Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. März 2006

14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context
Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Anca Irinel Teleoacă ( "Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Languages and Education in Romania. Past and Present

Anca Irinel Teleoacă ("Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania)


The present paper is about the ways and means the Romanian language has drastically changed from a well-known wooden language before the communist times to a dynamic, fresh and new language reinvigorated by its users’ openness, ingenuity and eagerness to change everything in their lives especially, the main tool they have been communicating under the agonizing period of propaganda and censorship. The study also needs to reflect diachronically upon other linguistic influences on the Romanian language just to give good reason for the appearance of so many non-lexicalised concepts from different domains that have been or will be naturalized in our mother-tongue, at least some of them.


The geographical position of Romania has resulted in significant Slavonic (10% of the words in modern Romanian are Slavic - e.g. da for yes, a iubi for to love, bogat for rich, leb ădă for swan - attested by many Romanian scholars starting from Sextil Pu ş cariu, Ovid Desunşianu, E. Petrovici, I. P ătruţ , , Turkish (cafea for coffee, papuc for slipper), Hungarian and Greek influence (nostim for funny, politicos for polite, prosop for towel, anapoda for tupsy-turvy) to which major French influence (i.e. 38% of the number of words in Romanian are of French or Italian origin) can be added in the nineteenth and early twentieth century (birou < bureau for ‘desk’; creion < crayon for ‘pencil’; conştiinţă < conn aissance for ‘conscious’; (it.) secol for ‘century’, lege for ‘law’, a.s.o) and, in the present day, the influence of English. Recently, an increasing number of English words have been borrowed (such as: interviu < interview; meci < match; manager < manager, mobil < mobile, and many others to be discussed later in the paper).

English is now by far the most used language by especially the younger generation, while French remained the language of our grandparents spoken in the mid 1930s when Bucharest was called little Paris due to a strong influence of French on our culture.

In most cases, the issue here is not about losing our mother-tongue but it is the frustration of losing the elegancy of the French influence on our mother-tongue and implicitly the fancy manners of saying ‘bonjour’ and ‘merci’, influence that has been present for more than a century or so in Romania.

We have to admit and, at the same time, to acknowledge the fact that we are no longer living in an elegant society with elegant behaviour and elegant manners for a long time. Before 1989, during the Ceau ş escu’s totalitarianism - well-known in our history as the ‘gold epoch’ - we have preserved the French language in our schools just to remind us of the bygone period of prosperity and welfare and to oppose the Russian language which was seen as the communist instrument of oppression. Each and every kid in the Romanian Educational system was obliged to learn Russian but, fortunately, there was the ‘healing’ option of studying French against the Slavic influence, and relying on our Latin origins, despite the fact that our geographical universe is Eastern Europe and not Western as many may consider. The communist educational system had its fortunate flaws since it could not control the whole country and there existed a few schools and high-schools with French and English in their curricula. In their free time, not too many kids could have fun with the ‘Pif’ magazine, probably the only French magazine to be bought from the newspaper boutique at that time. Without any doubt, French had had an enormous influence over the Romanian culture, because it had succeeded in acquiring the status of a lingua franca after the Great French Revolution and it had permeated all domains of activity, especially literature and culture all over Europe. However, we should not forget that the exaggerated use of French neologisms had been mocked at by our greatest playwright I. L. Caragiale in his plays and many other Romanian scholars, like M. Kog ălniceanu , V. Alecsandri, C. Negruzzi, due to the French direct sway over the 19 th century population and its way of communicating; many lexical items like, amurez (< amourez, lover), ivoriu (ivory), musiu (< monsieur, mister), uvraj (< ouvrage, a piece of literary or scientific writing), a ambeta (get drunk) were in wide use, but soon they vanished as they came. Yet this European language so pleasing to the ear, associated with freedom, could not survive under the communist era of terror, violence, ignorance of human rights, and the adoption of a ‘wooden’ language. Words like burghezie < bourgeois and negustor (merchant) ceased to exist actively due to the seizure of goods, lands and properties under the communist regime and those who did not wish to comply with the new oppressive rules were put into prison. And too few broke out.

Meanwhile, English has stood back like a volcano which eagerly awaits for its time to come. And the time of English has indeed come with the ‘1989’ Revolution, and French was replaced by a new and fresh language which is not so much British English, but more like American; it’s not 100 per cent European but more like a European blend with the American Continent. There rose voices in our Parliament against this linguistic influence, voices that were and still are unable to understand the reasons that lie behind the growing influence of the American English on our way of borrowing, adopting, perceiving and understanding it. Some scholars have become concerned with the fact that the words ‘management’ and, especially, ‘manager’ which has a target equivalent in director, are used as such in our language. More than that, manager incorrectly takes the Romanian definite article and it is assigned a grammatical gender; thus "the manager" is managerul (masculine) or managera (feminine). My own belief is that Romanians cannot forget and, more than ever, must not simply wipe out their suffering in the recent past. The word ‘director’ was one of the main instruments of oppression under Ceau ş escu, because all directors were communists; no one holding an official position could escape from possessing the ‘red party card’ and acting accordingly. However, we still have and use ‘director’ in domains like education (school director), culture (museum director) and health system (hospital director). More recently, there is a tendency to introduce the concept of manager in all domains where money is involved; consequently, the ‘director’ might disappear even in the above domains. However, the word has been moved - we may say it has been adapted from the English directory - to the world of computers, and it is preserved as director with a minor adjustment on the phonological level: the stress has been moved from the first syllable to the third syllable: [di-rek-‘tor]. Similar to the word ‘manager’ is ‘supervisor’, also used as such in our language and it is also preferred to the dusty ‘director’. The same we adopted the English word leader (> ro. lider) and eliminated the communist words conduc ător (= leader) and tovarăş/ă(1) due to their negative connotations before 1989. Therefore, despite the fact that there are many political parties in the Romanian Parliament, we do not use conduc ător de partid (= leader of the party) as our nation used to ‘cheer’ once but preşe dinte de partid (= president of the party).

To conclude, we have opened the doors of a world that we could only imagine and dream of before 1989. There are so many things unsaid, things like:

  1. For almost a half of century the Romanians have been waiting for the Americans to come and save them from the German and the Russian enemies of their past. And they didn’t come because we had had our political choices and had acted accordingly.
  2. During the Ceau ş escu’s dictatorship, Romanians listened to the ‘Voice of America’ news and too few could read ‘Time Magazine’ or ‘Paris Match’ to find out the truth and the real socio-political events throughout the world.
  3. In the communist period, the National Television (known as TVR - Romanian Television) used to broadcast, for three hours shows, cartoons and movies from countries with which we had economic relations of ‘friendship’, like Russia, of course, France, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Cuba, etc. and too few American or English movies, shows or Disney cartoons. In 1989, Romanians were fed up with all these and decided to put an end even to the Romanian movies which had propagated the communist ‘values’ and lies about the Romanian ‘wonderful life and the glorious leader’ who ‘was striving to fight against’ the ‘treacherous’ capitalist countries at the time. Consequently, Romanians turned their back to the National Television and set up new TV channels like, Antenna 1, Pro TV, Prima that had bought anything as long as it did not remind us of the dark period. In my opinion, the Romanian mass-media have started the evolutionary democratic process in our country and made major contributions to the educational development in Romania. One prominent example would be the birth of Pro TV (it’s been ten years now) that by its name and logo ‘be PRO’ has initiated the unprecedented integration of the Romanian audience to feel and act as democratic civilians in a democratic society, because the concept of ‘pro’ newly introduced in our socio-political and educational life (in 1994) is one of the first democratic values fought for in December 1989, because it implies the existence of polemics and debates about important issues, whether agreed or not by people. On the other hand, teenagers watching too much television programs, movies and cartoon channels like Cartoonetwork (which were not translated at the beginning) in the American language have unconsciously adopted concepts and words expressing the concepts they loved, like: the vogue word ‘cool’ and the expression ‘be cool’, the words fan as in ‘fan club’, ‘music fan’, etc. the development of media has brought to us numerous English words that we are still using as such, like: show (in "Teo Show", showbiz, TV show, etc.), star (Pop Star), cameraman, DJ (disk-jockey), playback, rating, thriller, hit, videoclip, mass-media, top (top star, Top Ten), spot (TV spot), etc.
  4. After the 1960 up to now, the US has undergone a great technological revolution: the invention of the Internet as a further development of the computer and its power to revolutionize the communications world like nothing before. Since the Internet has been created to solve the global communication problem in the American Military Defense System, the researchers have seen its potential beyond the military issues and have ‘thrown’ it open to the market. Consequently, it has evolved almost instantly as a world-wide broadcasting facility, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for their geographic location. The computers have changed the Romanian way of perceiving and understanding the technological world, and everything that was connected to new concepts like hardware and software was taught and learned in the Romanian educational system. The World Wide Web itself came into existence in 1990-1991. And yet, the Internet has been brought to us not earlier than 1996-1997 and has been popular ever since.
  5. Given the recent integration into NATO and the imminent accession of Romania to the European Union, the Romanian language is under the influence of English more than ever, thanks to the increasing number of commercial, business and professional connections established between Romania and the international community and due to a large number of foreign investors who decided to set up their business here. With countless debates and dialogues about our integration, and with numerous European supervisors at our national polls, with our European Observers (several Romanian Parliamentarians) in the European Parliament dealing, on the one hand, with what this institution means and what are the procedures it applies, and on the other, lobbying for Romania to become an active participant of this process of the European Union, we have become the child of Europe, and Europe is our mother. And we must not forget about one of the most important European Union initiators, which is the United Kingdom, and to which we owe the language spoken everywhere when it comes to elaborate ideas about the EU. Therefore, it is natural to think that Romanian is facing a rapidly changing linguistic facet and turns to English in the 3 rd Millennium, which is in the privileged position of a lingua franca, because the British and the Americans shake hands to deliver an efficient communication system about capitalism to a mass international audience, especially to the former communist countries, by means of two major international and economic concepts: the concept of globalization that has much to do with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, on the one hand, and the Internet on the other. Changes have been felt on the Labour Market due to the development of economy, too. Romanians are facing the reality of new jobs and new position in the European context. New jobs names have crossed the Romanian borders and few of them found new equivalents in our language. We are dealing now with salesman (agent de v ânzări), sales manager, assistant manager (= secretar ă), trainer, senior recruiter, agentmarketing, PR coordinator, HR manager (= director resurse umane), brand manager, key account (responsabil de conturi importante), and so many others.
  6. We have to admit the fact that our Revolution in 1989 has brought unexpected events (the English influence on the Romanian vocabulary) and has produced radical shifts in our national consciousness and behaviour since then. The emergence of English as a global language (David Crystal) and the arrival of the Internet have naturally had a great impact on the Romanian culture. I think that we need not be afraid of the incorrect usage of words like ‘downloadea’ and ‘uploada ţi’, for instance, because, in time, the Romanian words ‘încarcă’ and ‘descarcă’ will gain their status in the world of computers and, implicitly, the Romanian users will no longer use these hybrids like: forvadeaz ă (< forward) , loghează (< log in) . On the other hand, we have to admit to Romanian those non-lexicalised IT words, like web, browser, crawler, desktop, hardware, software, since they could not find their equivalents in other European languages(2) either; shareware, for instance is naturalized in all European languages found on NetLingo, except for Greek. Email, for instance, even if it has recently found its target equivalent as ‘po ştă electronică’, the Romanian teenagers still love and will still preserve the original use which seems funnier and easier to pronounce even if it belongs to the American language.
  7. Last but not least, English has gained a very important status in our country, too, and started to be taught everywhere in our educational system, be it private or governmental. More often that not, official papers and documents needed to go abroad for a job or a place to study need to be translated into English, and people that apply for a better job need a curriculum vitae, used and pronounced in its English short form as CV in Romanian. National education has imported new concepts and new words through the strong collaboration with other European institutions and their programs, like Phare, Socrates and its component, Leonardo Da Vinci, Tempus, Central European Exchange Programme for Universities Studies (CEEPUS), etc. The distance learning and with reduced attendance, and distance education are fairly new concepts imported by our educational system after 1998 (known as IDD) or, in its full sense, Open Distance Education(3) under the influence of a rapid technological change and shifting market conditions. Thus, the Romanian educational system is challenged with the implementation of high educational standards with, unfortunately to say, low budgets. Lexical words like training, workshop, item, marker, visiting-professor, master are used as such by the native speakers of Romanian. The word vocational which means professional has been adapted to our phonological system and it is foremost used, not as professional, as it should be, but as voca ţional . Similarly, the world of computers has revolutionised education because new courses about working on computers were introduced in the curricula immediately after 1989 and then courses about software programes and languages like the old Fortran and Pascal have been taught in the universities at first. It took some time for the Minister of Education to decide to replace the old 286/386 IBMs in the universities and to introduce the Personal Computer. The concept of networking in Romania has existed due to the economic development and not due to the IT development in our country as anyone could have expected. Concepts like provider, gopher, wais, ftp, http, hypertext and hyperlink are still new for many of us. Despite the fact that the Internet has penetrated all economic strata in 1997 in Romania and is by now considered unreplaceable, many educators, teachers, even professors (due to their age) do not have a clue of the way Internet works or how an email can be sent. It apparently does not seem irreplaceable, nor efficient, nor useful when teaching in the context of the ODE, since the recent teachers’ strike (2005 Nov.) did not ring any bell with both Ministers of Education and Finance to raise teachers’ salaries so that they could use the Internet and buy books. Thus the concept of Internet(4) which drags along with it new technologies, like multimedia and user-friendly systems has become a social debate because teachers are encouraged to constantly apply new and more efficient teaching models by using new and more efficient tools like discussion forums, e-mailing lists, video-conferencing (though useful, it is not economically ‘appropriate’ for the moment), video projectors for their course presentations, and many others that should represent a pedagogical success in our European times. More than that, new professions, like course designer or instructional technology-specialist, or many others related, hae to be created, because teachers neither know nor do they have to know how to implement or how to design a software educational program.
  8. Finally, global English has been brought to us through advertising agencies highly influenced in the digital era by IT: outdoor banners, designed by software programmers can be seen everywhere, starting from the bus stations, parks, highways and airports. Mass-media again has its own contribution since each and every company and corporation needs to be advertised in order to flourish and make profit. After 1989, ‘shy’ at first, but then gaining national awareness of its significance in the economic society, advertising has rapidly become a phenomenon in our country. Consequently, first newspapers and magazines, then radios and TV channels and, starting from 2000, the Internet abound in various visual and audio advertising formats, like: pictures, slides, sites or audio and video clips. Genuine English words coming from this domain are learnt and taken as such by the customers: premium, spot (spot publicitar), pop-ups, spasm (spamuri), newsletters (buletine de ştiri on-line), sponsor, brand, advertiser, showroom, promotion (> ro. promo ţ ie, e.g. Promo ţia Colgate) and many others.

The main conclusion to be drawn is that many English neologisms have permeated all Romanian strata. However, there are other means of showing the openness towards new and fresh linguistic and lexical concepts, and the dynamism and the inventiveness of our language. The word collapse (> ro. colaps), for instance, has become a lexicalized metaphor frequently used in the context of economy (colaps economic).

To conclude, we have changed from a Francophone country into an Anglophone one, a linguistic event which I think is very normal under the economic revolution we have been witnessing for some time. If the all of Europe is talking more English and little French at summits and congresses and if we hopefully become an integral part of this European Communion, why should we be afraid of using English under various circumstances even if the usage blocks the natural Romanian way to adapt new expressions, due to the fact that it misses existing target equivalents or because the native speakers of Romanian do not wish to use the existent target equivalents, because they find them weird and unfit in the European context we actually live in. I would have liked to say that the continuous French influence is not so dangerous in making some of the Romanian lexical items disappear as it seems to happen with English, because the former has found a way to ease the borrowing process in the Romanian lexical strata a long time ago; however, there are French words as well as English words that are stubbornly used by native speakers of Romanian despite the fact that we possess the lexical means to express those concepts in our own language. And these contemporary words for which we may use a sfătui and a întreţine, are: consilia (< fr. conseillee for ‘to advise’) and mentenan ţă (< engl. maintenance).

On the other hand, due to the fact that Romanian has been under the sway of the French language for a century and more, the latter still seems to influence our native language, not on the lexical level, but on the semantic one, because many native lexical items coming from French have been modernized and have currently acquired semantic extensions in Romanian as, for instance, the verbs ‘to begin/start’ - the Romanian ‘a începe’ is no longer widely used in mass-media and there is a strong tendency to replace it with French verbs, like debuter/demarrer, derouler (> ro. a debuta/a demara/a derula) in various contexts, like: ‘The show will start ...’ has become ‘Emisiunea debuteaz ă/demarează / derulează ...’. Similarly, we intensively use cohabiter (> ro. a coabita), strategie, segmenter (> ro. a segmenta), algorithme (> ro. algoritm) in our political life. The French rehabiliter (> ro. reabilita) is used in our native tongue in the law and health system; recently, it has developed a new meaning which is technological, like: "programul de reabilitare a re ţelei de apă" (= the rehabilitation program of the water system). The same happens with the French noun injection used in Romanian health system as such, but it has freely crossed the borders of its primary meaning to the economic domain (= injecţiide capital).

However, all these non-lexicalised concepts that have invaded our language will be sedimented somehow and get their target equivalents so that we can finally say that our mother tongue ‘has settled’ and stopped the dinamics of borrowings into all strata. For one prominent example, as far as I can remember, the year of 1995 was important for computer science in Romania, because Jodal Endre’s dictionaries brought instant enlightenment for the Romanian computer users who had tried to manage the language of computers by partially taking it in its original form. This does not mean that they did not understand the meanings of the SLwords, on the contrary, they had the knowledge to use them correctly but they did not have the referents, or, they did not look for them closer in the TL. Words like kit, byte, bus, path, shortcut, icon, pad, share, zipand many others seemed to get naturalised because they were wrongly used as: kituri, byte-uri, pasuri, iconuri, paduri, busuri, şarare , zipare/dezipare , etc. Bus, for instance, was an unfortunate blending of source language and target language (TL), in the sense that, its pronunciation was English and the inflectional morphemes were Romanian, like /basuri/. It is now translated as magistrală as a functional and descriptive target languageequivalent . The computer term pathentered the TLas paswith the wrong plural morpheme in -uri and not ‘paşi’ as a TLuser might expect. This possibly happens because of a need to distinguish between the common noun and the specialized word. Nowadays it is to be found in its correct translation as cale. The SL sharewas wrongly used as şarare , a kind of loan translation, not to be found in any Romanian dictionary on computers. TheSLword has finally foundits TL referent in partajare(5), as to be found in the 1995 - 2002 Computer Dictionary Editions. The next computer word, zip is still used in its original form, and I would say, mostly because of the minimum effort needed in pronouncing it - like the word hit (pl. hit uri) which is now naturalized and is subjected to a similar process -, but also because it is a kind of trademark of the data compression techniques. However, it is translated as comprimare(de informa ţie): WinAce, WinZip, StuffIt are zip programs used to compress data in a format that requires less space than usual and takes less time to send to someone . To put it differently, a zip means the same amount of data in fewer bits. For instance, a zip file is translated fi şier comprimat . The key word useful in finding a proper referent in the TL is the activity it performs, that is, to compress. Consequently, unzip becomes synonym to decompress and it will be translated as decomprimare. And, the last example to be emphasized here, refers not to the process of zipping a file but to the Zip programs that perform this task, and to the newly-born, yet non-standardized TL term of arhivor/arhivoare. In our culture, this lexical item does not exist as an inanimate entity. There is instead the person (arhivar/i) who archives files and folders and who performs his job in a library or another official institution.



The first conclusion to be drawn is favourable to the persistence of these non-lexicalised concepts in our mother-tongue for several good reasons:

© Anca Irinel Teleoacă ( "Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania)


(1) This was the comunist formula of addressing instead of mister or misses.

(2) Freeware is to be found in Spanish, Russian, Dutch, German; modem Romanian, Spanish, Dutch and German, Russian; newbie Spanish, Russian, Dutch, but not German.

(3) Following initial contact in 1991 between The Open University (OU) and representatives of the University of Bucharest, a joint stock company operating in association with the University of Bucharest was formed in 1993 under the name of The Centre for Open Distance Education for a Civic Society (CODECS). (, 2003).

(4) In Romania, with a population of 22,364,022, there existed a number of 38 of Internet providers and 600,000 Internet users in 2000. This means only 2,69 Internet users per 100 inhabitants. In 2001, the number has increased to 10% of the population, meaning that 2,1 millions of Romanians have had access to Internet.

(5) Dic ţionar de calculatoare . Bucureş ti: TEORA. 1999, 2002. p.456, p.533


Visinescu, Victor.
Stilistica Presei
. Bucuresti: Ed. Victor. 2003
Enciclopedia Limbii Rom â ne . Bucuresti: Univers Enciclopedic. 2001. pp. 201-202, 221-223, 301.

Stoichi ţoiu -Ichim, Adriana. Vocabularul Limbii Rom â ne Actuale . Bucuresti: All. 2001

Niculescu, Alexandru. Outline History of the Romanian Language. Bucharest: Ed. Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică. 1981

Teun A Van Dijk. Discourse as Structure and Process. Sage Publications. 1998

Dic ţionar de calculatoare . Bucureş ti: TEORA. 1999 / 2002

14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context

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Anca Irinel Teleoacă ("Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania): Languages and Education in Romania. Past and Present. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW: ../../../index.htmtrans/16Nr/14_1/teleoaca16.htm

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