Learning Romance: getting to first base

Well it’s nearly February, and today is, in fact, ‘Brexit Day’ so I may be feeling a little preoccupied, even isolated, but I’ve realised how far I am from first base in the language of Romance – Italian and Romanian, that is, in case you’ve not been following!

This I think is going to be a ‘pivot point’ in my approach to learning Romanian especially. Progress with the Duolingo app is frustratingly slow so I’m at the stage I need more materials. The reason is that although the app can be fun (…ish) and certainly the competitive element and reminders help to motivate me, I’m only slowly getting an idea of the basics. So I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to find resource son the web, on top of the ‘basics’ bits at the back of my phrase books, to understand … well … the basics: How nouns actually work in terms of gender and number to start with, not just led by the app’s vocabulary and phrases; articles (i’e ‘the’ and ‘a’ in English) and how they affect the shape of a word (it turns out ‘the’ goes on the end of a word in Romanian, when I’d thought it just didn’t exist).

From these basic principles I can then look to focus on useful vocabulary in my own field of the ‘experience industries’ – sport, hospitality and university contexts where I see most application for myself, then tourism and events. Then I can move on to understanding how verbs work – it turns out that like Latin, Italian and Russian, they conjugate. So I need to see what I need to learn and then what I can leave for further down the line. Then more application to context.

Having started off in this direction recently, I’m already finding the work on Duolingo makes more sense. I’ve downloaded two more apps to my Android phone: a Romanian -English Dictionary (by eflasoft) offering much more than translation, and an Italian-Romanian dictionary (by AllDict) to help with comparison. The first is the most useful so far because it allows me to browse and has phrases and translation functions, so this is helping me get to grips with the vocabulary I want to learn and use. Frankly, there’s only so much talking about animals and food items I can take, and Duo still hasn’t let me move on to things like rules for plurals, adjectives, articles and infinitives.

So hopefully this means I can start ‘blogging with confidence’ a bit more about what I’m learning, and offer you some different insights too. In the meantime, if you’re interested in languages and how they fit together I can recommend tracking down lectures and podcasts by American John McWhorter like Lexicon Valley (especially on the Romance Languages, May 2019) or his audio series on Language Families (The Great Courses) that you’ll find on Audible.

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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