Sunday, November 4, 2007


Bucuresti (Bu-cah-resh-t-(ee) (slightly breathe the last i so no one but other Romanians can actually hear it.))

Just in case you thought that learning to speak Romanian was a lark, merely a matter of turning the French poisson, the Italian pesce, the Spanish pescado into the Romanian peşte (pesh-tay) (fish), or "crayon" (meaning pencil, not the burnt sienna of your yellow and green crayola pre-schooling days) into the Romanian creion, THINK AGAIN! In Romanian, the plural of crayon is creioane, a neuter noun. (Nothing personal. I like creioanes.)

A creion and the crayons, well, we have a bit of a hermaphroditic concern here because neuter nouns take the masculine definite article in the singular and the feminine in the plural: (Make up your damn minds!)

I'm really good at English, and I certainly don't remember having to learn nomnitave, and accusitive cases, much less indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative-conditional, and presumptive modes, and if I did, I've mercifully forgotten them. Haven't you? Anyway, back to the bi-genderal pencils.

Creionul in the singular. Creionele in the plural. I think. and if the creion happens to own something, then you could get to something like creionului. Or creionaeulelui. Or Creion-uh-loo-loo-looie-lor. Or maybe not. This is one tough lingo!

Once I've mastered THAT, I get to go on to conjugations, reflexives, subjunctives and those damnative cases:

So far I can, on my limited but well pronounced Romanian, get from my house to the office without getting arrested. Well, provided that I am in a taxi with a driver who got a C- or lower in English, or heaven forefend, took French in school. Taxi Romanian. Not bad for four months. Great if you're a Romanian four year old.

But this I must share. This is a page in, well, it looks like English, on conjugating Romanian verbs. It does not include exceptions. But be prepared. The following contains contamnative (I just made that up) phrases such as homonymous morphemes. (I didn't make that one up.) Continue at your own risk. Quit when your eyes get tired (I know I did.), Or, what the heck, just skim. (I know I did that too.):

4.1. Introduction to the verb
4.1.1. Basic information about verb and conjugation

Romanian verbs have different forms that show mood, tense, person, number, gender and voice:
- mood: five personal moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative-conditional, and presumptive) and four non-personal moods (infinitive, participle, gerund, supine). Most of these moods have two tenses (present and past); some have only one tense; one of them, the indicative, has eight tenses (one present tense, four past tenses and three future tenses) tense: present, past and future tenses. The tenses are of two basic kinds. There are simple tenses consisting of one word – the main verb stem plus different suffixes and endings. These include present indicative, imperfect indicative, simple perfect indicative, and pluperfect indicative. There are also compound tenses (consisting of different combinations of auxiliary elements and the infinitive or the past participle of the main verb) – compound perfect indicative, the futures of the indicative, past subjunctive, present and past optative-conditional, present and past presumptive, past infinitive

- person: 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the personal moods. There is also the possibility of combining the infinitive and the gerund (non-personal moods) with reflexive pronouns in different persons, which gives these non-personal moods a person-oriented usage

- number: singular and plural

- gender: masculine, feminine and neuter for the past participle in the passive voice, as well as for the gerund, when used as supplemental predicative element or attribute

- voice: active, passive and reflexive.

There is a large number of suffixes and endings, which form tenses and moods, persons and numbers, as well as a series of infixes (-ez-/-eaz-; -esc-/-eşt-; -ăsc-/-ăşt-) that appear in the 1st and 4th conjugations. There are homonymous morphemes in the system of the Romanian verb, which leads to the presence of relatively numerous grammatical homonyms and homographs within the verbal paradigm.

Some independent parts of speech become structural elements within certain verbal forms. The preposition a
functions as a particle that indicates the infinitive mood. The conjunction să is used as a morpheme to form the subjunctive, as well as the futures based on the subjunctive.

One of the distinctive features of the verbal conjugation is the presence of numerous auxiliary elements used to form compound tenses and moods: a avea to have (am cântat, am să cânt, aveam să cânt), a fi to be (a fi cântat, să fi cântat), a voi to want (voi cânta), other auxiliary elements (aş cânta, o să cânt, oi cânta). Some of the auxiliaries are used to build several verbal forms.

Within the conjugation numerous phonetic mutations (both vowel and consonant changes) occur. They are brought about by the new phonetic context created by inflective suffixes and endings in conjunction with the changing position of the stress.

Thank you, God, for letting me be born in the country most of the rest of the world had to do the above to learn how to speak their own language and I didn't. And, more importantly, than had to learn to speak MY language. Just so I could buy a pound of cheese or a cafea or grab a taxi here by myself.

And God bless, Alexandru, my teacher, who honestly believes, poor beleagured, and optimistic guy, that someday I'll actually be able to speak this Latinate, Dacian, Slavic, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek stew of a language. If I'm his best student, God, please especially bless all of his other students. And please grant us all the auto-insertion of a not-yet-invented Romanian microchip directly implanted into our confused, er, am confuselui brains. Or is that brainului confusi?

And by the way, all the people who tell you that if you know Italian, limba Romana (Row-muh-nuh) should be a piece of prajatura (cake) ARE WRONG! Italians pronounce all their vowels.

Words with three i's are entirely possible in Romaneste.

But why?

Or is that whiii?

And, by the way2, la in Romanian, like it sanely does in Spanish (la, le, il, etc in French and Italian) doesn't mean "the," It means to or at.

Noroc. (Good luck.)

Many wonderful people who live here speak this language like natives.

Oh, and just in case you want to learn this stuff for yourself, that reference is from here:

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Writer's Bloc by
Shelly Roberts is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Dascalescu Dan said...

I just can;t help myself...This is so funny!!!! I am Romanian, so I can understand all things you are saying and I have to agree. Romanian is one of the toughest languages there is. But rest assure, there are tougher. The things you mention here are thought in the first 4 classes in school, so that should make you 10 years old at least. I have studied English for 14 years now, not to mention extra classes, school plays and so on, so I have a fair grip on the language itself. You should be quite OK in something like 2-3 years tops! Good luck!

djonila said...

brainului confuz would be correct.
your blog is so funny, but please, can u make the postings shorter, i have to pretend i'm working from time to time. thanks.