Romania has had a tumultuous history due to territorial disputes, World War involvement, and military dictatorship. Due to its location, the country has encountered many invasions from neighboring nations migrating through the area. Under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu from 1965-1989, the people were forced to live a rather low standard of life. The dictatorship was overthrown due to a revolt in 1989. This resulted in the re-establishment of the democratic political system. This victory by the people allowed Romania's economy to return to the European market and rejuvenated their cultural status. Now, Romania is rapidly integrating with Western Europe and becoming a popular spot for travelers.

19th and 20th Century Immigration to US:

The first major wave of Romanian immigrants to the United States took place between 1895 and 1920, during which 145,000 Romanians entered the country. The majority of these immigrants were unskilled laborers who left their native regions because of economic depression and forced assimilation. They were attracted to the economic stability of the United States, which promised better wages and improved working conditions. Many did not plan to stay in America; they came to earn enough money to return to Romania and purchase land. Consequently, tens of thousands of Romanian immigrants left the United States within a few years, and by 1920 the Romanian American population was approximately 85,000.

The next surge of Romanian immigrants to the United States was due to the threat of Nazi occupation of Romania during World War II. Refugees and exiles were admitted into the United States through the Displaced Persons Act of 1947 and then other legislation was passed to help the flood of immigrants and refugees from postwar Europe. Approximately 30,000 refugees and exiles received moral and financial support from religious and secular Romanian organizations in America. These immigrants included professionals like doctors, writers, and engineers and were welcomed into the Romanian American community.

1990-2014 Romanian Immigration:

During the process of restructuring the Romanian economy, more than 3.5 million jobs were cut. As a result, a large number of Romanians left Romania to seek jobs and a better economy abroad. There have been three major phases of immigration. Phase I, between 1990 and 1995, because entry to many Western European countries was limited, workers resettled mainly in Israel, Turkey, Hungary, and Germany. In Phase II, 1996-2002, there was westward migration with most resettlement occurring in Italy and Spain. Phase III occurred after January 2002 when a removal of visa requirements for Romanian citizens allowed travel to other countries easier by only requiring a valid passport. Since Phase III began major destinations for immigration have included Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

In the mid 1990s a large body of immigrants was made up of highly qualified specialists, top-ranking skilled professionals, and academia and research specialists. Another large group to immigrate were top ranking Romanian students who were provided full/partial scholarships by universities in the USA, UK, Ireland, France, and Germany with well-paid employment provided after their education was complete. Students are also sought by other countries for summer jobs. In 2006, the US provided 14,742 summer jobs to Romanin students via private job placement agencies.


Romania shares a border with Hungary and Serbia to the west, Ukraine and Moldova to the northeast and east, and Bulgaria to the south. At 238,391 square kilometers (92,043 sq mi), Romania is the ninth largest country of the European Union by area, and has the 7th largest population of the European Union with 20,121,641 people (October 2011). Its capital and largest city is Bucharest – the 6th largest city in the EU. Ethnic groups in Romania are reflected by 89% Romanian, 7% Hungarian, 3% Roma, and 1% other minorities.


As with all cultures, there are always individual differences. Generalizations about the Romanian culture follow:

Many aspects of Romanian culture are patriarchal and hierarchical, where age and position are respected. The family usually forms the foundation of Romanian social structure and tends to be a source of stability for most individuals. Romanians tend to expect the most senior person, by age or position, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group. Older community members are often seen as wise, as they have had the most life experience. Romanians often use titles as a sign of respect and may expect that you will use a person’s title and surname until invited to use their first name. Friends may address one another by the use of their title and first name. Typically only very close friends and family members use first name only.  


Romanian is the official language of Romania. It is a Romance language associated with Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Romanian is spoken as a first language by 90% of the population, with Hungarian and Vlax Romani as the most important minority languages, which is spoken by 6.7% and 1.1% of the population, respectively. Until recently, there was a large number of German-speaking Transylvanian Saxons. Most have since immigrated to Germany, leaving only 45,000 native German speakers in Romania. In addition to these minority languages, Turkish is spoken by approximately 32,000 people in Romania.

English and French are the main foreign languages taught in schools. Historically, French was the predominant foreign language spoken in Romania, but English has since superseded it. English is spoken by 5-6 million Romanians, while French is spoken by 4-5 million. German, Italian, and Spanish are each spoken by 1-2 million people.

Literature on working with students or clients who speak Romanian:

In the article “Advanced Technology in Speech Disorder Therapy of Romanian Language”, Danubianu and colleagues discuss various Computer Based Speech Therapy programs developed specifically for the Romanian language.

In “Emotional Speech Classification for Romanian Language”, in a preliminary study, Feraru investigated emotional classification in speech, with focus on distinguishing the emotions and found that joy and sadness can be distinguished as well as joy and neutral.

Romanian stress, prosody, intonation:

Stress: Romanian has a stress accent, like other Romance languages. In general, the stress falls on the rightmost syllable of a prosodic word. In other words, it falls on the root and derivational material, but it excludes inflections and final inflectional vowels. For secondary stress, there is a predictable pattern, with the secondary stress on every other syllable, starting with the first, as long as it does not fall adjacent to the primary stressed syllable

Prosody: Romanian is a syllable-timed language, meaning each syllable takes about the same amount of time, regardless of the position of the stresses in the sentence. However, consonant clusters are often found both in the syllable onset and coda, which require physical time to be pronounced. The syllable timing rule is then overridden by slowing down the rhythm. Therefore, stress and syllable timing interact.

Intonation: In the Romanian language, intonation is essential in questions, especially because unlike English and other languages, Romanian does not distinguish grammatically declarative and interrogative sentences. The following are examples of intonation patterns represented in the Romanian language:

  • Non-emphatic yes/no questions: the pitch rises at the end of the sentence until the last stressed syllable.

  • Selection questions (i.e., “Do you want pink or purple?”): the tone rises at the first element of the selection, and falls at the second.

  • Wh-questions: start with a high pitch on the first word and then the pitch falls gradually toward the end of the sentence.

  • Repeat questions: have rising intonation.

  • Tag questions (i.e., “You’re hungry, aren’t you?”: uttered with a rising intonation.

Unfinished utterances (i.e., “After I come back…”): have a rising intonation similar to that of yes/no questions, but the pitch rise is smaller.

Romanian Syntax and Morphology:


Romanian has terminology and rules for phrase syntax, which describes the way simple sentences relate to one another within a single complex sentence. There are many functions a simple sentence may take, usually determined by the number of predicates, or noun phrases. "Simple sentences" refers to Romanian terminology for phrases or clauses. Simple sentences can be one of two types: main clauses and subordinate clauses. Main clauses do not rely on another sentence or phrase to be understood, while subordinate clauses rely on the main clause to give it meaning. Subordinate clauses can be relative clauses, direct object clauses, indirect object clauses, subject clauses, and local circumstantial object clauses. Like English, clauses are linked by coordinating conjunctions, such as and, on the other hand, or and either. Information on Romanian syntax.


While most of Romanian morphology is preserved from Latin, there are Balkan and Slavic influences as well. Romanian has simplified the original Latin tense system significantly. The verb morphology of the Romanian language has shown the same move towards a compound perfect and future tense as the other Romance languages.


Education in Romania is based on a tuition-free, egalitarian system, which is regulated and enforced by the Ministry of Education and Research. Since the downfall of the communist regime in 1989, the Romanian educational system has been through several reforms.

Children at the age of six join the "preparatory school year", which is mandatory in order to enter the first grade. Formal schooling starts at the age of seven, and is mandatory until the tenth grade (which corresponds with the age of sixteen or seventeen). Students who choose to go further may complete the school educational cycle, which ends in the twelfth grade, when students graduate. Higher education is aligned onto the European Higher Education Area.

Higher education in Romania is less centralized than in many countries in the West. Each university has its own internal policies regarding admission, exams and conditions for graduation. Higher education forms a much looser network than in other European countries, although they still offer most of the qualifications sought after by today's high-school graduates.


Implications for the SLP

Romanian families are typically patriarchal, with the father serving as the head of the family. Romanians are formal and reserved with a strong need for privacy, and may not trust strangers readily. They are generally shy and quiet when you first meet and admire modesty and humility in themselves and others. Once you develop a personal relationship, Romanians will open up slightly. Although always polite, they seldom move to a first-name basis with people outside their extended family or very close friends.

Romanians pride themselves on using proper etiquette in all situations and expect others to do the same. It is expected that you will use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name. People are addressed by their honorific title ("Domnul" for Mr. and "Doamna" for Mrs.) and their surname. Only close friends and family members use the first name without appending the honorific title. When in doubt, start out in a formal style and allow the family to choose whether to progress the relationship to a more personal level. Once a relationship has been developed, it is with you personally, not necessarily to the school or clinic you represent. Therefore, if you leave the school or clinic, your replacement will need to build their own relationship. If at all possible in this situation, introduce your replacement to the family before you leave.

Romanian, like other Romance languages, is derived out of Latin and also has Slavic and Balkan influences. Romanian spelling is phonetic and has accents and sounds that are similar to Italian. Sounds very rarely differ between words. For example, the letter /s/ always sounds like a letter /s/. There are some differences between the English language and Romanian language that should be noted. First, there are vowels in Romanian with no equivalent in English. A comprehensive list of Romanian speech sounds with recordings of each sound. Second, the other vowels are similar to English vowels, but where English vowels are long or short, Romanian vowels are produced in a medium space.


Contributed by: Heather Eason and Taylor Dowdy, Spring 2014

References and Resources