Monday, June 6, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Moldova

In recent weeks, we've had country profiles covering the languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Oman. Today, we're moving on to the small landlocked country of Moldova, which is located in eastern Europe.

The Official Languages

The main official language of Moldova is Romanian, the fifth most spoken Romance language in the world. Over 75% of the country's population speaks Romanian as their native language, which amounts to over 2.5 million people.

Căpriana Monastery in Căpriana, Moldova.
However, not everyone agrees on the name of this official language, since some prefer to call it Moldovan instead of Romanian. From 1994 to 2013, the government referred to the country's official language as Moldovan, but since 2013, it has returned to the name Romanian once again.

In addition to Romanian, Moldova's government recognizes three official minority languages: Russian, Ukrainian, and Gagauz. Of these three languages, Russian is undoubtedly the most important due to its widespread use as a working language as well as being the native language of over 380,000 Moldovans. In the past, it was also taught in many schools as the primary foreign language, but in recent years, schools have shifted to English instead.

Ukrainian, which is a Slavic language like Russian, is the second most spoken minority language, with over 180,000 native speakers in Moldova. Finally, there's Gagauz, which is officially recognized in the autonomous region of Gagauzia. Moldova is home to approximately 138,000 native speakers of this Turkic language which is related to Azerbaijani and Turkish.

Other Languages

There are still a few more languages left to mention when it comes to Moldova's linguistic landscape. First, there's Bulgarian, a Slavic language which is the native language of over 50,000 Moldovans. It's followed by Balkan Romani, a group of dialects of the Romani language, which are used by over 12,000 people in Moldova. Finally, the Ethnologue mentions that Moldova is home to some Yiddish speakers, though it doesn't provide an exact number.