in its own right. The capital is Chișinău and the state language(s) is (or are) Moldovan/Romanian – many linguists consider them to be the same.

So, when you wake up on a beautiful morning in Romania like the one in the photo on top, you will want to greet everyone. If they are not all beside you in your bed you will have to open your window wide, stretch and shout bună dimineața (good morning) to all and sundry (that t with a little squiggle underneath has an s sound, it is like the ts in the Engllish word cats). Or you could shout bună ziua, good day. If, however, you are the kind of person who lies in bed all day and only gets up in the evening (it seems lots of people have Vampire fantasies nowadays) then you will have to shout bună seara. To wish someone good night is noapte bună.

More casually, to say hello or hi you could just say bună, or use salut, just like the French do. Noroc is one of those wonderfully versatile words that are good to have in your repertoire. It normally means luck or good luck, but can also be a hello or goodbye or even a bless you! (when someone sneezes).

There are various ways of saying How are you? A polite one is ce mai faceți? but there are also ce mai faci?, ce faceți? or cum esti?

The normal answer would be bine, mulțumesc, fine thanks or mulțumesc foarte mult, meaning thanks very much. (Mult means much, mai mult means more, while din ce în ce mai mult is a way of saying more and more. Prea mult means too much). Or you could say bine, mersi, (which must be related to merci in French). Once you have said you are bine, you can ask și tu?, which is the informal way of saying and you? The formal way is quite a mouthful, și dumneavoastră? but if you are game to say it, go for it.

Peles Castle, Romania 2008

A romantic hideaway: Peles Castle, Romania  (Photo credit: codrinb2001)

Other expressions that are useful when having a conversation are cu plăcere (you’re welcome), pe curînd (see you latercurînd means soon), la revedere means goodbye (it must be related to the Italian arrividerci), while pa means bye.

If you get lost in the conversation a good word to have in your armoury is poftim which is one way of saying pardon, but it could also mean what? or excuse me?, depending on your intonation. (If you are really lost you could say Ai putea repeta? Nu am intelesCould you say that again? I didn’t understand − but you are following my blog and you are intelligent people, you are supposed to understand! :). I don’t want to presume that you will be baffled and bewildered.)

By the way, if you hear a Romanian say poftă do not be alarmed − they are not calling you a poofter, they might be suggesting you go out for a meal together because poftă is appetite. Poftă buna is the equivalent of bon appetit.

Here is a song that I think you will like, and after you have listened to it just once I guarantee that you will be able to say mulțumesc with ease because it’s called Iți mulțumesc (thank you) by a great Romanian band, Directia 5. I like the drumming in this song and the guitar work, which is a bit U2-ish. But what really makes this video fun to watch is the people in it, especially the children (copii). They look like a cheerful, contented bunch. Let’s hope they grow up to live happy lives. When I first saw this video I thought it was nice of the makers to include balding middle-aged blokes in it as well as pretty young things, but then I realised the balding blokes are the members of the band! Anyway, this videoclip is a homage to humanity, and if it is any indication of how friendly people are in Romania then I want to go there straight away! Să mergem! Let’s go!

Below are some articles that will be of interest to anyone wanting to know a bit more about Romanian culture. Happy exploring.

Pe curînd, vă doresc o zi bună – see you later, have a nice day 🙂


4 thoughts on “Limber up for the limba română

  1. Pingback: Video HD: Geo si Susanu – Esti buna , nebuna HIT 2013 (VIDEOCLIP HD) | MIHAI MARIAN - un blog cu de toate

  2. Pingback: The Enescu festival: it’s bigger than Ben Hur the opera! | My Five Romances

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