No doubt, you are familiar with the term “Romance language.” You probably also know that Italian, French, and Spanish are considered Romance languages because they sound so nice and romantic, right?
Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are called Romance languages because they are directly descended from the ancient Latin language, which was the language of Rome. Sure, those languages may sound real nice and knowing them a little may help you score some points on a date, but they have more to do with gladiatorial combat, crucifixions, and Stoic philosophers than they do with guys trying to woo women.
And you may also be surprised to learn that the eastern European language Romanian is also a Romance language.
In ancient times, the area of Europe that is today called Romania was known as Dacia. The Dacians were a brave and proud people who spoke an Indo-European language that is now extinct. They had established a powerful and wealthy kingdom by the first century AD, but the ever-expanding Romans coveted Dacian land and their many goldmines.
The Roman Emperor Trajan destroyed the Dacian Kingdom in AD 105, and from that point on the Dacian people became heavily “Romanized.” The Dacians accepted Roman culture, many of their men joined the Roman Army, and the elites began using the Latin language.
By the time the Western Roman Empire collapsed in AD 476, the various regions of the empire had already been fairly autonomous and their cultures and languages were influenced by their neighbors: German language and culture influenced French, Spanish, and Portuguese to varying extents, while Romanian was influenced by its Slavic neighbors.
Because of its Slavic influence and the fact that speakers of Romanian have accents that sound “Eastern European” to those not familiar with it, it is usually not thought of as a Romance language. But a closer look at some of the words shows it is. For instance, “bine” means good in Romanian, while in Spanish it is “bien” and in Italian it is “bene.” There are, of course, several more examples of cognate words, but it is also important to know (not to get too nerdy) that the basic syntax and morphology of Romanian is also similar to the other Romance languages.
The point is, that in the middle of the former Eastern Bloc, in the midst of millions of stoic Slavic-speaking peoples, is a group of people who speak a language closely related to Italian, French, and Spanish. So, the next time you want to impress your date, learn a little Romanian and find a bottle of nice Romanian vin.
It might earn you some points.