I am currently in Sibiu, a picturesque city in Transylvania, doing a two-week language course and really enjoying it. Because the pupils come from all parts of the world, our teacher and text books explain the finer points of Romanian (and believe me, it needs a lot of explaining) in both English and French, and there are Italian and Spanish people in the class as well, so four of my five Romances languages are getting a good airing. I am trying to chip in with a bit of Portuguese too.
I am supposed to be doing homework daily, but of course one has to explore the city as well in the cool of the evening and then one has to eat … I have just had a “Transylvanian Pork Feast” washed down with a glass of nice Romanian red wine, countered by a “cafea” – coffee – and it has just gone midnight, so I don’t know how much I can do before my attention wanes. We will see. I will jot down some of the things I have found most useful since my arrival in this country on Saturday.
Romanian has some accents that are difficult to locate on a non-Romanian computer, namely s and t with commas underneath them – ş ţ – to give a hissing sound – and little hats sometimes on a and i – ă â î – giving them more of an “uh” sound, a bit like a groan which you might utter if you are punched in the stomach. However, often Romanian themselves don’t use these accents (more out of laziness in informal contexts, such as when sending an SMS or an email) and some text books, I note, use an ă where others use an â, so expect a lot of confusion and frustration with these.
I have already covered the verbs to be and to have (a fi şi a avea) here in the post “Being Romanian gets the knees up…” and have given some of the common greetings here in the post “Limber up for the limbă română”, where I seem to have got my accents wrong. Or, more accurately, the text book that I had in front of me then had different accents than the ones I have in front of me now.
Here, in no particular order, are some other useful sayings:
- Habar n-am = I haven’t a clue/I have no idea. Great for when people ask you for directions, or when your Romanian teacher asks you something.
- (Eu) aş vrea o bere – I would like a beer.
- Aş vrea încă o bere – I would like another beer.
- Ceai cu lapte – tea with milk.
- Scuzaţi-mă / iertaţi-mă, nu vorbesc română – Excuse me / pardon me, I don’t speak Romanian.
- Vorbesc engleză, vorbiţi engleză? – I speak English, do you speak English?
- O zi bună / o seară bună – Have a nice day / have a good evening.
- Nu face nimic / nu-i mimic / pentru nimic – That’s OK, it’s nothing, no problem, etc etc.
- Bine v-am găsit! – Nice to see you again. (Literally, so good I found you).
Lastly, something you should be aware of. Mâine means tomorrow, but the combination of vowels makes it very difficult to pronounce (there is no exact equivalent in English, it’s a bit like “muh-weeny”), and Romanians often laugh when they hear a foreigner say it, because foreigners (străini) often mispronounce it as muie, which means oral sex. Once you are told this, you become so nervous and self-conscious about getting the former right, you try too hard to say it correctly, that it inevitably comes out wrong. All I can suggest is if you are talking about tomorrow, do it discreetly in hushed tones.
Pe mâine – see you tomorrow!
- Learning Romanian in Los Angeles (is difficult) (romaniadventure.com)
- Vama Veche (Part 2) (tjpadventures.wordpress.com)
- Languaging Issues III – What’s the Russian for Romanian? (arundotcom.wordpress.com)