I moved to Romania in July, 2014 and all I could say in Romanian, was: how to count to 10, “hello”, “good bye”, “Thank you” and “I love you”. And it was completely sufficient to simply communicate in the shops, streets and at the airport and you know why? Simply, because Romanians speak English even if they don’t like to admit and answer to the question of “Do you speak English?” with a cute accent: “Just a little bit” and then they give difficult instructions regarding your question with almost perfect English.
But should you be less motivated to learn Romanian simply because most of the people speak English? I say, NO. Why? Because I rediscovered the great pleasure of learning a new language.
This is how everything happens:
First, your brain struggles, you hear people talking on the street and you wish you would understand something. You see them laughing and you wonder: “What are they talking about? I bet it’s really funny, or maybe not so much, but damn, I want to know!”, and everything sounds like random noises. Slowly, your attention alert decreases while being on the street. At some point, I even started to talk Georgian with myself on the street, just not to go crazy, or was it actually first step to going crazy?!
Anyway, let’s start learning Romanian. But where do you start? First, you try to rely on the languages that you already speak. Any similarity, any connection is like a salvation!
Romanian being a Romance/Romanic language has the most in common with French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, is significantly influenced by Slavic languages and is full of surprises. For someone like me, who speaks Georgian, Russian, German and English, it is especially interesting to take the challenge of learning Romanian, since I don’t speak French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, I had to rely on the other database of words and structures that have been formed in my brain based on languages that I speak.
Sometimes, I imagine the part of my brain that is responsible for languages like a chart or graphic that has many connecting arrows and dots between languages, words and sentences. When I discovered the similarity of verb conjunction in Romanian and Russian, a special button was “lid up” or activated in my brain and I felt pleasure that motivated me further. For example, the way verb changes its form in Russian with the pronoun “we” is very similar in Romanian. The general pattern is to add “em/yom” in the end, which is also the case in Romanian. And of course many many Slavic words that have ended up in Romanian, as well. I will not start listing all the Slavic words that I discovered, but if you are interested, I can provide the list privately 😉
What was even more surprising and amazing during the learning process, were some odd similarities with Georgian language! Let me remind you that Georgian is a very unique language, belonging to the family of Kartvelian/Georgian languages not having a significant connection to any other family of languages. So, imagine my amazement when I discovered that some words have been probably “borrowed” by both languages from Turkish, because of Ottoman influence. Such words are for example: dușman, geantă, portocală, ieftin and so on.
All this motivated me even more to learn Romanian better and I started to attend weekly Romanian language meetings of Language Exchange Bucharest, where I met wonderful Romanian girls who are devoted to teach and help foreigners with their interesting native language. And do you know where and when everything became a lot easier? When I finally learned how to construct sentences in Romanian. I think it is crucial in the process of learning a new language to know the simplest structure of a standard sentence. After that, even with few words you can start to spread your wings and just start speaking however you can, which will ultimately help you learn much faster.
I think the secret of Romanian language is the subjunctive form, which is constructed with the word “să“, which can be translated as “to” in English or even closer translation would be “zu” in German. It is used in sentences as: “I want to go, I want to eat, I need to sleep, I wish to pay” (Romanian: Vreau să merg, Vreau să mananc, Trebuie să dorm, Doresc să plătesc) And you cannot deny that the first sentences you start to say in a foreign languages are connected to your wishes and needs and once you know how to transform the verb in the first person, you just add “să” and you are settled.
Another crucial thing to do is to watch Romanian movies! Romanian independent movie scene is very rich and interesting and you will not only practice Romanian, but simply enjoy the movies and get to know the culture better. Also, once you achieve a certain level of Romanian, I found it to be extremely helpful to watch English or German movies with Romanian subtitles, but don’t forget to actually read them from time to time! :)) For this reason, you might even lower the volume to be forced to read the subtitles, but this is for extremely motivated folks out there, I guess :))
By now, I have achieved the level of Romanian that it has its own place in my mind, its own structure and I can feel that it has developed enough not to rely on the knowledge of other languages only and it stands on its own. I can almost see an imaginary tree in my brain that grows day by day with new stems and leaves and blooms like real trees in April in Bucharest! (Don’t call 911 informing them a crazy Georgian girl has an imaginary tree in her head, I am fine 😀 )
I cannot deny considerable similarities with English that increase plăcerea procesului educativ a lot! (English:Pleasure of educational process; see what I did there?) and I am glad that I still have to learn a lot and lots of pleasure is awaiting. One thing is for sure: From here it gets easier and easier which means more and more fun! By now, unintentionally I listen to strangers’ conversations in the streets, just simply because I can and it gives me pleasure to understand simple things. Not a very good habit, I guess, but oh well, I am a foreigner, it’s fine for me to be overly curious!