Romanian vs Italian: Which Language Should You Learn?
See the similarities and differences between the Italian and Romanian languages in this guide
Most people are shocked to find out how much the Italian and Romanian languages have in common. Yet, culturally and socially, these countries are worlds apart. So, which language is a better choice to learn: Italian or Romanian? This article will break down the similarities and differences between both languages to help you decide (and learn a little something along the way).
Similarities Between The Romanian & Italian Languages
Both Romanian and Italian use the Latin alphabet and, unsurprisingly, both descend from Latin. Most people only associate the Romance languages (those that descend from Latin) with Italian, Spanish, and French, but Romanian is a Romance language, too. That is a fun fact that usually blows people’s minds. 🤯
During the period between the 5th and 8th centuries, Romania began to drift further away from its Roman “upbringing” as compared to Italy and other Western European cultures. Therefore, it is much different culturally and socially today than others in Western Europe, as well as quite different from its ancient origins.
Although these two languages are spoken in very different parts of Europe, they have between 70% and 80% lexical similarity (meaning that much of their vocabulary overlaps).
They share many cognates, which are words that sound and are spelled similarly, and mean the same thing. For example, the word for sad is triste in Italian and trist in Romanian. The word ovo means egg in both. Just a couple simple examples.
Both Romanian and Italian have gendered nouns. However, Romanian has three while Italian only has two. When studied closely, it’s easy to see that Italian has stayed quite close to its Latin roots while Romanian has been heavily modified by Greek, Hungarian, German, and Turkish influences.
Differences Between The Italian & Romanian Languages
Italian is a Romance language, meaning that it descends directly from Latin—specifically, Vulgar Latin, which was the dialect of the common people of Rome. However, there are plenty of vocabulary words that don’t cross over between the two languages.
Romanian is considered a Romance language, but it’s also closely related to the Slavic linguistic family, which gives it a unique quality.
Romanian not only uses all 26 of the same Latin letters that English does, but it has five new ones as well. Italian, on the other hand, only uses 21 letters.
That may sound hard to wrap your head around, but using language apps such as Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone can help further explain the nuances of Romanian and Italian.
Which Language Is Easier To Learn: Romanian or Italian?
Both Romanian and Italian are considered Category 1 languages by the US Foreign Service, meaning that they’re fairly easy for native English speakers to pick up. Since they descend from slightly different linguistic families though (recall the Slavic influence on Romanian), one might be easier than the other depending on other foreign languages that you’ve learned.
For example, if you already speak Spanish or know basic Latin, then Italian might come pretty quickly. But if you have family members from central Europe who have spoken to you or around you in Slavic languages during your early years, then Romanian might come more naturally.
To make learning Italian or Romanian even easier, you may want to consider purchasing a professional course from the likes of Memrise or Babbel. These types of courses make the learning process fun and can expand your vocabulary quickly.
Reasons To Learn Italian Rather Than Romanian
Many people envision traveling to Italy and enjoying the culture and world-renowned food and art. To some, nothing sounds more dreamy than immersing yourself in famous communities such as Venice and Florence.
If this is you, then Italian will be more than beneficial. The reasons to learn Italian don’t stop there, though. If you think you’ll pursue a career in business, foreign diplomacy, or hospitality, then Italian will give you a leg up over the competition. From a business perspective, it offers more opportunity than Romania.
Italian also opens you up to a whole host of cultural opportunities, such as being able to understand the roots of music, food, cinema, and ancient customs. If you have Italian family members, too, then you’ll no doubt want to practice speaking Italian with them. This will connect you with your ancestors and give you a closely connected feeling to your past.
✌️ If you do want to learn Italian for business purposes, you may want to use a language app to help you do so. Often times, language programs like Rocket Italian and Pimsleur Italian include lessons dedicated to business-related vocabulary terms.
Reasons To Learn Romanian Rather Than Italian
Although there are fewer fluent Romanian speakers worldwide, there are still plenty—about 26 million, actually. You’ll be able to speak Romanian not only in Romania but also in the neighboring countries of Moldova, Ukraine, and Hungary. There are even large Romanian-speaking communities in the United States.
Romanian is definitely a more specialized skillset than Italian. However, if your, career, social, or familial connections will bring you into this area of Europe, then learning Romanian is a smart choice. If you already speak or are familiar with other Slavic or Romance languages, then learning Romanian won’t be hard.
Linguists generalize that it only takes about six months to become fluent in Romanian. It is a fairly simple language. Plus, if you have family members who can help you out, then learning Romanian will be even easier.
Romania can’t be ignored for its cultural contributions, either. They have rich traditions in music, dance, food, and religion that will bring you in and leave you wanting to learn and experience more.
Plus, Romanian isn’t as common as Italian so if you learn this language you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the crowd. Being multi-lingual is a great addition to your resume and professional skills, and knowing a less common language can be a big plus, especially for foreign jobs.
When you’re deciding whether to learn Romanian or Italian, think about what your life is going to look like in the next two, ten, or twenty years. Where do you see yourself traveling and with whom do you see yourself communicating? Which language will give you the most opportunity to practice and become proficient?
Possibly even more important, which language excites you the most? One of the biggest factors influencing whether or not someone continues in their study of a foreign language is how much they love learning it. So, pick the one that’s beneficial and that you’re looking forward to, then jump in head first.
Which language is easier to learn, Romanian or Italian?
If you already know Spanish or have a basic understanding of Latin, Italian will likely be the easier language to learn. It is a grammatically simple language.
Should you learn Romanian or Italian?
The answer to that question depends on your interests, hobbies, and family history. That being said, Italian will likely offer better travel and business opportunities to use the language.