This post may contain affiliate links, which means that when you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

The easier and the harder aspects of learning Romanian

Romanian is one of the five major Romance languages that evolved from Latin —the four others are Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. Not everyone knows this, so Romanian is sometimes called “the forgotten Romance language”.

The perception of Romanian as a hard-to-learn language is likely due to Romania’s location in Eastern Europe, where neighboring countries speak rather challenging languages, including Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Ukrainian.

Romanian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn

The difficulty of learning a foreign language depends on the differences between that language and one’s native language. Learning Romanian may be difficult for a Japanese or Chinese speaker, but for an English speaker, it is not.

The U.S. Foreign Service Institute rates languages in four categories based on their learning difficulty for English speakers:

Category Languages
1) easiest languages Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, Norwegian, Dutch, ...
2) German, Indonesian, ...
3) hard languages Bulgarian, Czech, Thai, Russian, Finnish, ...
4) very hard languages Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, ...

The FSI estimates that reaching “general professional proficiency” in Romanian requires 24 weeks of full-time study. The same study duration applies to Italian, Dutch, and Norwegian, while Spanish and French take slightly longer, at 30 weeks each.

So, Romanian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

There are fewer resources for learning Romanian than some of the other Romance languages, like Spanish and French —but Romanian is one of the languages available in the Pimsleur Language Program.

Romanian and English have some similar vocabulary words

If you look at the 1000 most common Romanian words, you will notice that quite a few resemble their English translations. Here are some examples:

Romanian English
pagină page
muzică music
calitate quality
serviciu service
rezultat result
decizie decision
exemplu example
adresă address
artă art
republică republic
natură nature
teritoriu territory

Learning Romanian is made easier by the many similar vocabulary words between Romanian and English. Most of these pairs of similar words are cognates, meaning they have a common origin —in most cases, a Latin word.

Romanian vocabulary, to a large extent, comes from Latin because the Romanian language evolved from Latin. Although English didn’t evolve from Latin —it is a Germanic language— many English words do come from Latin.

Many Latin-derived words in English come from the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when Old Norman (a French dialect) became used by the Anglo-Norman government in England, resulting in an influx of Latin-derived French words.

Romanian has only a small fraction of Slavic vocabulary words

Romanian does have some vocabulary words that come from Slavic languages because Romania is in Eastern Europe, where many of its neighbors use Slavic languages (this is the case of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Ukraine).

But words of Slavic origin account for only about 12% of the total vocabulary terms used in Romanian. So that does not add too much extra difficulty for those learning the language. Here are some examples of such terms:

Romanian English
da yes
prieten friend
bogat rich
morcov carrot
scump expensive
dovadă proof

Extra points

The alphabet

Romanian uses a variant of the same Latin alphabet used in English. Romanian has an extra five letters (ă, â, î, ș, and ț) in addition to the 26 letters used in English, which brings the total to 31 letters.

The use of the Latin alphabet makes Romanian easier to learn as it does not require memorizing an entirely new alphabet, in the way that Russian, Thai, or Hebrew does.

Romanian is a phonetic language

Romanian is a phonetic language as the spelling of words closely matches their pronunciation. This contributes to making Romanian easy to learn.

English and French, in contrast, are less phonetic because many words have silent letters, and different letter combinations can produce the same sound.

The grammar

Not everything about learning Romanian is easy. The language has three grammatical genders (like Latin) and noun case declensions (again like Latin). Those who know some Latin will have an easier time learning Romanian.

  1. [1] U.S. Foreign Service Institute language difficulty ratings