Ever 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 language 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:
- Install the google translate application for Chrome and then dive into Romanian news websites to learn all about daily life and events in Romania (or if you’re not feeling brave enough yet, here is some news in English)
- Reddit has a pretty good subreddit for learning Romanian, you can post your questions in there and native speakers will help you.
- Listen to Romanian music – or watch lyric videos on youtube.