Monday, May 18, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Romania

It's been quite a while since we've looked into the linguistic landscape of a European country. Back in February we looked at the languages of Poland, but today we're moving on to the nearby country of Romania, which is the seventh most populous nation in the European Union.

The Official Language

The official language of Romania is Romanian, the fifth most spoken Romance language in the world. It is the native language of approximately 85% of the country's population.

While Romania's government only recognizes one official language, it does respect the linguistic rights of minority groups. There are over a dozen minority languages used throughout the country, some of which are even used by local governments and schools. Let's take a look at them!

Minority Languages

There are over 1.4 million native speakers of Hungarian in Romania, which comprise the country's largest minority group. Hungarian is a member of the Uralic language family, and is the official language of the neighboring country of Hungary.

The Palace of Justice in Bucharest, Romania.
Romania's second largest minority group is the Romani people. There are estimated to be nearly 250,000 native speakers of the Romani language in the country, who speak dialects that include Balkan Romani, Vlax Romani, and Carpathian Romani.

Several Slavic languages are spoken in Romania as well: Ukrainian, Serbian, Slovak, Bulgarian, Czech, and Polish. There are over 50,000 native speakers of Ukrainian in Romania, as well as 27,000 Serbian speakers. The final four languages have under 20,000 native speakers.

Romania is also home to two Germanic languages and two Turkic languages. There is a large population of approximately 45,000 German speakers in the country, as well as about 1,000 Yiddish speakers. When it comes to Turkic languages, there are between 20,000 and 30,000 native speakers of both Turkish and Crimean Tatar.

Another prominent minority language is Aromanian, a Romance language that is closely related to Romanian. It is spoken by the Aromanian or Vlach ethnic group in countries throughout Europe that include Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia. There are approximately 28,000 speakers of Aromanian, which can be distinguished from Romanian since its vocabulary contains more words of Greek origin and fewer words of Slavic origin. There are also around 2,000 native speakers of the Italian language residing in the country.

Finally, Romania is home to small numbers of native speakers of the Armenian, Greek, and Albanian languages. All three are particularly fascinating languages because they each comprise their own independent branch of the Indo-European language family.