Linguists offered Romanian

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Oxford University students will be able to study Romanian for the first time, thanks to a lectureship funded by the Romanian Ministry of Education.

The lectureship in the Romanian language – the first of its kind in the UK – was officially launched by the Romanian ambassador to the UK, Dr Ion Jinga, on 29th October at the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. The lectures themselves will be run by Oana Bărbulesc-Uţă , a specialist in linguistics at the University of Bucharest.

At the opening ceremony, Professor Martin Maiden, a lecturer of linguistics at Oxford University, talked about his own experience learning the language, which he said used to seem “unattainably distant and exotic”, and recalled his excitement at being able to take Romanian classes as an undergraduate at Cambridge.

He commented on the “crucial role of contact with highly educated, highly qualified, native speaker lecturers in developing understanding of the language and its history.”

Despite Romanian being a vital reference point in the comparative study of Romance languages, and particularly in the field of linguistics, this is the first time it has been formally offered at Oxford, where students will now be able to take extra classes in it, and even take an exam in Romanian Language and Linguistics  as part of a Modern Languages degree.

Professor Maiden spoke about the fascinating nature of Romanian, due to its “unique and wonderful mix of the strange and the familiar”, following centuries of isolation from Western Europe, cut off from the Roman Empire at an early stage.

He looked forward to the introduction of the Romanian course; an enthusiasm clearly shared by Oxford’s students, more than 20 of whom have already signed up for the classes.

Modern Languages students seemed interested in expanding their repertoire of languages, and second-year Lincoln linguist, Natalie McKenzie-Buksh, said she would be keen to sign up for the course. She added: “This is a really exciting prospect; linguists are always looking for new challenges and it is always fascinating to see the links between different languages.”

Rosanna Forte, a second-year German and Italian student at St Hilda’s, said that “Romanian is particularly interesting for students of Italian because of the close linguistic connection between the two. So it provides a useful comparison with the language you’re studying for your degree whilst simultaneously allowing you to explore one with a completely different cultural history.”

Spanish and Portuguese fresher Eleanor Rowbottom commented: “The range of languages available to study in Oxford is already very wide, so the addition of Romanian is fantastic. Learning languages is important to really understand and participate in other cultures, as well as increasing the opportunities available to you around the world in both work and leisure.”

In addition to offering linguists fresh opportunities, the lectureship marks an important step forward in relations with Romania. Lincolnite Andrei Piroi, one of Oxford’s 82 native Romanian students, was enthusiastic about the interest in the new course. He felt it would be beneficial for linguists to study the language due to several unique aspects, such as its phonetic nature and slightly different alphabet, as a result of influence from Hungarian and Slavonic languages.

He also hoped the lectureship would increase interest in Eastern Europe, in particular the rich history and culture of Romania, which up until now he felt has often been seen as an “isolated Latin island.”

The University of Oxford were unavailable for comment.



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