Learning Romanian…in Japan?!
Posted On 17/05/2020
Kokoro and I decided to do something a little different for this week’s post. Since we’re always writing about our own thoughts, we thought we might have the other person take the spotlight instead.
And so, we ‘interviewed’ each other about our experience learning the other’s language. Of course, in my case, I asked her about Romanian since it’s pretty much my entire family’s mother tongue.
If you want to read about all the fun I’ve had studying Japanese, you can see Kokoro’s post here, but have no fear if you don’t speak Japanese! I’ll make sure to write about it myself in the future – it’s both a fun and maddening topic.
So, without further ado, let’s go!
Did you have any prior experience with Romanian before meeting me?
Honestly, just that one O-Zone song ‘Dragostea din tei’, which has a famous parody in Japan, but I had never even realized it was Romanian!
That’s not really surprising, I can’t think of too many reasons for people in Japan to come across Romanian. How about now though? After all that studying, would you say you’re still motivated to learn and why?
Yes, definitely, because my family-in-law speaks in Romanian. It’s nice to understand what they say and spy on your conversation.
Hmm, we should probably be more careful what we say about you then. What? Who said that? Anyway, what are some of the easiest and hardest things about learning Romanian that you’ve encountered?
That’s a tough question, because Romanian is such a different language from English and German [which she can speak]. The easiest is probably pronunciation. Everything is pronounced as you write it, so it’s pretty straight forward to read and speak.
Then again, there are so many words that combine ‘L’ and ‘R’ that it’s very hard for me to hear a difference since in Japanese they are virtually the same sound. ‘Valurile’ [the waves], ugh just look at that word.
But that’s not even the worst. Grammar. Grammar’s the worst. It’s very difficult since it’s unlike any European language I’ve ever come across.
You think that’s bad? Try learning three alphabet systems for Japanese. Err, well I guess you already did that. But jokes aside, I understand. I also think Romanian is a difficult language, it’s a mix of all Latin languages, but also some Slavic, Greek and Turkish influence – I would honestly have a hard time teaching it. Did anything else surprise you about the language as you were discovering new things?
Well, even though it’s so different from the languages I know, I could still find so many common words/expressions between say German, French and Romanian – like the word ‘fabrica’, ‘Fabrik’ in German, ‘fabrique’ in French [factory in English].
Also, it was nice to see that I could at least take some shortcuts when speaking and cut the pronouns from the sentences, like in Japanese.
Pause. Hm, but I think the most surprising is what you consider the ‘polite forms’. Grammatically, yes, I completely understand that there are polite pronouns and ways of addressing your elders or superiors, which don’t exist in English. But, when you guys speak…? It doesn’t sound polite at all, even when you use those words! There’s so much yelling and voice raising that if you don’t understand the language, you’d think everyone is fighting!
Laughs. Yes, we do tend to speak pretty loudly, but I think your answer is a bit biased because of your experience with my family. They’re all a very friendly and loud bunch, so they’ll talk very passionately amongst themselves, even to their elders – it’s a pretty normal thing I’d say. But if you talk to someone you barely know, or you just met, it’ll be a bit different – though I’m sure still very loud compared to what you’re used to in Japan.
This is actually conveniently tied to my last question: are there any other funny stories or things you’ve come across while you were learning?
I think the most obvious ones are ‘hai’ and ‘fac’. ‘Hai’ in Romanian means ‘let’s go’, which is pronounced the same as the English ‘hi’ and the Japanese ‘hai’, which means ‘yes’. ‘Fac’ however means ‘I do’ or ‘they do’ in Romanian, but it sounds like, well like that one English F-word. So I heard that word A LOT in Romania…
It’s also funny to me how fast you guys talk, with so many gestures and even your tone often sounds so upset, when in reality you’re just talking to your mom about lunch or some funny movie you watched.
Oh and, maybe this was just my textbook, but do strangers just randomly talk to you on the bus and ask you things like what your job is and other personal questions?
Laughs. Randomly talk to you on the bus, yeah probably it can happen; then again that can happen anywhere. But, no I don’t think that’s some stereotypical Romanian thing, just a strange scenario in a textbook.
Speaking of which, that’s probably the most surprising thing for me! I can’t believe you found a Romanian-Japanese textbook in Japan, with a complete audio course and everything. I am impressed, we really live in a global world.
Thanks for all the answers, you’re off the hook! Now it’s my turn to tell you all about how I first came across Japanese on Romanian TV in the 90s…well sort of…
Does it involve Dragon Ball?
… STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT ON THE NEXT EXCITING EPISODE OF DRAGON…