The language police strikes back, this time in Romania
Thread poster: Silvina Beatriz Codina

Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:23
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Oct 18, 2002

It never ceases to amaze me, that this kind of initiative keeps on cropping up all over the world. An attempt to pass a similar law was laughed out of the premises a few years ago here in my country, and at present, there is the major of a small Buenos Aires town, who is trying to keep his town English-free. Also, this existed in Mussolini\'s Italy, which is why you don\'t have sandwiches in Italian, but \"panini\", Batman is called \"L\'Uomo Pipistrello\" and Donald Duck, \"Paperino.\"

I just hope the senator did not actually say \"nouveaux riches\"!

Language law alarms some, amuses others in Romania

By ALISON MUTLER, Associated Press Writer

BUCHAREST, Romania - Pity the humble hot dog. Under an unusual new law, Romania\'s fast-food vendors won\'t be able to hawk the English-only version any more.

Instead, they\'ll also have to offer what would translate into Romanian as \"a kind of sausage in a kind of roll.\" Computer companies advertising a \"laptop\" would also peddle \"an apparatus for putting at the top of the lap.\" Politicians could keep gathering for a \"summit\" as long as they also called it \"a high-level meeting.\"

It\'s windy and awkward, but Sen. George Pruteanu says it\'s the only way to preserve Romanian from the growing influence of English and other foreign languages.

Pruteanu\'s legislation, which passed parliament last week, has some Romanians up in arms and others bent over with laughter. But to Pruteanu, a self-declared protector of the native tongue, it\'s no joke.

It still awaits legal fine-tuning and presidential approval, but as it stands now, it dictates that any foreign texts or words spoken at public events — political campaigns, pop festivals, TV broadcasts and the like — must be accompanied by a Romanian translation. Trademarks are exempted.

The debate touches sensitive nationalist chords. Supporters say it bolsters the country\'s self-esteem, while opponents say it\'s a retreat into narrow-mindedness at a time when Romania is striving to mesh into the outside world, and particularly the prosperous, multilingual European Union.

Pruteanu, a trained linguist who speaks correct if somewhat affected Romanian, says 80 percent of the country\'s 22 million people are confused by the English expressions that cross their lives. Legal action, he insists, is needed to ensure the survival of the native tongue.

\"The law aims to give the crowds of people who don\'t speak foreign languages the sensation that the street also belongs to them ... and not just to the snobs and pretentious people and nouveaux riches with swanky villas,\" he told senators Monday after the law was mocked and criticized.

Pruteanu\'s law appeals to those older than 45, who grew up under Nicolae Ceausescu\'s communist dictatorship and tend to be more used to state-imposed rules on life and conduct. They are less familiar with the English expressions flooding into the country since Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989.

\"Romanians are patriotic people, and real patriots agree with this law,\" said driver Dumitru Popa, 48, gazing at an advertisement for trucks that said: \"Keeping the world moving\" — in English only.

But Andrei Plesu, a former foreign minister, believes the law reeks of false patriotism and will restrict the language\'s natural development.

\"I am much more concerned about grammatical errors, which cannot be punished and are multiplying each day, then about a few English expressions which are in vogue,\" he said.

Cartoonists have been mocking the law with sketches of fictional \"tongue police\" who haul off teenagers who utter the English word \"cool.\"

The law would carry a fine of up to 50 million lei (US $1,500). The opposition Liberal Party has called on President Ion Iliescu not to sign it. Iliescu hasn\'t said what he\'ll do.

\"This law is a blow to the freedoms we won after the 1989 revolution,\" said Eugen Nicolaescu, Liberal Party spokesman. \"It is absurd to translate stupid things into Romanian which have already been assimilated into the language and are already in the official dictionary.\"

Pruteanu disagrees, even if many Romanians would end up biting off more than they could chew with his nine-word makeover for \"hot dog\" — or choke on \"a sandwich from Hamburg\" (a hamburger).

Romanians are used to seeing their Latin-based language yield to the political influences of the day — Slavic and Turkish elements, a touch of Greek, some French — considered the height of chic in the 19th century — and in more recent times Russian and now English.

Radu Trif, an author of Romania\'s official DEX dictionary, calls Pruteanu\'s law \"absurd.\"

\"Nobody can police the language, and there aren\'t Romanian equivalents for lots of English words, old and new,\" he said.

Daniela Gyoerfi, a pop singer who posed for Playboy magazine, complains that there\'s simply no Romanian equivalent for words such as \"playback,\" \"backup vocals\" and \"show business.\"

Gripes journalist Cornel Nistorescu: \"Trying to police the Romanian language is like trying to control the flight of birds.\"


Marco Oberto  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:23
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Italy has become very English-friendly Oct 18, 2002

I certainly disagree with laws limiting the language as it is spoken, but you mentioned the Italian translation for Batman (Uomo-pipistrello) which is wrong: Batman is batman.

Tons of foreign words have entered and are now entering Italian: computer, mouse, beauty-case, hotel, welfare state, information technology, chief executive officer and many many more.

If you have to choose one country where linguistic purism has been abolished, Italy certainly is an excellent candidate.


Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:23
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Italian Oct 18, 2002

... but you mentioned the Italian translation for Batman (Uomo-pipistrello) which is wrong: Batman is batman.

It is now, but it wasn\'t always. It was reasonable to expect him to regain his real name, especially when the Italian version is so clumsy. I actually knew that he was back at being Batman; but to include his example was kind of irresistible.

The Italian language is a good example of the futility of these initiatives. After the Fascists tried to put a lid on foreign words, now the Italian language is crawling with them. Not that something horrible is happening with Italians as a consequence.


Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:23
German to Romanian
+ ...
Every idea has it's good and bad parts Oct 18, 2002

But I don\'t think anyone outside the issue can really know what\'s goind on. I am a Romanian and I have nothing against English words in the language, but there are many cases where English words are really superfluous and they entered the language just to avoid words that one could connect to the old regime (for example \"director\" was replaced with \"manager\" and now both words are used in parallel and they are creating a lot of confusion) or for any stupid reason (maybe even laziness of translators or who knows what other reasons).

I agree that many people cannot keep up with these ads and all the English slogans appearing everywhere you look. It seems that all publicity is directed to mostly young people, who understand English. Or do you think that 30-40 year olds all know what \"Let\'s make things better\" as you say \"in English only\" means? They surely don\'t. And I am sure that not all young people speak English, either.

So to a certain extent, he is right. The language has really been overflooded by English to such an extent that people don\'t even bother to understand what\'s going on around them.

I am sorry, but I have a job to finish, so I can\'t spend too much time on this issue. Maybe I\'ll be back when I have some more spare time.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-10-18 20:44 ]


Aliseo Japan
Local time: 15:23
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
If it is against the culrural globalization of the world... Oct 19, 2002

I am not a linguistic and therefore I will not dare to dissert on the usage of foreign words in the past centuries, which without any doubt existed. For example, think of how much the Latin spread throughout all Europe among scientist or the Italian language among the Operafs composers, and then the English brought to Americas. But those were other times and, as much as at least the Latin and Italian languages were concerned, this phenomenon only influenced the learned representatives of the middle-highest classes in a restricted number of fields.

Nowadays - contrary to what I often think about the still-existing relationship between the winners and the losers of WW2 – the use of foreign words is only a matter of fashion and apart from a very few fields, namely IT and the high-tech industry that have been overwhelmingly imposed on the rest of the world by the USA , I believe there is no real need to keep using so many foreign words that for the greatest part have their clear, sometimes better equivalent in the local languages.

As translators, we are always torn between accepting what has now become a general rule (in many cases the very translators are to blame for not striving enough to find the right local matches – or is it perhaps a matter of pure ignorance?) and a gcertainh level of purism that, in my opinion, will somewhat contribute saving what is now remaining of the respective national identities. Going back is hard (who dares to call gtopolinoh the PC mouse now?), but what about setting up a limit for the future?

I am an Italian living in Japan. I think Japan is a particular case indeed, although Italy ranks straight second; in wartime they abolished the use of foreign words (mainly English); they even found the local equivalent for words like gbaseballh and many other foreign terms as well, in some cases admittedly beyond any rationality. But after losing WW2, foreign English words started pouring in again without any reasonable resistance from the political and cultural institutions, to the extent that – I am afraid – in some decades time the Japanese language will almost completely disappear leaving the place to a complete set of ridiculous gkatakanah expressions (for those who do not know Japanese, this is the strange alphabet used to transliterate foreign words). In my opinion this is not only a new way of communicating. Again as far as Japan is concerned, starting from the language they have been absorbing more and more the foreign culture; women (but also men) want to be blond and have large and clear eyes like the Americans or the Europeans, they want to mimic absolutely everything that comes from abroad (specially the USA), and the younger generations even want to get rid of the typically Japanese ginconvenienth sense of respect for the others and modesty to adopt more aggressive styles that are so typical of some western cultures. But what is remaining after this? An Asiatic people that do not like to refer themselves as Asiatic at all, but rather a western extension of the West. Is this doing any good to the Japanese race and culture?

Then, coming to Rumania, even if I am convinced that has not many parallels with Japan, at least in part let me agree with what the Authorities there are trying to do, as long as this will never transform into tough nationalism. If only other countries will follow, the world would be much more interesting!

Mario Cerutti


Cristiana Coblis  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:23
English to Romanian
+ ...
Controversial Oct 19, 2002

This law is very controversial and somewhat naive. The evolution and development of a living language works in misterious ways. In every epoch there have been times of linguistic \"calques\", Mr. Pruteanu for being an outstanding linguist should know that. Personally, I do not believe that this law will pass by Iliescu and if passed I do not believe it will bear much difference in the real world.

I agree that it would be benefic if some public speakers would learn to refrain from uttering English words in public speaches. There were several months when Public TV news speakers could not find a Romanian word for \"trend\", which I believe is absurd.

My opinion is that Mr. Pruteanu and the members of the Parliament should learn to respect the laws of the free market.

If a advertising firm or a TV channel uses English words in its activities this is because they are unprofessional and foster unprofessional staff. They will certainly be penalized by the public in the results of their discourses and campains and they will learn to use Romanian for more effective results.

Also, I belive that a letter of complaint coming from Mr. Pruteanu or anyone else, against such activities should atract a reaction from the companies in cause, ie: the TV speaker or the writer of the news, ad, etc should be attentioned to correct himself and refrain from such behavious in the future. It is as simple as that.

There are a million simpler ways to do it without using public money and time for unecessary laws.

Also this law will cost some companies considerable ammount of money. Let us consider the McDonald\'s menus... According to this law they should be changed into Romanian language, right? How much would this cost and let us consider the confusion... How will I explain to my three year old son that there are no more Fishmacs?

Seriously, I have learnt in time that when it comes to the government party and its laws I should first ask myself some questions: What is happenning here behind this law? Isn\'t this too publicised to be just another law? Isn\'t this just a political maneuver to gain popularity in the characteristic populist style? Why is Mr. Iliescu delaying so much to sign or recuse the law?


JCEC  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:23
English to French
Let the people decide Oct 19, 2002

When protecting a language, there is bound to be some eccess. In the long run, it\'s the people who decide. We went through all that in Québec but are now over our \"chien chaud\" phase.


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The language police strikes back, this time in Romania

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