People often ask us how we think Romanian sounds to somebody that hears it for the first time. As Romanians, we can only imagine how that feels like, but when we combine our knowledge about our mother tongue and our feeling when we hear a new language, different from ours, we can come close to the feeling foreigners have when they hear Romanian for the first time.
When it comes to people who are familiar with the other Latin languages, when they hear about Romanian, they automatically think that it sounds very similar to one of them. That’s because Romanian belongs to the Romance languages. As you probably know, the major Romance languages are Italian French, Spanish, Portugues, and, of course, Romanian. So that could be a reason why Romanian sounds so familiar to you.
Also, this is why the majority of the people who hear it for the first time after thinking about it in this way are very surprised. Instead of the very romantic and easy-flowing language they expect, they are faced with a sensual and mysterious kind of Latin language. A unique sound in the family of Romance languages, that is irresistible once you become familiar with it.
The unique part of the Romanian language is, as we said in some other of our articles, the Slavic influence. This occurs in a lot of aspects of Romanian, from grammar to vocabulary (even if most of the Slavic words were replaced with Latin, Italian, and French ones, there are still approximately 11% of them in today’s Romanian vocabulary) and most importantly, pronunciation.
There are a few things you need to know about the Slavic influence. This influence left its mark on the Romanian language and is noticeable in lexis, syntax, morphology, and phonetics. Some Slavic words that survived and become part of the everyday Romanian vocabulary are nevastă (wife), rai (heaven), gât (neck), prost (stupid), proud (mândru), and many others. The phonology was marked too; for example, you should know that the letter h did not exist in the Romanian language before, but Slavic words like spirit (duh) included it.
Besides that, most Romanian words are similar in writing and meaning to words in Italian or French, but they are pronounced completely differently. This is something that makes most people surprised when they first hear Romanian: although they can see that in writing the words are similar, if they could only hear them, they wouldn’t know what they mean. Especially when they come across a difficult Romanian dialect.
P.S. The dialects refer to some regional varieties of the Romanian language. The linguists consider that Romanian has 4 dialects: Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian. If you travel to Romania and cross its cities, you will notice how the way the locals speak changes. Some words will seem downright foreign to you and it’s as if everything you learned in online Romanian courses doesn’t fit.
You will realize that the difference consists, mainly, in the way of pronunciation. If you are not sure about what it been said to you, you can ask your interlocutor to repeat or to speak a little slower. so you can recognize the words you have already learned or heard.
What’s even more confusing is when foreigners come across words that look the same, but they are pronounced, and they mean different things.
For example, we have the nouns ‘’carte’’ in Romanian and ‘’carte’’ in French. Not only do they sound different, but they mean completely different things: “carte” in Romanian means “book”, while “carte” in French means “map”. Some cases can be met, and we understand that it can be frustrating and hard at first for someone that doesn’t know anything about the Romanian language.
No matter how close we think we are to what foreigners feel when they first listen to Romanian, we still base our thoughts on imagination. But, from the people we talked to, Romanian sounds extremely rich and beautiful when you first hear it, even if it’s scary. It has a powerful tone and a melodious flow of words that can make you want to listen to it for hours.
Also, remember that every word in the Romanian language carries with it the history of this people. Did you know that Romania has a history full of adventures, brave leaders, hidden treasures, and many other countries that wanted to conquer them? Well, it wouldn’t hurt to read something about this country. in addition to grammar rules, basic words, and pronunciation, in the online Romanian language courses we will also address such topics.
Some words about Romanian Phonology
The easiest way to find out how the Romanian language sounds are to listen to it. Therefore, we will present you some aspects of phonology such as special letters, vowels, and consonants, elements that make the Romanian language sound so unique.
Romanian special letters – diacritics
At first look, the Romanian alphabet is that hard to learn. At least, not as complicated as the Arabic or Greek ones! The 31 letters are pretty similar to the Latin Alphabet. Although, you need to know that the Romanian alphabet has some special characters known as diacritics. These letters are very important in writing, and especially in pronunciation because they make the words sound different when they are used.
Ă, ă – a with a brave (/ə/)
Â, â – a with a circumflex (/ɨ/)
Î, î – i with circumflex (/ɨ/)
Ș, ș – s with comma (/ʃ/)
Ț, ț – t with comma (/t͡s/)
The Romanian language has some interesting ways of pronouncing vowels. A, e, I, o, u, ă, and î, â. Â and î are the same sound, but â is used inside the word, and not at the beginning or at the end. on the other hand, î is used only at the beginning and end of the word.
A – [a] (apă – water)
E – [e] (elev – pupil)
I – [i] (insula – island)
O – /o/ (copil – child)
U – /u/ (simplu – simple)
Ă – [ə] (fără – without)
Î – /ɨ/ (omorî – to kill)
Most of the Romanian language vowels are pretty similar or identical to other languages. there are some differences, especially when it comes to special letters like semivowels, but these are more fine things that connoisseurs know. If you are interested, we will cover these topics in the online courses.
Every language has combinations of sounds, vowels, and consonants. If we saw the Romanian vowels, it is time to look at the consonants too. Romanian has plenty of these! Below, you can find some of them, the simple ones.
P – [p] (pat – bed)
B – [b] (bunic – grandpa)
T – [t] (tata – father)
D – [d] (Dunăre – Danube)
C – [k] (cal – horse)
G – [ɡ] (gol – empty)
F – [f] (făină – flour)
V – [v] (mov – purple)
S – [s] (sare – salt)
Z – [z] (roz – pink)
Ș – [ʃ] (așa – like this)
J – [ʒ] (ajutor – help)
H – [h] (haină – cloth)
M – [m] (măr – apple)
N – [n] (fain – nice)
L – [l] (lung – long)
R – [r] (rar – rare)
These are some of the Romanian consonants. There are 19 in total and they’re pretty similar to the Italian ones. Also, there are some consonants that have allophones which make the Romanian language quite difficult to pronounce, but it is nothing that you cannot learn with a good teacher and passion.
Read more about: Romanian language is a beautiful language
As you can see, there are a few things that you need to learn when it comes to the Romanian language. In order to find out how Romanian sounds for those who are not familiar with it, you need to understand its pronunciation. We hope that our article will be like a guide and it will help you to make an idea about the sound of Romanian. Also, don’t forget that, in order to get better at this chapter, you have to practice out loud! This can be a real challenge – you can feel intimidated, and unsure of how to pronounce groups of letters and words. If you think about accents, you can get scared! Don’t worry – practice, read, and say words even if you are a beginner! The words will become more and more familiar, you will feel more confident and you will start to understand the words in Romanian when you hear them.
Even if it’s hard to get accommodate it at first, you soon find yourself getting lost in this beautiful and unique language. And we can help you to get through the fear of learning a new language; our Romanian online lessons can make things easier for you and our teacher will explain everything you do not understand. Also, if you want to sign in for group lessons, you will find a community of Romanian lovers; it will be easier to learn everything you need to know about this language, the Romanian country, and its culture. we are waiting for you to join us!
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