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Want to learn Romanian?
Matt Pickles | 31 Oct 12
The Romanian language will be taught at Oxford University for the first time, as a lectorship in Romanian has been set up in the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics.
The post has been funded by the Romanian Ministry of Education and was launched in Oxford this week by the Romanian ambassador to the UK, Dr Ion Jinga.
'Hitherto, we have had no formal provision for teaching of Romanian language, although the language has been a constant point of reference in our teaching of Romance linguistics,' says Professor Martin Maiden of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, who has overseen the establishment of the lectorship.
The prospect of learning Romanian has proved popular – more than 20 students have already signed up for Romanian classes. Students will also be able to take an exam in Romanian Language and Linguistics as part of Linguistics or Modern Languages courses, and study Romanian in graduate courses in Linguistics.
2012 has been a landmark year for Oxford’s relations with Romania – earlier this month, the first Ertegun Scholars began their studies here, after a donation from Romanian-born Mrs Mica Ertegun.
Why is studying Romanian such an enticing prospect? 'The appeal of the Romanian language lies in the fact that it is a wonderful mix of the strange and the familiar,' says Professor Maiden.
'It is a Romance language, descended from Latin, which displays obvious similarities with other sister languages such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or French.
'But it represents a branch of the Latin language which became cut off at a very early date from the rest of the Roman empire and remained isolated for centuries. In fact it disappears from the historical record virtually without trace until the early sixteenth century.'
During these centuries of isolation, the language developed many peculiar characteristics of its own and became heavily influenced by the surrounding Slav languages and Hungarian. Professor Maiden says this makes it an interesting challenge for linguists.
'It is a language one can learn without too much difficulty, but one that also presents some serious challenges of the kind linguists relish,' he explains.
'It is a kind of 'long lost sister' of other, better known, Romance languages and it is time that we 'brought her home', so to speak. The new lectorship will help us to do this.'
There are currently 82 Romanian students at Oxford, of which half are undergraduates.
Top image: Romanian flag (by Alegri - http://www.4freephotos.com/Romanian_flag-limage-25e21f4b6391cdc15e2c0320c3636e93.html#license); Bottom image: Left to right - Professor Martin Maiden; the new Romanian lector; Dr Oana Uţă, the first holder of the lectorship; Dr Ion Jinga (Roman ambassador to the UK in London)