Tuesday, October 18, 2011

limba romana, for lack of a better title

Since we're on a language-related roll...

Last night those of us on the coordinating team for OSCPi (said something like ohs-che-pee) had a meeting on Skype, mostly to do with the budget and other related financial things. And I don't think I've ever done anything harder in Romanian. Add to the fact that you're discussing a topic which is already generally a stressful one and do it without being able to see the people and in not-your-language, and you surely have yourself a task. One in which you will become very agitated very quickly.

But this isn't to complain about the language or to bemoan the fact that I wasn't bam! fluent in two months. Rather, I've observed some surprising things happening with regard to it and its effects on my equal parts stimulated and turned-to-toast brain.

Since I've been in Pitesti it's been all Romanian all the time. Over the summer more of my work was with fund raising and conferences, most of the students being gone, so except for a few weeks at camp or at church, I spoke mostly in English. Three months of plateau. But then here, no more American family, no more English with the roommate. However, a curious thing happened in September at Formacion.

I always expected that when you finally get to the point where you can communicate only (or 90+%) in another language, after a full day or week of it, you'd have a strange relationship with your own language. By that I mean that there'd be some gap, some lack--I'm missing it completely. I thought it would feel different to be totally in another language in some way I'm failing to explain at the moment--imagine speaking yours and everything is green, but speaking theirs everything is red. But I realized it really doesn't. The thing is, for so long this language was (and barely) just in my head. It never made it to my heart. It felt removed, dry meaning filtered from significance in the deeper sense. And then suddenly it occurred to me that now that I can finally do it, being all in Romanian feels exactly the same as all in English. Which raises lots of questions to be asked and addressed later.

Anyway, since being here, it's like a switch has been flipped on--there are off days, for sure, stumbling through halty sentences, and bah! What's the word? Want to guess how many times I've said n-am inteles, ever :) ? But then there are good days, or rather, good parts of the day, and it feels like I get to participate in some dance I'd only been watching. Imagine an ensemble all dancing together, fluid and graceful, one big movement seen from above, and I get to be part of that, an arm or a leg of a body.

That said, for those who love to laugh, there's plenty cause. A few of many mistakes as of late:

--"Am scorat!" I wanted to say that I'd scored. Cat e scorul means 'what's the score,' so I figured, well if it's a cognate, borrowed, anything like that, it should go as the verb as well! Nope.
--Porumbel, porumb, porunca. Pigeon, corn and commandment and I never get them straight. You can imagine.
--When you meet somebody, the proper thing to say is imi pare bine which literally means 'it seems well to me' but is something like 'pleased to meet you.' Without thinking, Sarawr the Dinosaur said imi pare rau: 'it seems bad to me,' or basically I'm sorry.

The worst though has come from the lack of spoken English. If I'm by myself, I think out loud, and after spending a whole day only speaking Romanian, a strange thing happens to the way sentences are formed. Basically they keep their English structure for the most part. But I always substitute Romanian verbs (I would love to know why this happens). However, since we like to -ing everything (see what I did there?) (I'm doing homework, I'm eating eggs) instead and Romanians do homework and eat eggs, you get sentences like this: I'm fac-ing homework acum (I'm do-ing homework now). Except fac is pronounced something like fock, so you see the predicament.

And also, I've come to realize that if you learn these, used in abundance here, you can do practically anything: a face, a da, ma, to do, to give and something kind of like yo or man. We'll make a verb out of any noun (I'm vacuuming the living room), but here, if you just put a da in front of it, you're good (dau cu aspiratorul). And ma, well I don't know that it's quite as useful grammatically as the other two, but you do hear it every five seconds :)

Anyway, always an adventure.


  1. hahaha! I knew you would have a switch go off at some point! So good to hear it's finally gone off. Is the Sara who was feeling pretty frustrated with herself last spring warmed up a little bit to patience and practice? I KNOW I would be blown away if I were there to hear you talk with your students, now - I mean I already was a little bit on STIM, but now? God is good!

  2. oh julie :) you know, i thought of you, i thought, julie was right! i'd been wondering--that click, that audible noise, where was it? you are so encouraging, my friend. i miss you :) and, yes, he surely is.