Christopher's Reviews > Teach Yourself Romanian Complete Course

Teach Yourself Romanian Complete Course by Dennis Deletant
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Aug 09, 07

Read in April, 2004

I first visited Romania to hear the speech of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, but quickly became fascinated with the Romanian language. There are few options for English speakers to learn Romanian, but in exploring three of them I found Dennis Deletant and Yvonne Alexandrescu’s Teach Yourself to be the best value and pretty effective, as after merely a year of very casual study I could live comfortably in Cluj and interact with the locals without fear.

This course is very soundly based on what you will actually hear in the street. Colloquial forms are taught well before their written-language equivalents, such as the future tense in "o sa..." and the ending -spe for numbers 11-19. This is the book to get if you intend on arriving in Romania very soon and don't plan on reading literature for a while yet. After new grammatical forms are introduced, the authors provide a lot of repetition to let the new information sink in. The back of the book contains a helpful list of verbs fully conjugated in the present indicative along with their principal parts. The dialogues are usually amusing and interesting, and the book is full of cultural notes explaining the complicated history of that part of Europe, although their descriptions of modern Romania are already behind the times. Cassettes can be obtained with the book. They seem helpful though I have rarely used them since I am generally surrounded by Romanian speakers.

There are a few drawbacks to the book. The author strangely thinks that Romanian does not have stress. In fact, he says Romanians emphasise each syllable of a word evenly, when they simply don't. As a result, the stress of vocabulary is not indicated, except in the table of verbs in an appendix. One must therefore invest in a good dictionary that marks stress. These are usually cheap, try Suteu and Sosa's DICTIONAR ORTOGRAFIC AL LIMBII ROMANE which doesn't give definitions but marks stress and tells how a given noun forms its plural.

Another failing is that the construction of the genitive and when to use "al/a" is left very vague, and students would do well to ask a native speaker about this facet of the language. There are some typos as well, but not more than in the usual Teach Yourself publication. One rather odd aspect of the book is the negative tone of some many example sentences. Illustrating grammatical points with bits like "There were more than 2000 corpses there", "The eggs in the market are never fresh", "No matter how much you try you won't succeed", and "He was as stupid as he was ugly" gives a rather morbid tone to the book. And of course there's a slanderous dialogue in chapter seven that will make the student think Romania is a third-world country where all hotels are falling apart.

I should mention that in addition to this book one should obtain a reference grammar. If you read Spanish, the work Esquemas del rumano published by the Centro de Linguistica Aplicada "Atena", Madrid is cheap and quite portable. A real dictionary will be useful too, since the glossary here doesn't even include all words used in the book; try anything published by Theora. And, of course, the key to learning Romanian is frequent interaction with its speakers, so practise, practise, practise. But though you will need additional resources, obtaining Teach Yourself Romanian is a good first step towards this fascinating Romance language.
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