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January 15, 2015


My uTalk Romanian journey so far

Having a look at the uTalk challenge scoreboard in the EuroTalk office, it looks like I’m some way behind with my Romanian learning. But I haven’t give up yet! Here’s what I’ve learned so far about this language.

1. It’s a lot like Italian

This is very helpful for me, as I already understand a reasonable amount of Italian (even if it’s only from watching too many episodes of Inspector Montalbano…), so words like ‘la rivedere’ (goodbye, like the Italian arrivederci), ‘buna seara’ (good evening, like buona sera in Italian) and many colours and adjectives are very similar (‘urata’, ugly, sounds like the Italian word brutta, and many others like ‘plin’/pieno, ‘trist’/triste, ‘rapid’/rapido, ‘negrul’/nero or ‘verdele’/verde). Numbers are also very close to those in Spanish or Italian.

2. Sometimes you can make words just by adding ‘ul’ to the end

Ioana helpfully informs me that this is just the masculine ‘the’ (the feminine is ‘le’), but it still seems like a reliable strategy to guess words. After words such as ‘trenul’, ‘aeroportul’, ‘pasaportul’, ‘doctorul’ and my personal favourite ‘biscuitul’, I started guessing other words like ‘vinul’ (correct!) and ‘mapul’ (sadly incorrect), which occasionally works.


3. The speaking game is really fun and addictive, and probably the best way to learn

I don’t know about other people, but for me, producing the language is the key to remembering it. So, speaking or writing the language is key. Repeating the phrases and then using my own recordings to identify the pictures is weirdly fun and helps me to remember better than simple guessing of pictures in the easy or hard games, which encourage recognition but not reproduction. Of course the ultimate test is the recall game, where you have to remember and say the word or phrase yourself and then check it. These games can take a while to get 100% on, but are an excellent tool.

4. You have to learn to make some brand new sounds

Romanian has a few fun letters that we don’t have. ‘â’ (with a little hat) sounds like an ‘uh’, not an ‘a’ at all. So ‘Cât e ceasul?’ (what’s the time) isn’t pronounced how it looks to English speakers, but like ‘Cuht e chassul’, because the â is a different letter, and ce is a ‘ch’ sound like in Italian. It also has a funny ‘I’ which looks like this: î and sounds like another ‘uh’, which is difficult to describe. This sound is in words like ‘închis’ (closed) which sounds more like ‘unkees’. These sounds are pretty fun to pronounce if you ask me, and Ioana says I sound ok, which I put down to repeating after the native speakers in uTalk.

5. They invented crazy words for vegetables that make no sense!

Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but my knowledge of French, Spanish, Italian, English and German can’t help me when it comes to learning the names of vegetables that have names like ‘bamele’, ‘ardeiul’, ‘porombul’ and ‘varza’, which don’t relate to any language I know. They can’t even call zucchini zucchini: it’s actually ‘dovleceii’.

Somehow I don’t think I’m going to beat Nat in the uTalk challenge, but I’m having fun with Romanian anyway!


(Editor’s note: it turns out nobody could beat Nat, who completed the challenge in Icelandic a couple of days ago. She’s now considering which language to learn next – any suggestions?)


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