Earthquakes of one sort and another in Romania, Portugal and Brazil

graph-27783_640There was an earthquake (or cutremur, in the local lingo) measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale in Romania yesterday. It was centred on Țifești, about 80 kilometres north-west of of Galați, and very close to the last reported earthquake in that country in October 2013.

Anyone who lives in an area that is prone to earthquakes – and there are many – should be aware of what actions are recommended should one hit. See “What to do in un cutremur or mysterious earthquake swarms“.

Political earthquake

Meanwhile, the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW) is carrying an item “A political earthquake in Romania”, which gives an excellent analysis in English of Klaus Iohannes’s shock win in the Romanian presidential election. To hear Romanian journalist Lavinia Pitu’s views on the stunning political upset, go to the broadcast here.

Tremors in Portugal and Brazil

Meanwhile, political earthquake swarms are occurring in Portugal. Also yesterday, former prime minister José Sócrates was arrested along with three others as part of an investigation into tax fraud and money-laundering. Barely a week ago, Immigration Minister Miguel Macedo resigned amid a growing scandal over the country’s provision of  “golden visas” or fast-tracked resident permits to business figures.

Images from Pixabay

Images from Pixabay

In Brazil, meanwhile, there has been a massive corruption scandal at the oil giant, Petrobrás: many politicians and public figures are alleged to have received bribes or kickbacks on contracts. (The police investigation is known as Operação Lava Jato or Operation Car Wash, or Jet Wash). The scandal is putting immense pressure on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who once chaired the Petrobrás board. The weekly current affairs magazine Veja and newspapers such as Estadão de São Paulo are probing to see how much she knew and how far up the political and business ladders the kickbacks went, and there have been demonstrations in the streets about it too.

There will be a lot of interesting reading in Portuguese language newspapers for some time to come.


How to remember the days of the week in Romance languages

calendar-31953_640It’s scandalous that one of the great intellectual ground-breaking theses of 2013, The amazing story of how days got their names, has not yet been picked up by academic, language and history magazines all over the world, let alone gone viral on the internet. It’s a more important document than the binary code and the Book of Genesis put together! Really, what geniuses have to do to get the recognition they deserve? Why isn’t Bernardo’s brain Instagramed more than Kim Kardashian’s bum?

As that document noted, the days of the week in modern Portuguese may look odd to speakers of other Romance languages because the Portuguese switched to a counting system. However, they shouldn’t present too much difficulty because the counting words are reasonably recognisable even to English speakers.

Here is a table outlining the days of the week in my five Romance languages, and underneath are some observations on how to remember them or, if you are learning more than one Romance language, to help avoid muddling them. The  Portuguese weekdays have been abbreviated to keep the columns looking even. Strictly speaking, though, they are segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira, sexta-feira. But in conversation the -feira is often dropped anyway.

Romance days correct

Notes to help you remember some of this:

  • In French all days except for Sunday end in i.
  • In Italian all weekdays end in ì (with the accent)
  • In Romanian all weekdays end in i (without an accent)
  • In Spanish all weekdays end in s – the only ones in the table that don’t end in a vowel.
  • Portuguese and Brazilians have sex on Fridays as a matter of routine.
  • All Mondays have an un in them. In Australia there is a joke about having a “no undy Monday” … not wearing underpants on Monday.

Alan Parsons and his colleagues in the Alan Parsons Project must have been learning Portuguese when they wrote this lovely song, Days are Numbers. Here’s a clip on YouTube that includes an Italian translation.

What’s your favourite day of the week in the table? Mine is the Romanian Saturday, sâmbătă – it sounds like fun.

Shock as Sibiu guy wins Romanian election

Sibiu's main square at night. Photo: Bernard O'Shea

Sibiu’s main square at night. All photos: Bernard O’Shea

I was very surprised to read on the news late last night that the Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis, had beaten Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the Romanian presidential election. Ponta had won the first round, in which there were 14 candidates, and was tipped in the opinion polls to beat Iohannis in the subsequent two-candidate run-off.

Sibiu was where I did a two-week summer language course last year, through the Rolang School. The city was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and was one of the fortified Saxons towns on the south-eastern frontier (the goal being to halt any Ottoman invasion). Its German name was Hermannstadt, and the German influence is still there, although it has been diluted significantly, as the German community had to put up with a lot of persecution and oppression under the communist regime, and many left when they could. Klaus Iohannis himself is an ethnic German.

This is called Liar's Bridge. I swear!

This is called Liar’s Bridge. I swear I am telling the truth!

When I was there, the locals told me that Sibiu was widely regarded as the most well-run and least corrupt city in Romania, and they said, if only the rulers of Sibiu could rule the country too, but you never know whether that is just local boastful talk, exaggeration or naivety. Well, now they have got their wish, to a limited extent – how much can one man change an entrenched political system? Good luck to him.

According to news reports, in Romania, the president is in charge of foreign policy and defence, and names key prosecutors and the chiefs of intelligence services.

Anyway, the news coverage made me feel nostalgic and I’ve plucked out some of my pics of Sibiu to hopefully inspire you. Summer language courses, 2015, anyone?


Sibiu is a festive place. While I was there, it hosted a very colourful international dance festival, followed shortly after by an international Gothic rock festival, headlined by bands from Germany and Scandinavia. Check out some of the vibes.

A Romanian troupe at  Sibiu's international dance festival

A Romanian troupe at Sibiu’s international dance festival

But it was the South American dancers who really caught the eye

But it was the South American dancers who really caught the eye

Germanic folk, maybe? At a dance festival.

Germanic folk, maybe? At the dance festival.

Fun with the dancing fountains

Fun with the dancing fountains


I don’t know which band this guy plays in – it was one of the “filler” Romanian acts early in the day – but he was a bloody good guitarist and his band was excellent (they had a female lead singer who also played keyboards). If you are out there, Mr Guitarist, send me a CD!

Rock and roll played loud in a city square at 11am is a great way to start the day! (Bernardo's a late starter)

Rock n roll played loud in a city square at mid-morning  is a great way to start the day! (Bernardo’s a late starter)


Just outside Sibiu at Dumbrava is the ASTRA National Museum complex, the country’s largest open air museum, where you can see traditional houses and artifacts from over the country. Plus some folkloric singers and dancers, if you are lucky.

Girls, girls, girls!

Girls, girls, girls!

No place like home

No place like a quaint old home

And what was he thinking?

And what was he thinking?


Definite and indefinite articles in the main Romance languages

Hello Romance language lovers, here is another revision sheet (I use the tag “revision” for this series), culled and simplified from previous posts. The info has also been put into each language’s Grammar section on the main menu.


indefinite articles

  • un is used with masculine nouns (un livre = a book)
  • une is used with feminine nouns (une plume = a pen)

definite articles

  • le is used with masculine nouns (le père = the father)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la mère = the mother)
  • l’ is used in front of a vowel (l’enfant = the child)
  • les is used with plurals (les parents = the parents)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in French, go here.




  • um is used with masculine singular nouns (um copo = a cup, glass or tumbler)
  • uma is used with feminine singular nouns (uma cidade = a city)
  • uns is used with masculine plural nouns (uns copos = some cups)
  • umas is used with feminine plural nouns (umas cidades = some cities


  • o is used with masculine singular  nouns (o livro = the book)
  • os is used with masculine plural nouns (os livros = the books
  • a is used with feminine singular nouns (a caneta = the pen)
  • as is used with feminine plural nouns (as canetas = the pens).

NOTE: there is no change with articles in front of a noun beginning with a vowel

  • o amigo = the (male) friend; uma amiga = a female friend

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Portuguese, go here.




  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un camino = a path)
  • una is used with feminine singular nouns (una ciudad = a city)
  • unos is used with masculine plural nouns (unos caminos = some paths)
  • unas is used with feminine plural nouns (unas ciudades = some cities)


  • el is used with masculine singular nouns (el camino = the path)
  • la is used with feminine singular nouns (la ciudad = the city)
  • los is used with masculine plural nouns (los caminos = the paths)
  • las is used with feminine plural nouns (las ciudades = the cities)

NOTE: Feminine nouns that start with ha or a stressed a take the masculine article in the singular but the feminine in the plural:

  • un arma, el arma, las armas (an arm, the arm/arms, in a military sense)
  • un hacha, el hacha, las hachas (an axe, the axe/axes)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Spanish, go here.




  • un is used with most masculine nouns (un ragazzo = a boy)
  • uno goes with masculine nouns starting with z or s+consonant (uno zio = an uncle, uno sbaglio = a mistake)
  • una goes with feminine nouns starting with a consonant (una ragazza = a girl)
  • un’ goes with feminine nouns starting with a vowel (un’automobile = a car)


  • il is used with most masculine nouns (il ragazzo = the boy)
  • lo is used with masculine nouns beginning with or s+consonant (lo zio = the uncle, lo sbaglio = the mistake)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la ragazza = the girl)
  • l’ is used instead of lo or la in front of vowels (l’animale = the animal)


  • i goes with most masculine nouns starting with consonants (i ragazzi = the boys)
  • gli is used before any masculine nouns beginning with a vowel, z or  s+consonant (gli amici = the friends, gli zii = the uncles, gli studenti = the students).
  • le is used with feminine nouns, even if they begin with a vowel (le amiche = the female friends, le madri = the mothers).

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Italian, go here and here.



Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. Neuter nouns behave like masculine nouns in the singular, but feminine nouns in the plural. The formation of plurals in Romanian is not as simple as in the other Romance languages, there are a number of options depending on whether the noun ends in particular vowels or consonants. Spelling and phonetic changes can occur.


  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un băiat = a boy)
  • un is used with neuter singular nouns (un timbru = a postage stamp)
  • o is used with feminine singular nouns (o casă = a house)
  • nişte is used with plurals (nişte băieţi = some friends, nişte case = some houses)


The definite article is a suffix (attached to the end of the noun), and again the suffixes can vary depending on what vowels or consonants the noun ends in. And because it is a suffix, the plural forms of nouns taking a definite article will be different to the plural forms used with the indefinite nişte above. Here are some typical examples.

Masculine nouns: the singular suffix is typically –l, –ul or –le, and in the plural it’s i

  • băiat (boy), băiatul (the boy), băieţii (the boys)
  • membru (member), membrul (the member), membrii (the members)
  • unchi (uncle), unchiul (the uncle), unchii (the uncles)
  • munte (mountain), muntele (the mountain), munţii

Feminine nouns: the singular suffix is –a or –ua and in the plural it’s –le

  • fată (girl), fata (the girl), fetele (the girls)
  • blană (fur), blana (the fur), blănurile (the furs)
  • cafea (coffee), cafeaua (the coffee), cafelele (the coffees)

Neuter nouns: the singular suffix is typically –l, –ul or –le, and in the plural it’s always –le.

  • ou (egg), oul (the egg), ouăle (the eggs)
  • vin (wine), vinul (the wine), vinurile (the wines)
  •  tricou (T-Shirt), tricoul (the T-shirt), tricourile (the T-shirts)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Romanian, go here and here.

After Brazil 2014 comes Equatorial Guinea 2015 and France 2016

The excitement, tears and triumphs of the football World Cup in Brazil this year are behind us, and now we have more juicy details of FIFA’s corrupt bidding process to look forward to. No matter how many bibs and napkins they use at their banquets and gatherings, some of those FIFA officials are going to end up with egg splattered on their faces, ties and shirt fronts. Messy!

There is also administrative turmoil at another football body, the Confederation of African Football. Morocco was due to host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, starting in January, but very recently pulled out because of fears of the Ebola disease spreading. This weekend Equatorial Guinea – which was initially “discovered” by Portuguese explorers but became a Spanish colony – was announced as the last-minute replacement host. It is the only country in Africa where Spanish is a de jure official language.

After that the next major international football event to take place will be the 2016 European soccer championships, hosted by another Romance language-speaking country, France.

Nice, one of the host cities for Euro 2016

Nice, one of the host cities for Euro 2016

The tournament runs from June 10 to July 10, 2016, and will be held in 10 cities: Paris and nearby Saint-Denis in the centre of the country; Lens and Lille in the north; and Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Étienne and Nice in the south.

The competition has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams, so all up 53 teams – divided into eight groups of six teams and one group of five teams) are competing for the 23 qualifying slots alongside hosts France.

The next round of qualifying matches take place this weekend, and the competition is wide open and has been full of surprises. The expansion of the tournament means Europe’s second-tier teams have much greater hope of qualifying than ever before, and judging by the results of the first three rounds of qualifying games, have attacked the task with relish. In contrast, most of the European teams that made it to Brazil for the World Cup earlier this year look vulnerable and jaded..

Here’s a quick round-up of the situation before the start of this weekend’s matches: The top two teams in each group will qualify, as will the best third-placed team of the nine groups. The other eight third-placed teams will have to compete in a play-off to eliminate four.

  • In Group A, Iceland and the Czech Republic are the front-runners with 9 points from three wins each, whereas the Netherlands have just 3 points and Turkey 1. Latvia (2) and Kazakhstan (1) complete the group.
  • Group B is headed by Wales with 7 points from three games and Israel with 6 from two. World Cup participants Belgium have 4 from two and Bosnia-Herzegovina just 2 points from three games. Cyprus (3) and Andorra (0) complete the group.
  • In Group C, Slovakia are the surprise leaders with 9 points, having beaten Spain (6) at home. Ukraine (6) are also in contention; less so FYR Macedonia (3) and Belarus and Luxembourg (1 each).
  • In Group D the world champions, Germany, are suffering on 4 points, behind Poland and the Republic of Ireland on 7. Scotland also have 4, Georgia 3 and Gibraltar 0.
  • Group E has England comfortably in front on 9, followed by Slovenia and Lithuania on 6 each. Switzerland have disappointed with just 3, level with Estonia, while San Marino have 0.
  • In Group F World Cup participants Greece have made a shocking start, gaining just 1 point. Northern Ireland lead on 9, followed by Romania 7, and Finland and Hungary on 4 each. The Faroe Islands have 0.
  • Group G is wide open. Austria have 7 points, Russian and Sweden 5 and Montenegro 4. Moldova and Liechtenstein have 1.
  • In Group H, Croatia and Italy have 9 each, Norway 6 and Bulgaria 3. Malta and Azerbaijan on 0 are the easy beats of the group.
  • In Group I, Albania have 4 points from two games, Denmark 4 from three. Portugal have 3 from two. Serbia and Armenia have 1 point each from one and two games, respectively.








Wild sex boosts bashful blogger


For a linguistic explanation, click on the link to in article to "Get a grip on masculine and feminine forms in Portuguese".

For a linguistic explanation of the above, click on the link in the main body of this post to “Get a grip on masculine and feminine forms in Portuguese”.

I try to make this a fun blog, and a few days ago I got confirmation I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams: someone somewhere did an internet search for “wildsexparties” and got sent here. Leave your clothes at the door, everybody! (Relax, I’ve no idea who it was, or even which country they’re in. And most people I know would make wildsexparties three words, not one.)

The reason I mention this is it’s the second anniversary of my blog, and as I analyse my statistics to see how far I have progressed in the 12 months since A year of slogging. Oops, I mean blogging,  I should remember that the readership figures are inflated by accidental visitors. Nevertheless, wildsexparty person, thanks for coming!


In its first year, My Five Romances, notched up 8800-plus views; in the second year it got 15,000 (lucky I held all those wild sex parties!), taking the total to 23,800.


Much of that increase was due to two events: the Eurovision Song contest and football World Cup in Brazil. Take a look at the bar chart below (it’s my monthly readership figures, and the lines go up in 500s, so the top line is 2000). From November 2013 to April 2014, the figures are steady, but in May when Eurovision took place they shot up one notch, and then in June when the World Cup began they went up a notch again. They have since fallen back but to a consistently higher level than the first part of the year. It’s like every month is a Eurovision month now. I can’t wait for the contest to resume next year!


The message for bloggers here is to be aware of what is topical and trending, tailor your work to it and you will pick up some momentum. My post Meet Claudia Leitte, the queen of Brazil’s axé music (she performed at the World Cup opening ceremony) got picked up nicely on Twitter. And my post on the Croatian footballers who were photographed swimming in the nude did well too, attracting the wildsexparty crowd.


But it’s not all about sex. My most popular post – Get a grip on masculine and feminine forms in Portuguese – is purely grammatical, even though I sneaked in some cartoons of people copulating to illustrate it. (And I’ve sneaked them in again at the top of this post.) Portuguese rules, OK!



In the past year some bits of my readership map have been coloured in, but still there’s that annoying gap in South America – not one person from Paraguay has visited yet. And come on, Greenland, wake up!



This time last year the United States topped my viewing list with 1,807 views, but only 13 countries had made more than 100-plus views. This time around the US is still well ahead, but now 33 countries have recorded 100-plus. And I just need one more person from Switzerland please to get that country into triple figures. Come on, Switzerland, I really liked your songs at Eurovision, even though nobody else did!

My top 20 countries are shown right.


Many thanks to those who popped by in the past year, and thanks also to those who write the blogs I read for their efforts – they are much appreciated. Cheers

Portuguese heart-throb Leandro in Australia this week

Australia has a large multicultural community thanks to the various waves of new immigrants that have arrived, particularly since the second world war, and as a result we often get treated to a wide range of visiting singers, artists and performers. The bigger names such as Italians Laura Pausini (who is coming to Sydney and Melbourne next February) and Eros Ramazzotti, who toured last November, and the likes of Cape Verdean Cesária Évora (in 2008) and Brazilian Marisa Monte (2007) can fill out the bigger venues in the major cities, such as the Entertainment Centre or Opera House in Sydney and the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, but unfortunately their albums or singles  rarely make an impression on the local music charts.

LeandroThen there is a secondary circuit made of more intimate venues such as municipal halls, community clubhouses and RSL clubs where, thanks to local publicity – suburban newspapers, posters on restaurant walls etc – overseas artists can wow the local ethnic community. This week Portuguese singer Leandro, best known for his ballads of anguished unrequited love, will be doing the rounds of the latter, with concerts in Sydney, Melbourne and Wollongong to promote his latest album, Para Sempre (Forever), which was released last year. He is very popular in Portugal, not just for his looks (he is now 27, but still has a boyish voice), but also because – from what I gather, I don’t know the exact details – he lost his parents early and along with other relatives had to bring up his younger siblings. He will be doing interview with broadcaster SBS when he arrives in Australia. (There is also a Brazilian singer called Leandro of Leandro & Leonardo fame).

Here is one of the songs from the Para Sempre album.

Details of the concerts are:

SYDNEY:  Friday, November 14. Burwood RSL, Doors open 7pm, starts at 8pm. Tickets available from Fernandes Patisserie in Dulwich Hill (02) 9568 2114, or the promoter, M. Neves (02) 9716 8830.

MELBOURNE: Saturday, November 15. St Matthew’s, 95 William Street, Fawkner. Doors open 5.30pm, starts at 7pm. Tickets S. Tavares 0401 179 167.

WOLLONGONG: Sunday, November 16. South Coast Portuguese Association community centre, 127 Flagstaff Road, Warrawong. Doors open 2pm, starts at 3pm. Tickets, J. Alves, 0412 105 302.

Here’s another track from a few years back.


Other Portuguese artists coming in the months ahead are Zé Amaro (December), and fado singer Liana (next February). The promoter of Leandro’s concert, M. Neves, tells me that two of my favourite Portuguese singers, José Alberto Reis and Luis Felipe Reis – no, they are not related – will also be coming in 2015. I saw Luis Felipe Reis about four or five years ago at my local RSL, and he was very impressive, it was a great concert.

Revision sheet for the spies who love me

Meu nome is Bond, Santiago Bond.

Meu nome is Bond, Santiago Bond.

For all those millions and millions of people who are trying to learn five Romance languages at once – don’t laugh, think of all those students at the Chinese Secret International Academy of Multilingual Espionage, for whom My Five Romances is required reading, and if the Chinese are doing it you can be sure the Russians, Brazilians, Indians, Americans, North Koreans et al are doing it too – here’s a handy revision sheet.

I’ve grouped together the subject pronouns and the verbs “to be” in the five Romance languages. Remember, in Portuguese and Spanish, ser is used for more permanent states (such as, for example “I am a spy”) and estar with temporary ones (such as “I’m horny”).

Students who didn’t make it into the Chinese Secret International Academy of Multilingual Espionage but who got a consolation place in the Romance Language Department at the Chinese Secret International Academy of Bilingual Espionage should refer to the drop down menus under Grammar and Verbs, where they will find the relevant information in their chosen Romance language.

To all my secret students, I say have a nice weekend, but be sure to do some revision as you’ll be tested on Monday during the language session, which immediately follows the “How to Spy Through Keyholes” tutorial. You have been warned!

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;                você,  ele, ela é

plural:  nós somos                                  vocês, eles, elas  são

Portuguese (estar)

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

plural: nós estamos;                                    vocês, eles, elas,  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


To help remember the subject pronouns, note:

  • 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.

More about that ‘oral sex/ tomorrow’ business

One of the most popular posts written on this blog is Useful expressions in Romanian, like oral sex tomorrow, perhaps. I am surprised – I didn’t think there were that many enthusiastic students of Romanian out there. Or maybe it’s the oral sex that attracts them, although I’m sure most would prefer it today rather than tomorrow.

As noted in that post, mâine means tomorrow in Romanian, but the combination of vowels makes it very difficult to pronounce (there is no exact equivalent in English), and Romanians often laugh when they hear a foreigner say it, because they often mispronounce it as muie, which means oral sex, to put it politely.

For those who would like to practise correct prim and proper Romanian, here’s a native speaker using the word in a positive song about things being better tomorrow entitled Mâine. It’s by Mellina (an excellent singer whose latest hit Poza de Album is still in the top five in Romania, along with Indila’s S.O.S – you can hear both here). The actual song starts about half a minute in. Mâine is the first word of the chorus. Try to say it – let me assure you, even if you think you are doing it correctly, there’s a good chance Romanians will snigger at your attempts.

Now all I have to do is find a song about muie so that you can compare the two. If anyone knows of one, please share the link 🙂

Incidentally, the video clip starts off at the railway station in Sinaia, a pleasant resort up in the Carpathian mountains, where the beautiful Peleş Castle is to be found, as well as the Sinaia Monastery and many grand historic buildings. Here is a gallery of photos I took there last year.

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