Learning Romance: agreeing to differ…

I’ve been trying to get to grips recently with adjectives and plurals in Romanian especially, and Duolingo’s not doing the job for me, I’m afraid.

If you’re at all familiar with other Romance languages, you’ll remember that gender changes the adjectives that describe a particular noun. This rule of agreement applies both to Romanian adjectives and numbers. So, for example, the word for ‘two’, like the adjective ‘big’ is different depending on the noun’s gender. And Romanian has THREE genders to complicate matters.

It turns out that, in Romanian, many adjectives have different forms for masculine and feminine, both singular and plural. Neuter nouns, just to spread the love, behave like masculine nouns in the singular and in the plural they follow feminine rules.

Examples of these that might be useful in hospitality or tourism include the words for good, bun ; old (for places or things) vechi ; new, nou ; and beautiful, frumos. Each of these is just the m. sing, so there are two or even three other forms to learn.

Other adjectives simply have one singular and one plural form regardless of gender, the singular ending in e and the plural in i. Examples here…

Another thing this has brought to light, once I sought help elsewhere, is the fact adjectives ALSO change depending on whether the noun is the subject of the phrase, an object (that something is happening to), or if there’s some reference to possession of the object. Almost by accident I discovered why Duo keeps having sentences where X has something that’s being described, e.g. ‘the man has a strong donkey’… useful phrase as this may be.

The problem with Duolingo so far, then, is that it’s turning into rote learning, by repetition in other words, of stock combinations. Without giving me any idea of the rules, this means I’m having to work out the rules from the vocabulary offered by the app.

It’s a similar story with plurals, where I’ve found myself trying to reverse-engineer the rules according to the examples of words Duolingo is giving me.

So, I’ve resorted to the Internet, looking elsewhere for understanding and then using Duo as my practice buddy. This has gone some way to reduce the frustration I’ve been feeling with my slow progress. Is also helped when I’ve written down the general rules and exceptions that turn up, then exploring them on specialist websites for Romanian grammar. There’s a certain satisfaction when I’ve uncovered a new insight on my own but it’s a lot quicker when someone or something gives me the heads-up first!

Useful sites I’ve found and used so far for Romanian (remembering these are external sites so content isn’t under my control) include Clozemaster, a language learning blog, and MyLanguages.org , which seems a pretty comprehensive site for grammar and pronunciation. It helps to look at this sort of site before attempting DuoLingo exercises if you want to understand the rules not just learn by repetition. The combo works much better, and if you throw in apps like Romanian-English: Dictionary & Education by eflasoft (on Android) the example phrases and dictionary/translator help make sense of some of the grammar and differences in usage you might expect to come across in your chosen area, like hospitality or sport for example. The app’s not immediately intuitive when using the translator function but the icons at the bottom of the screen, or below an entry you select, reveal some useful functions: translate (rotating door icon); hearing pronunciation (megaphone); and copy and paste (overlapping pages). This last one is useful if making notes on the go or practising conversation with WhatsApp or other messaging apps with a native speaker.

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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