So… Do we stand a chance with Romanian? We are optimistic 🙂
While in Moldova, we will be learning and speaking Romanian. Romanian is spoken in Romania and Moldova, as well as some regions in the Ukraine and Serbia.
One is often told that learning another language will be very helpful in relating to the local community. Locals will respect a foreigner more when a strong effort is made to communicate in the local language. We knew and felt that when we were Peace Corps volunteers once out in our communities in Tanzania in the mid 90s. Now, going into training, we really feel and believe this sentiment. With the previous experience in the rear view mirror, it is more than an abstract ideal or good piece of advice, but rather something which we very much believe and understand to be essential to our effectiveness, and a big contributor to our happiness while living in a foreign land.
Romanian will be Allison’s 4th language (having previously studied and lived in places that speak German, Swahili, and Spanish). For Brian, it will be his third (Swahili and Spanish).
Recently, we came across an article that ranked the difficulty of acquisition for various languages when English is your native tongue. Surprisingly, German and Swahili were ranked as some of the most difficult for an English speaker to learn, allegedly requiring significantly more instruction hours to reach a similar level of fluency in French, Spanish, Italian or Romanian. This surprised us a bit as we look back on Swahili. In many ways, it seems like a near perfectly constructed language. Especially when considering the multitude of verb tenses in Spanish.
At any rate, we both feel that our recent study of Spanish while living in Mexico will be one of our biggest advantages as we begin to learn Romanian. The two languages are part of the same family of languages (Romance). It appears that we can think about the various verb conjugation patterns in a similar way, and there are some cognates between the two languages as well.
There is no Rosette Stone or Duolingo for Romanian (we highly recommend Duolingo when available for the language you are studying), so to give ourselves a bit of a head start, we have done the following:
– Using painter’s tape and a sharpie, we have labeled various objects in the house (bathroom, bedroom, sink, mirror, etc) as well as a some words in the car (gas, heater, left, right, straight).
– Found a list of the top 70 used words in Romanian and use the flashcard program Quizlet to start helping recall in our brains.
– Laid out the basics of the four major ways of conjugation of the different types of verbs.
– Picked out some likely foods that we will eat, to begin forcing some mental recall using Quizlet.
– Listened to some audio lessons that Peace Corps has provided us.
We both find ourselves wanting to see the language. While we know that being able to speak Romanian is substantially more helpful than having proficiency in reading/writing, we both strongly contend that our recall is much better if we can write the word and see the word. For that reason, we have been making lists of words and putting them in our pocket for the day. This way we can glance at the words every few hours in hopes of it sinking in (and staying) in our brains.
Going into training, we are armed with the knowledge of Peace Corps’ strong language training program. They hire local professional language trainers that stay with the group throughout training. In Tanzania, the language trainers were with us six days a week. We’d have the mornings with them working on Swahili, and socialize with them, playing hacky sack (this WAS the 90s 🙂 ) and eating lunch with them. Looking back, it was pretty effective. Out in our villages or traveling, it was pretty clear that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) were the among the best prepared to speak Swahili compared with other aid workers and expats in the country. This was a bit of a thing of pride among PCVs.
We will also stay with host families, which should benefit our language acquisition greatly, provided we are practicing daily with them at home. Even if someone in the host family house speaks some English, it will be important for us to us to keep things in Romanian as much as we can.
Learning Romanian is something that we both anticipate with excitement. We look forward to seeing our brains do magic and begin to hear and understand something that was gibberish just months before.