Despite its many unique aspects, Romanian is still a Romance language at its core. Although borrowings from Hungarian and Slavic languages are relatively common in its lexicon (for example, the Romanian word da meaning “yes”, the verb a iubi meaning “to love”, the noun dragoste meaning “love”, and the noun nevastă meaning “wife”), the majority of its vocabulary is still Latin-derived. Many basic vocabulary items and phrases such as bine (“well”), bun (“good”), cu plăcere (“you’re welcome”—literally, “with pleasure”), nu (“no”), încântat (“pleased to meet you”—literally, “enchanted”, as in the Spanish encantado and the French enchanté), and pardon (“excuse me”) fit in very well with their counterparts in the other Romance languages. Pronouns, numbers, verb tenses, and verb conjugations are also very clearly Latin-derived.
Romanian, as was briefly mentioned earlier, is a member of what linguists refer to as the Balkan Sprachbund (a German word literally meaning ‘language league’). This is a group of languages that includes Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian (Slavic), Greek (Hellenic), Albanian (an Indo-European language which occupies the Albanian sub-family by itself), and Romani (Indo-Aryan)—which share certain notable similarities simply due to the geographic proximity of the countries where they are spoken. Over time, they have influenced one another despite belonging to separate language families, specifically, the Romance, Slavic, and Hellenic families (and despite not belonging to the Balkan Sprachbund, Hungarian—a member of the Uralic language family—has also influenced Romanian). Thus, it may look and sound very different at first from its western European linguistic relatives, but a closer look reveals that the majority of its structure, grammar, and lexicon do come from Latin. It is very much a Romance language, albeit a heavily-influenced one.
It is often said that Romanian is not a practical language to learn, due largely to its relatively small number of speakers. Furthermore, many who are unfamiliar with the language assume that it must be Slavic in nature—a dialect of Russian, perhaps. Both of these assumptions, however, are misunderstandings. Romanian is considered a “critical language” by the United States government, meaning that while there is significant demand for Romanian speakers and those who are knowledgeable about the language, they come in short supply. The term is also used to designate a language that has been deemed important to American diplomacy, with the reasoning that knowledge of certain languages and cultures can be beneficial to fostering relationships with the countries to which they are spoken. In addition, Romania is a beautiful country and one that is worth visiting in order to experience its welcoming people, pristine landscapes, and rich cultural and historical heritage. From a purely linguistic standpoint, Romanian is a fascinating language; it has been said many times before that a solid foundation in Romanian would make learning Spanish, French, and the other more well-known Romance languages far easier. There are many reasons, thus, to focus on learning Romanian; and perhaps in the future this beautiful and often misunderstood language will stand more prominently among its more commonly-spoken counterparts.