Last weekend at a party, my host's son, a 10 year old who has just come back to Romania after living in Budapest for a few years, performed his recently learned party piece. That is, he recited a long and complex Octavian Goga poem in the original Romanian. Romanians present (both Hungarian Romanians and Romanian Romanians) were very impressed by his ability.
Not very interesting, you might be thinking, until you realise that the reciter doesn't actually speak Romanian (or at least speaks very little). His first language is Hungarian, he spent the early part of his school years in Hungary itself, and he is now back here and in the Romanian school system. So, basically he is reciting this poem without understanding it, more or less at all. In fact, so difficult was the poem that many of the adults didn't know some of the words.
But this, it seems, is how Romanian is taught in school. Kids can go to school in their native language, so, for example, most children here go to Hungarian medium schools. But the curriculum is a national one and therefore Romanian (as a subject) is taught as if it were a first language for all. And so, you end up with impressive but flawed scenes such as the one described above. Now, I have my doubts whether kids whose first language is Romanian are getting much benefit from being able to recite by heart Octavian Goga poems, but for non-native speakers of the language it seems the pointlessness is magnified tenfold. There is no provision within the curriculum or within the testing structure for people learning Romanian as a second language. They are Romanians ipso facto they speak Romanian, seems to be the thinking. And so, every year, a large number of kids whose first language isn't Romanian fail and are made to resit their exams or stay back a year - merely because there is no official provision for their situation. It doesn't seem that difficult to create a curriculum for Romanian as a Second Language students. It would also make them much more willing to learn the language if it were properly taught. It's no wonder that when they are older and can speak Romanian well, they'd rather not because their school experience of it was so grim.
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