Romania, in common with many European countries, has some form of national academy which decides on how the Romanian language should develop. Spellings get changed, new words get certified as being acceptable for use, and I don't know what else. I am told for example that the word "sunt" which is the first person singular and third person plural conjugation of the verb "to be" (As in "Eu sunt un blogger") used to be spelled sînt. Now that sounds like a seriously big change. Just imagine if one day the word "am" changed to "om" or something. It'd throw everyone into confusion.
And in fact that confusion happens here, as I learned a couple of days ago. Now she is going to school, Bogi is learning Romanian, and comes home each day with lots of phrases to practice (which to her credit she does, walking round the house commenting on what she is doing at all moments in Romanian. It's cool. She'll be trilingual in about a year at this rate). So, anyway, a couple of days ago she comes home with the words she has to practice, one of which is the word for "scissors". Her mother instantly corrects her pronunciation. Bogi, indignantly, tells her that this is the way she learned it today. A glance at her note book tells Erika that not only does she have the incorrect pronunciation but also the incorrect spelling. Patiently she sits down to help her with the correct pronunciation (the teachers, too, speak Romanian as a second language, and so are not necessarily to be trusted as to being entirely correct). However, before she does that, she just looks it up in a dictionary to be on the safe side. And, lo and behold, scissors is one of those words that has had its spelling (and hence pronunciation) changed by the Romanian Academy. I've just looked it up, myself, and can tell you that "foarfece" is the currently known spelling. The old one is something like foarfaca (though I'm doing that from roughly transcribing a version I've only heard, so it could be way off).
We learned the next day while waiting at the school gates for her to come out, that this scene repeated across the town as angry second language Romanian speaking parents worried about their childrens' educations, reacted to their little ones coming home with patently wrong information, with tirades of extracurricular support, loudly voiced concern about the quality of the education their offspring were receiving, and then shamefaced climbdowns. It also spread beyond the parents, with Erika's entire office agog at the news that the word for scissors had changed without them knowing.
I'm guessing that this kind of thing must go on all the time - native speakers presumably keep track of these changes and, while the transition must be difficult, at least are aware that things have moved on, but non-native speakers learn the language one way and unless they hear otherwise will assume it to have remained roughly as it was. Which brings me to the question - why is it necessary to have these bodies of people in dusty rooms pronouncing on what the language is, and what changes are necessary? Romanian has one, Hungarian (I think) has one, French definitely has one, German (I also think) has one. English doesn't. Yet despite that dreadfully anarchic fact the language seems to survive and thrive. Why does there need to be this rigorous control of language in certain places rather than the laissez faire approach favoured by English? (Indeed, if there were such a thing as an English Academy they would probably not have allowed me to use the phrase "laissez faire" in that last sentence.) I really don't get this need for a committee to ascertain what words or spellings or grammatical constructions people should be using. Could anyone help me understand?
Any Major Soul 1972 – Vol. 2
2 days ago