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Best resources for learning Romanian 10/02/2014

Posted by allthingsro in books, language.
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My fellow Romanian blogger Sam cel Roman has written entertainingly about learning Romanian and bemoaned the lack of resources. I’m nowhere near as proficient at Romanian as he is, but I have found that there’s a good supply of resources if you know where to look, not to mention a host of things to explore online if you get creative.

Print resources

Colloquial Romanian by Ramona Gönczöl and Dennis Deletant

Probably the gold standard, this is an excellent teach-yourself guide complete with audio CD. I don’t find it terribly colloquial though: it’s quite grammar-focused. For a long time I didn’t know how to say things like, “Could you please repeat that?” or “I didn’t understand what you just said”. George, who will be your companion through Colloquial Romanian, always understands first time.  But focusing on the grammar does pay off in the long run: even if it’s not strong on the transactional stuff (where is the bus stop? can I have a return ticket to Bucharest?), I was able to follow some conversations after one year of intensive learning with George and his friends in Colloquial Romanian.

Grammatical concepts, such as the dative case, aren’t explained in depth. If you’ve studied German or Russian (or another Slav language), you’ll probably find that you don’t need any further explanations of the case system. If not, you may need a grammar textbook to supplement this. A knowledge of Romance languages will help with the sequence of tenses – again these are introduced quite sketchily.

Order on Amazon.co.uk

Order on Amazon.com

Limba Română – Manual pentru studenţii străini by Brâncuş, Ionescu, Saramandu

Another terrific resource, this is a manual for foreign students studying Romanian in Romania. I’m not sure if it’s possible to purchase it outside Romania; it was even a little difficult to track down in Bucharest. Aside from a trilingual dictionary at the back (Romanian, French, English), all the explanations are in Romania, which, in my view, is excellent for learning. It proceeds at a steady pace. Like Colloquial Romanian, it’s a little grammar-heavy, and the exercises may get you down (old-fashioned grammar style drills abound). But its tables and diagrams are very clear. This would be a useful resource even for advanced learners who need to quick and clear references on grammatical points.

Order online from Bucharest University

Online dictionaries

http://www.dictionare.com/

This is a fantastic resource for beginners and intermediate learners: while it’s far from comprehensive, it’s very clearly presented with parts of speech well indicated.

http://www.dictionarromanenglez.ro/

I’m so glad that I came across this dictionary: it may not look like much, but it’s incredibly useful. I’d rate it one of the best bilingual Romanian-English dictionaries online. More comprehensive than dictionare.com, it suffers from being a little messy and unstructured (in that respect it’s similar to Leo for German<>English). For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. But for intermediate or advanced learners, it’s great for things like phrasal verbs and colloquial expressions.

http://dexonline.ro/

A monolingual Romanian site bringing together a host of Romanian dictionaries: a real asset for learners of all assets. Great for checking declinations of nouns and conjugations of verbs. It works well on mobile too.

http://vocabular.ro/

Similar to dexonline, a monolingual Romanian site that pools a number of Romanian dictionaries. The user interface isn’t as nice as dexonline, and very occasionally I’ve found that the server is down. It doesn’t seem to offer the same comprehensive noun declinations and conjugations of verbs as dexonline.

Online grammars

Romanian Grammar by Dana Cojocaru

A grammar of Romanian, written in English, this is an excellent reference. It’s not a language-learning course: if you are taking your first steps in Romanian, try Colloquial Romanian. The key strength of Cojocaru is its comprehensiveness: there’s an excellent explanation of when to use ‘pe’ and when to use the definite article, for instance. It suffers a bit from using “artificial sentences” to illustrate grammatical points (e.g. “I bent over to pick up a carnation”); a few more examples taken from literature or the press would make it a livelier read.

Limba romana contemporana by Adela Novac

A grammar of Romanian, written in Romanian. I haven’t tried it myself, as you have to pay to download it from Scribd.com, but you can read online or on a mobile device for free.

Fun stuff

http://www.versuri.ro/

Ok, ok, I admit it, this song lyrics website is not strictly speaking a language-learning resource, but singing along to a cheesy pop song is a great way to embed learning. I’d recommend pop/dance songs for beginners. Romanian hip hop is full of wordplay, in-references and swear words (which you may not find in a printed dictionary…). A word of warning: sometimes the transcriptions don’t use Romanian diacritics and may contain errors.

Twitter

Finding it difficult to make the time to study regularly on you own? Need a break from textbooks? Then try following Romanians on Twitter. You’re bound to be intrigued by new phrases; plus because people tweet like they speak, it’s a great way to learn colloquialisms and text-style abbreviations.

If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend following newspapers like @evz.ro or @Adevarul. Ladies might want to give @RevistaTabu a shot, although the magazine’s tweets are no way as interesting as its print articles.

If you’ve been learning for a while, then try the witty @danielapetrescu, a marketing professional and blogger.

Your suggestions

Have I forgotten something? Do you know a great resource for learning Romanian? Please share it in the comments below.

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Comments»

1. mirel - 20/03/2014

Hi there,
Glad to hear about your odyssey in learning Romanian – funny for the one watching (or reading your story). I teach Romanian in Beirut, and I have been using for a few years with great success “Puls Manual de limba romana, by Daniela Kohn – is the best user-friendly that I could find so far, a little bit similar to those Cambridge manuals for learning English – good luck!!

allthingsro - 20/03/2014

Hi Mirel,
Thanks for the tip. The Puls Manual is currently unavailable on Amazon.co.uk, but here’s a link http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/9734625969
I have to ask: is there a lot of demand for Romanian classes in Beirut?
My own Romanian-learning odyssey continues!

2. Ludditus (Béranger) (@ludditus) - 02/11/2014

http://www.dictionarromanenglez.ro sucks, try hallo.ro for a better one (not necessarily better than dictionare.com though).

allthingsro - 02/11/2014

Thanks, I’ll give hallo.ro a try. It has already enlightened me on one swear word.


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