Sunday, 21 April 2013

English? Yes, I very good speak it.

Something I've already commented on is that I'm getting pretty tired of reading Romania's boring English news or struggling to find non-existent or cliched travel guides. So tonight I thought let's skip ahead to actually living in Romania as an English-speaking immigrant: which bank account would I use?

A quick Google turned up Romania's biggest banks, and the biggest - BCR - just happens to have an English-language version of its website. Honestly, I'm not sure whether I wouldn't have been better off using Google Translate to convert the original Romanian site.

If you can spot the errors here, you clearly do actually speak English:
- "Current Account Pachages" (in a headline on the homepage no less!)
- "Save every month and win a good sum!"
- "Your personnel account"/"Your personnal service"  (ironically on the same page)
- "Keeping Values in Boxes" (This is my favourite - they were looking for 'safety-deposit boxes')
"We know that yourtime is very precious" (on the Private Banking page, for richer but less demanding people)
- "Don’t leave the performance of your portofolio to chance!" (side-note: are exclamation marks really that popular in Romania?)

Now don't get me wrong, I understand that English is a second-language in Romania. I've read all the tourist advisories that while most young people can speak it, you're better off with a phrasebook in the rural areas. However, am I wrong to expect that Romania's BIGGEST bank would at the very least ensure that their English homepage (at the very least the headlines) is error free and grammatically correct?

I'll be the first to admit that if I tried to write anything in my fledgling Romanian, my spelling and grammar would be far worse. However, the difference is this: I'm not trying to write Romanian homepages for major banks. 

English is the global business language, and banks are in the business of business. This is also the 21st Century, and I assume that English immigrants looking for banking details are not a new phenomenon.

The reason this frustrates me beyond belief is not because I urgently want to open a bank account in Romania, or because I'm the ultimate perfectionist (although a bit of accuracy from the people who'd deal with my money is desirable). No, the reason is this: I keep on hearing that English-language jobs for immigrants in Romania are A: not hugely common, and B: easily filled by English-speaking Romanians.

Yes, that latter point shows, it really does. If you're in Romania and considering hiring somebody for an English-speaking role, please hire a native English-speaking immigrant. Not only will I, as an immigrant, learn more about your beautiful country from the outside, but I may actually find a demand in Romania's job market for my unique skill-set and be able to move there before my 100th birthday.

PS: Just so that BCR doesn't feel unduly targeted, can you spot the difference between these two pages from the Romanian Cultural Institute's (ICR) website: original Romanian and English version. Or how about that a page like this one exists? Maybe it's just me, but I find it strange from an organisation that is "tasked with raising the profile of Romanian culture around the world." Yes, people from around the world will (try to) read your website.


  1. LOL so funny because you're so earnest :)

  2. Yeah Sam, being earnest is about all I have at the moment ... that and a frayed, ironic sense of humour.

  3. There are constant grammatical/spelling mistakes in Romanian within the mass-media as well, so it doesn't really surprise me. But I do find it embarrassing nonetheless.

    Think of it this way: they have to do it somehow, but they're not sure how and they just... wing it. Some people are just that helpless, they do not have the tools they need and neither the ideas on how to get them - and how to make it better.

    Now I have the typical Romanian reaction myself towards mistakes such as these: just shrug and go "meh, what can you do...". It's like this antidote towards building frustration/fear of failure, to make light of the situation and move on. - It is halfhearted but it is there nonetheless.

    At least that's what I gathered from my own experiences as a Romanian and in an attempt to make sense of our own behaviour.

    1. Interesting one Rux ... and perfectly worded as well, so congratulations. I've drawn a lot of parallels between Romanian and South Africa, and language is certainly a good point of comparison as well. We have eleven official national languages in South Africa, but four main ones (Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans and English). In business and politics everybody speaks English, and those for whom English is a second language (the majority) struggle along bravely. I think it's a particular problem in South Africa, because it has an overt racial element to it: black politicians who butcher English are mocked for being stupid, but I think a large part of that is the struggle with the language. It's the same sort of thing though as what you're describing: people don't mutter only a few words. Rather they jump wholeheartedly into the language, and the end results (both from black speakers and white Afrikaans speakers) can be something to behold.

      Thanks for the comment :) I'm always trying to make contact with 'real' Romanians in Romania, so I look forward to your input.

  4. It's funny and embarrassing. I see it almost every day - from restaurants to banks.
    They're not aiming for perfection though, 'good enough' is taken very much to heart here.

  5. I have to agree with this. We do mistakes but comparing with other countries at least in Romania you will not get lost (only in rural areas). Have you ever been in Italy? They refuse even in airports to speak in English or you may get lucky and they will speak with you. Or better, go in Spain!

    Anyway, I understand your post. It's not acceptable that a bank makes this mistakes. I will send them your post. I am also curious what's going to happen.

    1. Interesting Daniela - I'll be fascinated to hear if they respond to you. My only foray overseas so far has been to the UK, where they did - surprisingly - speak English. If you can call it English with some of those accents, lol. You see, this is another reason I want to move to Romania: all of Europe at your doorstep! It's trickier when you're stuck on the southern end of Africa.