Learning Romanian

I am a language teacher by trade, and so naturally I am slightly obsessed with language learning. Once I committed to learning Romanian, I dove headfirst into its crazy world of gendered nouns and seemingly endless conjugations. Here are some things that have helped me:

First, downl20151214_202440oad this list of your “first 625 words” for your language. I used this as a starting place for acquiring vocabulary. I defined the words using google translate and then I made power point slides for the words using google images. Fluent Forever suggests that just the process of searching for images of a vocabulary word will help create schema for the concept.






I tend to agree because I learn quickly with visuals – not to mention I agree with the idea that it’s important to not just learn the word “Grandma” but to learn the concept for “Romanian grandma”. American grandmas are similar to Romanian grandmas, but there are some cultural differences you can see visually [google images bunica vs. grandma]

(Romanian Bunica vs. American Grandma)

Here are some other slides I’ve made to help me learn vocabulary – these are especially useful for concepts that are entirely visual, like color:


here’s another vocabulary word that has cultural implications:


…as you can see, my experience with dogs in Romania has really been more of the “pack of stray dogs” variety. I’ve been told that Romanian dogs are really meant more for house protection instead of what I have in America (basically a shih-tzu that hasn’t realized he’s not a human child).

                On the left – “fierce Romanian dogs” Bobby and Nora;

                        On the right – “Cujo” aka Nora [and Claudiu]

For me, the slides are the best way to go, but you can turn these into anything you want, like flashcards (PP gives you the option of printing several slides per page), or you can start with a flash card app like Anki to begin with. Try a few variations and see what helps you learn fastest – and if you discover something better, please let me know.

Learning Romanian

romanian-flag-photo-axente-ovidiu-sxc-hu-e1340195964171Ever since I knew I was going to be going to Romania, I knew I had to learn Romanian. I was planning on going for work purposes, and I knew I wouldn’t need to be fluent for the six weeks I would be there, but I knew I needed to learn how to be polite. The people of this country were going to graciously host me for six weeks and I wanted to be able to show them that I respected their culture and language (even though I knew very little about either to begin with) by learning how to say important things like please and thank you. I knew it would probably also be very handy to know  how to order in restaurants and ask for directions.

Thus, my lPimsleur-Romanian-9780743550536anguage journey with Romanian began. I started with Pimsleur. Now, let me tell you the sad truth – there are barely any resources on learning Romanian. A simple Amazon search will show you there’s only like five “programs” available, and none of those are very good or very long. Pimselur is really your best bet. You get thirty units and it’s very possible to do one unit during your daily commute. I did one lesson in the morning and then repeated it in the afternoon on the way home (for recall). I felt very confident that I could at least say the basic pleasantries (good day, please, thank you, you’re welcome) and the important phrases (I want to buy a decorated egg, where is strada eminescu? give me some polenta!). It’s a very affordable program on Amazon, but you may want to check with your local library first to see if they have any copies.

The downside to the Pimsleur program is that they really only teach you the formal way of speaking Romanian. This is actually really excellent if you’re going there on work and will be speaking a lot with strangers, but once you make friends it’s kind of awkward because you don’t know how to address them informally.

If you want to help the cause, here is the link to the Rosetta Stone “Request a Language” page. I really like Rosetta Stone, and I wish they offered anything in Romanian because I would buy it immediately.

I finished my Pimsleur course and I went on my trip. I realized very quickly that while being able to listen and speak is very important, I had forgotten a huge piece of the puzzle. I was completely illiterate in Romanian. Now, I am very literate in English. I love reading…and some of these skills do transfer. But there are some words in Romanian that do not look like they sound (cât, când, and mâine – I’m looking at you!).

To improve your reading skills, I suggest this book, First Romanian Reader for Beginners. It has side-by-side English/Romanian readings and introductory vocabulary for each lesson. My official language teacher suggestion is to actually make vocabulary cards (I prefer powerpoint slides that I load up with visuals from google images) and learn the vocabulary before you attempt each reading.

Other tips for starting to learn Romanian:



I’ve never heard anything in America like Subcarpati. I am so glad that I was introduced to this band, and I got to see them when I was in Vama Veche last summer. They take inspiration and direction from traditional Romanian music and songs and create music that connects the younger generations to their culture, something I wish modern American music artists would do. Can you imagine a hip-hop Appalachian ballad? I could.tumblr_nrzdutnIaa1uqbmz5o6_540

I love this song so much. For example, this song featuring Georgiana Manaila, “M-a facut muma frumoasa”


Basically, the song is talking about how her mother made her so beautiful that she isn’t allowed to fetch water because she might get stolen.

Here’s another one that I really love :