The Romanian language is a Latin-based language that really mystifies people. Geographically, it's relatively isolated compared to the other descendants of Latin, which are all grouped in the area around the Mediterranean Sea. (Originally).
This means that Romanian has had a quite different history since it started moving away from the "Vulgar Latin" spoken in the Roman Empire. Romanian has been influenced by Hungarian, Turkish, Slavic, and Germanic languages in addition to the Latin languages from which it came. Some even mistakenly assume that Romanian is a Slavic language itself.
One reason for this is that Romanian, when spoken, has a certain "Slavic" sound to it. In this article, I'll have a closer look at Romanian and how its sound is commonly perceived.
What does Romanian sound like?
The Romanian language sounds a lot like a language like Italian in terms of melody, pronunciation, and individual words, but it's also got a strong Slavic influence which is reflected in some of the sounds of the language. This leads many to think that Romanian is a Slavic language, which it isn't.
But before I go any further trying to describe the language, listen to the video below:
Italian, But Spoken By A Serb
To describe what any language sounds like would obviously be very subjective. Romanian is definitely no exception, but most people seem to agree that the Romanian language sounds like a language derived from Latin, but spoken with a Slavic accent.
While people compare Romanian to a lot of different "Romance" languages (such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese) the connection that comes up the most is Italian.
And Romanian and Italian are close. The pronunciation, the melody, and the vocabulary is very much alike. Some say that Italian and Romanian share 77% of their vocabulary, which is quite a bit!
There's no denying the Slavic influences on Romanian, though. While the Romanians have gone through language reforms to try and distance themselves from the Slavic influences in their history, loan-words from the surrounding, Slavic-speaking countries, as well as Russian, still shine through, even in common words such as "yes" (da).
And the Romanian pronunciation also seems to cling to its Slavic sounding fricatives and its "L" pronounced from the back of the mouth.
People can't seem to agree, however, exactly which Latin language and which Slavic language remind them of Romanian the most.
While many mention Italian, others bring up Catalan, especially for its tendency to end words with a consonant, which is a feature it shares with Romanian.
Others compare Romanian to Portuguese, which is another Romance language that has a reputation for "sounding Russian".
The "Slavic" Touch
People also can't seem to agree on what Slavic language Romanian reminds them of.
While many people speak of "Russian" this might simply act as a "default" Slavic language to people who don't know the difference between the East, West, and South-Slavic languages.
Others mention Polish, saying that Romanian sounds like a Pole having successfully learned Latin! This might speak to the melodic qualities of Romanian since Polish has a very elegant and colorful sound to it.
Then there are people who compare it to Serbian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Slovenian, or other South-Slavic languages.
Not to mention Hungarian, Albanian and Turkish which are neither Romance, nor Slavic languages!
The "Slavic sound" of Romanian also seems to differ, depending on the regions in which it is spoken. The Southern dialects of Romanian, generally seem to have a "softer" more rounded sound to them, whereas the Northern dialects, especially the one spoken in Moldova, has a strong Slavic touch.
This is also reflected in terms of foreign language proficiency in Romania and Moldova. While Russian is very uncommon in Romania today, Moldova does have quite a few Russian speakers.
Conclusion: What Does Romanian Sound Like?
There's no way to correctly describe what Romanian sounds like. It sounds like Romanian more than anything else.
If I were to try to describe it to someone who hadn't got the possibility to listen to a recording, I'd probably say that it sounds like the Italian language, spoken with a Slavic accent.
The Romanian language is melodic, colorful, and just as charming as its cousin-languages in the Romance group of languages. Yet it is one of the lesser-studied Latin languages,
That's a shame!
If you're interested in learning Romanian, I suggest that you go and have a look at my guide to self-studying it: