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P1 Pronunciation of Romanian vowels

Romanian vowels pronunciation

In this lesson you will learn the pronunciation of all seven vowels (including many samples recorded slowly and clearly) of the Romanian alphabet:

In most cases the vowels A, E, O, U are relatively easily pronounced by foreigners, the most difficult vowels being "Ă" and "Î" as well as "i" at the end of a word.

If you are interested in thematic Romanian lessons (e.g. common Romanian words), please check out our Romanian lessons section.

Vowel A

A
Position of the lips: unrounded (wide open)
Position of the tongue: lying at the bottom of the mouth, normally, neither in front nor at the back of the mouth
Phonetic Transcription: /a/
English equivalent sound : father

Romanian words containing vowel A

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

horse

cal

/kal/

animal

animal

/ani.'mal/

big or sea

mare

/'ma.re/

house

ca

/'ka.sə/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Vowel E

E
Position of the lips: unrounded (the lips and the mouth are slightly open = less open than for the vowel A)
you can imagine that you are widely smiling therefore the lips are stretched to the sides and yet the mouth and the lips are still open a little bit
the lips do not touch (they are not closed, they are still open)
basically for vowel E you should open your mouth and the lips half way as opposed to the vowel A
Position of the tongue: slightly up, and slightly stretched to the front
Phonetic Transcription: /e/
English equivalent sound : bed

Romanian words containing vowel E:

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

pupil or student

elev

/e.'lev/

strong or powerful

puternic

/pu.'ter.nik/

omelet or omelette

omle

/om.'le.tə/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Another pronunciation of E

E as /je/
"E" is exceptionally pronounced as /je/ only at the beginning of the following personal pronouns: "eu" (I), "ea"(she), "el" (he), "ele" (they - girls), "ei" (they - boys) and forms of the verb to be:, "e", "ești", "este","eram","erai","era","erați","erau". Other words, even if they start with "e" must be pronounced as a normal "e" (see the above section)
Position of the lips: a combination of the lips position for "i" and "e"; see above for "e" and next lesson for "i"
Position of the tongue: a combination of the tongue position for "i" and "e"; see above for "e" and next lesson for "i"
Phonetic Transcription: /je/
English equivalent sound : yet

Romanian words containing vowel E pronounced as /je/:

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

I

Eu

/jew/

She is (long form)

Ea este

/je̯a 'jes.te/

He is (long form)

Eeste

/jel 'jes.te/

2 Listening
3 Translate
For other audio samples of "E" pronounced as /je/ check out the lesson on the conjugation of the verb "a fi"(to be).

Tips on how to pronounce Romanian words correctly

    There are three elements that contribute to the proper/correct pronunciation:

  • position of the lips (rounded or unrounded)
  • position of the tongue up or down (between the roof of the mouth and the bottom of the mouth), front or back (between the front and back of the mouth), touching the teeth sometimes...
  • the participation of the vocal cords

It is very important to be aware of where your tongue and lips are, and where they should be. It is very easy to believe that you are doing it right, just because instinctively we are not aware of the tongue and lips in our native languages.

Vowel I

I
Position of the lips:
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /i/
English equivalent sound : free

Vowel "i" is treated in a separate dedicated lesson.

Vowel O

O
Position of the lips: Rounded
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /o/
English equivalent sound : yawn

Romanian words containing vowel O

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

tree

pom

/pom/

hour

o

/ˈo.rə/

there

acolo

/aˈko.lo/

2 Listening
3 Translate

the pronunciation audio is best heard by using headphones We advise you to use headphones to easily learn the pronunciation.You don't hear any sound? Click here for troubleshooting.

Vowel U

U
Position of the lips:
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /u/
English equivalent sound : boot

Romanian words containing vowel U

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

[to] water

uda

/u'da/

smoke

fum

/fum/

much / a lot / long (referring to an masculine noun)

mult

/mult/

magnifying glass

lu

/'lu.pə/

[I] buy

cumpăr

/'kum.pər/

2 Listening
3 Translate


Vowel Ă also known as schwa / shwa, A-breve or A with a hat

Ă
Position of the lips:
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /ə/
English equivalent sound : about

Romanian words containing vowel Ă

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

table

ma

/'ma.sə/

car

mași

/'ma.ʃi.nə/

sin

păcat

/pə.kat/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Vowel Πor  also known respectively as i-circumflex and a-circumflex

What is the difference between Î and Â: Î or  are pronounced exactly the same way.
The only difference is in writing: Î is used at the beginning of a word, whereas  in the middle. You may find Î in the middle of a word in exceptional and rare cases, when it's preceded by a prefix e.g. neînsemnat (insignificant) =ne + însemnat. If you are beginner, you do not need to worry about the Î inside a word since it's quite rare. It's worth noting that "Romania" is written in Romanian: România (with an 'â' and not with an 'î'). Consequently all words that derive from România are written with an 'â': Romanian (language): Limba română, Romanian (male): Român
Î or Â
Position of the lips:
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /ɨ/
English equivalent sound : there is no English equivalent sound
The Πor  sounds can be problematic for English speakers, this is why we recommend that you listen carefully many times to the sample words below.

Romanian words containing vowel Î or Â

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

food

mâncare

/mɨn.'ka.re/
Romanian (man)

român

/ro'mɨn/

growl

mârâit

/mɨ.rɨ'it/

beginner (man)

începător

/ɨn.ʧe.pə'tor/

swimming

înot

/ɨ'not/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Romanian Exercises: Romanian words containing vowel A

Question 1 / 52

Listen to the following word/expression.
Choose the word that you hear from the list below


29 comments

Thank you!! Your concise and

Thank you!! Your concise and clear instructions & pronunciation guide is easy to follow. I'm gaining ground in my Romanian fluency, thanks to you!!

Pronunciation of vowels

I found the explanations very clear. Maybe for the a with circonflexe on top you could say is pronounced like the German u with umlaut.

Yes, that is exactly what I

Yes, that is exactly what I thought!
For those who don't know how to pronounce the German ü- curve your lips like saying the short u, but pronounce the Romanian "i" instead. It will come naturally!

German - Romanian pronunciation

Thank you Diana,

It's reassuring to have your confirmation.
By the way with the help of Mark, that posted below, we were able to create the first lesson in German:
Sein habben rumanisch
It's still a draft, it needs a bit more polishing and a few more translations of some labels at the end, but it's almost ready.

If anyone else would like to join in helping, you are more than welcomed, I could use a helping hand, to deliver more and better lessons.
I'm working now on developing a framework for pronunciation exercises to help you recognize the vowels to spot the difference between "ă,î,a, e, ie...".

Happy to help

Proper pronunciation

What is the proper pronunciation of our family name ONCEA ?

Can you reference an Internet site to assist with ONCEA family history in Romania?

Thank you for the consideration of these requests.

Romanian pronunciation of your surname: Oncea

Hi,

The pronunciation of Oncea is:
The phonetic transcription is /'on.t͡ʃe̯a/

I'll provide asap some details on the second part of your question.

Romanian family history

Hi,

For your Romanian family history, since this is not related to the pronunciation lesson, I have replied in our dedicated area for such questions at:
(OLD URL removed, not available anymore)
I'll write you an email with the details of your username and password to be able to reply over there if you so wish.

In any case all the best in finding your family!

actual name before Ellis Island changed it

I have heard our Romanian surname pronounced by my grandmother and it seems to have pronounced something like "Gara'dzo." I am guessing it's spelled something like Garaicu, but would appreciate any help. No original documents from the passage around 1920 have survived. All anyone said was that the documents were printed in Cyrillic to explain Ellis Islands challenge with the name. I did get my grandmother to tell me my grandfather is from Madaras near Satu Mare. My ancestry DNA shows a link to Transylvania.

Thanking you in advance for any assistance.

Trace your Family Tree - Romania

Hi,

I'm always happy to see this type of questions of people that are curious to find more about their roots.

The easy part is to identify the village it is called : Mădăraș in district (județ) Satul Mare. You knew this already. The pronunciation of Mădăraș is /mə.də'raʃ/
It took me a few minutes but then I understood what Ellis Island meant, and the fact that upon arrival to the US the original Romanian name has been altered.

With regards to your name, as you can imagine, there are tens of names that could map your description.
The name Garaicu is a Romanian name still in use. The pronunciation though is not the one you mentioned "Gara'dzo"

The difficulty is to know whether the "a" "Garaicu" or in "Gara'dzo" was the Romanian letter "a" or "ă". They are pronounced differently in Romanian. "dz" in "Gara'dzo" resembles more the Romanian letter "ț". It is also uncommon for a Romanian name to end in "o". As you can see in the link below with all the Romanian names that start with G almost none end in "o". Nevertheless it is possible, as I personally know one or two family names that end in "o".

If you could try to remember better the pronunciation(a or ă as mentioned above), I'd be happy to try to map it on the list of Romanian names that start with G.
Here is the list of all Romanian last names that start with G:
https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/List%C4%83_de_nume_rom%C3%A2ne%C8%99ti_-_l...

Even though I'm surprised to hear that the name was printed in Cyrillic, it can very well be the case, as the Romanian language between 1500 and 1860 was using the Cyrillic letters (apparently using a Romanian alphabet though). Despite the Cyrillic characters that were abolished in 1860, Romanian has always been a Latin language.

Depending on how far you want to go, you could try to contact a few "Garaicu", now everybody is on Facebook, and ask them if they remember having any grand-grand-father from the region of Satu Mare, Mădăraș. Google found only a few Garaicu names, Irina, Cristian...

Happy to help

Pronunciation of Î or Â

While it says above that there is no English equivalent of the Πor  sound, the lip position section is blank. This sound is relatively easy to mimic, however. The lip position should be round, as if you are going to say a long 'O' sound (as in tote, or gode), but then with the tongue, try to make a a long 'E' sound (as in feet) while holding the lips in the long 'O' position. It is a combined vowel sound in this way.

You are describing a front

You are describing a front rounded /y/. ⟨â⟩ is a central unrounded /ɨ/. To an English speaker, these sounds are both "some weird mix of (front unrounded) /i/ and (back rounded) /u/".

Letter E

I read in the book I have that letter E can also be pronounced as [ie] in the beginning of the word, as in "yes", and they give the word "este" as an example of such pronunciation. Could you please explain if this is true, and if it is, in which instances should I pronounce E this way?

Pronunciation of letter "E" in Romanian

You are right, there are limited exceptions when "e" can be read as [ie] (IPA format /je/).
The exceptions are personal pronouns: eu, el, ea and the forms of the "a fi" (to be) verb: este, e, eram, erai, era, erati,erau.
Please find part of the above pronunciations at:
Romanian verb "a fi" (to be) conjugations
if you would need the other ones please let us know.

I'have added a new section in this lesson after the pronunciation of "E" explaining the two ways of pronouncing "E" in Romanian.

Letter E

Thank you very much! This is a great help!

Thank you for this great

Thank you for this great resource!

pronunciation of A-circumflex

Exactly as in the German U with an umlaut. Perfect!

Romanian - German pronunciation similarities

Thank you Sylvia, It is very useful to know it. I hope one day we'll be able to translate this website in German to allow Germans to learn easy and fast Romanian as well.

Romanian - German pronunciation similarities

If you are looking for a volunteer to translate this website into German, I would be interested to do it. I came across this website after a visit to Bucharest where I was fascinated by the Romanian language (and people!). I have always been interested in languages, and after having learnt some Latin, French, Italian and Spanish I realised it was time now to learn a new Romanic language. I am British, grew up and studied in England, but moved to Germany about 40 years ago and am therefore fluent in both languages. I you are interested, please send me an email!

Learn Romanian from German

Thank you very much Mark.
I'd be happy to start translating the website in German as well.

I have just dropped you an email.

I am very sorry to dissapoint

I am very sorry to dissapoint you, but â or î in Romanian are not at all pronounced as ü in German. Ü is pronounced iu while î or â is different.

ü in German vs Romanian î or â

That is interesting.
Do you know if the Romanian î or â have an equivalent German sound?
Thank you

Learning resource

Love this and will use it again
Love Romania, and Romanian - a more pure form of Latin than even Italian!

Study Romanian language online website

Hi Fergus,Thank you for your kind words. We are striving to add more content and to improve the website. So hopefully this website will be more and more useful for anybody that would like to study Romanian.Admin

Clarity in pronunciation

I just happened to run into this website when googling the Romanian alphabet and am so glad I did! It is giving me so much clarity in pronunciation. I am absolutely a beginner in Romanian but have a (now rusty) background in a few other languages. Thank you!! This is going to be very helpful.

Easy Romanian pronunciation

Hi,
Thank you for your appreciations. Please check the next lessons on pronunciation as well. There you will find many exercises as well. I'm planning to add in this lessons on the Romanian vowels exercises as well. I'm a bit unhappy that I couldn't find the time so far, but I'll do my best to do it.

I was also considering adding exercises where you could speak and your voice would get recorded and then appreciated whether it's accurate pronunciation or not. It's quite a task, I hope that one day I'll add it though. I would be curious to know if, generally speaking the visitors of this website would be interested in such a feature, as the effort to set it up is considerable.

Thank you one more time and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer and help!

Voice response recording

Thank you so much for your quick response. I will certainly proceed with more exercises. Wow! I think your idea of providing the opportunity for us to record our pronunciation for your review for accuracy would be wonderful!

E/ie

The initial E in the pronouns and parts of the present tense of to be is indeed pronounced yeah. This contrary to what some Romanians will claim is good Romanian. However the imperfect tense of a fi should be pronounced with a simple E at the beginning. And most people will observe this. I'm surprised therefore that you say the imperfect tense of to be is pronounced with the yeah. In the past of course many words started with the yeah, but were written with a simple E. For example epure, eftin etc. Now these words are spelt to reflect their pronunciation: iepure, ieftin etc. Romanians still hesitate with one or two words still spelt with the E, for example: evul mediu, is the evul pronounced yeah-vu(l)??? Finally, standard Romanian still pronounces a simple E as yeah in the middle of words, which you do not mention: prieten = pree-yeah-ten.
I can understand your not mentioning the fact that in words such as vine, many Romanians will say veen-yeah. This is regarded as dialectical and should not be encouraged!

Finetuning Romanian pronunciation

Hi Iulian,

Thank you for your comment.

The following past forms (imperfect) of the Romanian verb "a fi" (to be):eram, erai, era, erați, erau are to be pronounced as /je'ram/ /je'raj/ /je'ra/ /je.rat͡sʲ/ /je.raw/
There are two sources for this rule: First is the Romanian academy that clearly specifies it:"in pronumele personale și în formele verbului a fi se scrie e dar se pronunță [ie]: eu, el, ei, ele, ești, este, e, eram, erai, era, erați, erau"
And then the most interesting part it in a footnote on the above quoted statement, thus still by the Romanian Academy:
"Rostirea hipercorectă [e] in loc de [ie] în aceste forme - practicată în special în învățământ pentru a fixa la elevi deprinderea de scriere este greșită"
The hyper-correct pronunciation [e] instead of [ie] in these forms - used mainly in the education sector to anchor the habit of writting [with e] is wrong.

Thus not only that the Romanian Academy states that it should be pronounced as /je/ they state that the pronunciation /e/ is wrong.
You can find the above quotations including the note in the book called "Dicționarul ortografic, ortopeic și morfologic al limbii române" published by the Romanian Academy, the linguistic institute Iorgu Iordan - Al Rosetti"

The pronunciation of "e" in the middle of a Romanian word depends on the consonants or vowels before or after it. In your example in the word "prieten" it is because of the vowel "i" that occurs before "e" that you will hear "ie". The correct pronunciation using the phonetic alphabet is /pri'e.ten/ thus the "e" is pronounced as /e/ and not as /je/.
You can check this lesson as well:
The pronunciation of romanian vowels "ie"

I assume that by "standard Romanian" you mean spoken Romanian or street language. In spoken Romanian you will hear many variations of the above, sometimes correct sometimes not, I can't really generalize and state whether there is a prevailing way in spoken language.

Happy to help

E/ie

Thank you so much for that! All my Romanian teachers in the past need to read your excellent academically supported explanation; we really need to write a proper textbook for Romanian!
Thanks again. It must be remembered that people study a language not just to buy potatoes or a railway ticket but sometimes also for its own sake, the interest, the pleasure, the understanding. Some of the popular textbooks, one in particular, are just plain wrong in many respects. Yours
is a thinking Project!

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