Why is the Romanian slang unique

Romanian is a very strange language. Structurally, it is a Romance language, but the Slavic and Turkish influences are very strong. You can see the presence of Turkish influences through the letters “ăîțșâ”, and the Slavic influences, well… you can only realize these if you hear Romanian. Fun fact: Romanian is written with both Latin letters (all of Romania and 3/4 of the Republic of Moldova), but also with Cyrillic letters (in Transnistria, but there it is spoken as a minority language). However, if you speak Romanian on the street in Transnistria or, worse, if you try to talk in a Transnistrian store or bank in Romanian, you may have some very big problems.

You may not be very interested in the Romanian slang, but, believe me, it is interesting. I don’t know another language that has a slang as unique as Romanian.

1. Numbers

I am absolutely sure that all of those who want to learn Romanian are very dismayed by the way we count. Things are a little more complicated, but let me tell you the simplified version: we pronounce in different ways the numbers up to 100 in the ‘official’ and ‘slang’ Romanian. For example:

From left to right: representation in Arabic numbers, word as it is written, word pronounced in the ‘official’ language and then the word pronounced in ‘slang’ language:

14 – paisprezece – pai-spre-zece – pai-shpay

12 – doisprezece – doi-spre-zece – doi-shpay

20 – douăzeci – două-zeci  – doo-zecy

There does not seem to be a big difference, but in a discussion where the other person speaks quickly this difference can create confusion.

2. Money

This is really a tough one here. I don’t even know if I can explain so much in detail so that I can understand. I will try though.

In the big chains of supermarkets and banks, if, for example, you have to pay 250 lei, you will be told that you have to pay două sute cincizeci de lei. But in colloquial language, especially if you talk to someone  who is older than 35, 250 lei is două milioane cinci sute (literally two million and five hundred). Until 15 years ago, in Romania there is another currency, ROL (the old Romanian leu), which in 2005 changed to RON, at an exchange rate of 10,000ROL = 1RON. Thus, up to 15 years ago, 100 lei was one million old lei. And, although it’s been a long time since the banknote changed, even young people now refer to one hundred lei as one million.

You are probably a little confused. Here are some examples (from left to right, the value expressed in Arabic numbers, the ‘official’ name and, where there exists, the ‘slang’):

1 RON = un leu

50 RON = cincizeci lei

100 RON = o sută leiun milion

150 RON = o sută cincizeci lei un milion jumate (a million and a half)

I recommend this article if you want to read a fun list of tips&tricks to learn Romanian.

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