The quirks of Romania (and Romanian)

Romanian language

Romanian language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My educational holiday in Romania (a two-week language course in Sibiu and a week of travelling elsewhere in the country) has, alas, come to an end. I had envisaged that while I was doing the course I would update this blog frequently, outlining everything I had learnt about the language, but it was not easy. For one thing, the course was intense, and the language is complicated. Furthermore, writing on my slow and simple travelling laptop is very time-consuming, so I just did my revision on pen and paper. Plus, the internet/wi-fi services in some of the places I was staying was not the best. 

In one hotel, the situation was quite comical: the wi-fi would would not work in the rooms but if you were lucky it was available in the corridors. However, the lights in the corridor were switched off permanently and only flashed for some seconds when the sensors detected someone moving nearby. So you would take a seat in the corridor with your computer, write a sentence or two, be plunged into darkness, get up and wave your arms and wiggle your body for the sensors to get another 20-30 seconds of light, and so it would continue. I did a lot of dancing in the hallways. People gave me odd looks.  

Here are some oddities of the Romanian language that make it a challenge to master, but an enjoyable one.:

  1. Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, and the neuter ones act like masculine words in the singular and feminine words in the plural. And many nouns that you would expect to be neuter are not, there is no real rule or logic about which ones are or aren’t, so you just have to learn them by heart. For example, căpşună (meaning “strawberry”) is feminine, măr (“apple”) is neuter, and strugure (“grape”) is masculine.
  2. While the indefinite article goes in front of the noun (un băiat = a boy, un frate = a brother, o fată = a girl), the definite article is attached at the end as a suffix, and the suffixes vary depending on the gender or the whether the word is masculine, feminine or neuter and whether the word ends in a consonant or vowel etc etc. Hence băiatul = the boy, fratele = the brother, fata (without an accent on the last a) = the girl.
  3. Because of the above, there are also two plurals that you have to learn, an indefinite one and a definite one. For example, (nişte) baieţi = (some) boys, but baieţii = the boys; nişte fete = some girls, fetele = the girls. Getting confused? Don’t worry, it’s normal!
  4. Romanian verbs in the infinitive form end in a, e or i, but for each – in the present tense at least – there are two possible conjugations, and again often there is no real rule or logic to which set of endings a verb might take, so you just have to learn them off by heart. Plus there will be lots of irregulars and exceptions!
  5. Adjectives in most Romance languages normally agree in number and gender with the word they are modifying; that is, normally one of four forms will have to be used -either masculine singular or plural, or feminine singular or plural. This is often the case in Romanian too (but bear in mind that neuter words take the masculine adjective in the singular but the feminine adjective in the plural). So, for example, the four options for white are alb (masc sing), albă (fem sing), albi (masc pl), albe (fem pl). But, just to make things complicated, there are some adjectives that take only three forms, the plural being the same for both genders usually (mic, mică, mici = small), some that take only two forms, usually just a singular and a plural (mare, mari = big) and some that have only one invariable form, such as maro (“brown”) and eficace (“efficient”).
  6. Romanian makes greater use of the dative and genetive. Don’t ask me to explain this now. My head will spin and so will yours. I need a coffee!

Until next time, la revedere (goodbye).


7 thoughts on “The quirks of Romania (and Romanian)

  1. Thank you, this is awesome. I have been struggling with the language for some time. I appreciate this post. I am also really glad that you had fun on your trip 🙂

  2. Pingback: For immediate results, wait | My Five Romances

  3. Pingback: Vital words for survival in Romania | My Five Romances

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