linguisthub logo

Working with Romanian Speaking Patients: A Medical Phrasebook and Resource

About the authors, Acknowledgements, Introduction, Pronunciation guide

By Dr Philip Matthews & Dr Simona Sekler

Dr Philip Matthews MRCGP  MRCPsych  DRCOG  has worked as a partner in General Practice and as a Registrar in Psychiatry. In 1997-98 he worked as GP Facilitator with Primary Care for Homeless People, (then) part of Camden and Islington Health Authority. Between 1998 and 2002 he worked as a salaried GP with  “The Acorns” Primary Care Act Pilot, in Grays, Essex, with homeless people, travellers and asylum seekers. At the time of writing, he is working on Tyneside for Newcastle Primary Care Trust at the Sceptre Court Surgery. This provides primary care services for newly arrived asylum seekers in the west of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Simona Sekler was born in Cluj-Napoca in Romania. She graduated from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Iuliu Hatieganu”, Cluj, Romania. She worked as a resident in internal medicine in The Fourth Medical Clinic as well as a research assistant at the Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, in Cluj.

She also had a voluntary involvement in a non-profit organisation for medical and social aid.

She came to the UK, which she has made her second home. She now takes care of her child and is preparing for the UK PLAB examinations.

Thanks to Nancy Cohn for providing questions on burns and ward-life, and to

Ian Soulsby for additional dental questions.

Thanks also to Beth Noble, Mike King and Peter Matthews for technical help, Michael Swaffield and Tim Roberts of the Department of Health for support and

encouragement, and Vicki Leah and Teresa Kearney for additional ideas and material.

Thanks to Professor Gareth Williams and the Anglo French Medical Society, the Family Planning Association, Health Promotion England, the British Red Cross and Thameside Community Healthcare NHS Trust for allowing us to use their material as a starting point for parts of this work.

The Haemoglobinopathy Leaflet is Crown copyright. Crown copyright material is translated and reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

This work was made possible by a grant from the Department of Health.

© Dr Philip Matthews and Dr Simona Sekler 2005.

This book has been written to help health professionals working with Romanian speaking clients. It is hoped that people working in social services, refugee organisations and education will also find it helpful. It is the result of a collaboration between an English GP and a Romanian doctor. It is not intended to replace trained interpreters, who remain the ideal, and whose help is particularly necessary for dealing with complicated problems. Neither is it intended to teach the reader Romanian. Romanian has a complicated system of gender, declension and case, and the reader is advised to consult one of the several available language books for a better understanding of this.

Romanian is spoken by around 25 million people worldwide, and is the main language in Romania and Moldova. It is also spoken by significant numbers of people in the Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Israel and Hungary, whilst Romanian speakers are found throughout the former Soviet Union and, indeed, the world.

Romanian is a Romance language, which has evolved from the Latin spoken by Roman soldiers who invaded Dacia (which approximately corresponds to the Romanian province of Transylvania) in AD 105-7: hence the name Romanian. Since then it has been influenced by the Slavic languages of neighbouring countries, and has borrowed words from Greek, Turkish, Romani and, more recently, French. Romanian was written in a Cyrillic script until the mid- nineteenth century in Romania, and until 1991 in Moldova.

Other languages are also spoken in Romania, particularly Hungarian and to a lesser extent, German. These are not dealt with in this book.

Romania also has the largest population of Roma (Romanies or Gypsies) in Europe. The 1992 census put the figure at around 400 000, but other estimates put its size at around 2.5 million, in a country of 23 million. Many of the Romanian-speaking asylum seekers arriving in the U. K. In recent years are Roma. Many Roma speak Romani as well as the language of their country of origin, although some speak Bayash which is a combination of non-standard Romanian, Romani and Hungarian.

The word ‘Roma’ and their language name ‘Romani’ are thought to be derived from a word in that language originally meaning ‘man’- its similarities to the word ‘Romanian’ are pureley coincidental. Romani is an Indo-Aryan language with different origins to Romanian, although the two have influenced each other.

Levels of literacy are low amongst the Romanian Roma, and so many will not be able to use the written questions in this work. However, as Romanian is spoken much as it is written, unlike English, once you have mastered the basics as set out in the Pronunciation Guide, it should be possible for you to ask simple questions of your patients. For more precise pronunciation however, it is suggested that you consult one of the several teaching tapes or CDs that are available.

Romanian is also the main language of Moldova, where it is known as Moldavian. Moldova was once the eastern part of the Romanian province of Moldavia, when it was known as Bessarabia. It was taken over by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, when it became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, but gained independence in 1991. Moldova contains large numbers of Russian and Ukrainian speakers, which has led to tensions in the past.

There are some dialect differences between Romania and Moldova, whilst some

English words do not have a direct equivalent in Romanian. Therefore not all the words contained in this work will be understood by all Romanian  speakers.

Aromanian, or Macedo-Romanian, split off from Romanian over a thousand years ago, and speakers of the two languages have difficulty understanding each other. It is mainly spoken in Greece, with some speakers in Albania,

Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and some in Romania itself.

This work is based on Dr Matthews’ earlier book, “Working with Kosovar/Albanian Patients – A Medical Phrasebook and Resource”, with some revisions and additions following on from feedback on that work. In particular, the general vocabulary has been expanded, whilst a new section on burns has been added. The Health Education section has been expanded to include information on alcohol, hepatitis, HIV, and developmental screening. The leaflet used to explain the thalassaemia result card, which is given to patients in some areas, has also been translated.

This book has been designed for practical use. Following the next chapter, on pronunciation of Romanian letters, we have included quick reference chapters on common or important diseases, and infections, for ease of use. There is then a chapter on basic phrases which might be helpful when a patient first comes to register, followed by some more everyday words. There are then chapters on anatomy and blood. A following chapter gives questions that can be used for general history taking and examination, although more detailed questions are to be found later on under each respective system. This is followed by chapters on

investigations  and  treatment.  After  this,  there  are  chapters  on  the  various systems and specialties, most of which are sub-divided in a similar way into relevant  anatomy,  important  conditions,  symptoms,  investigations  and treatment. For ease of reference, some phrases have been duplicated between sections. If this ordering seems a little idiosyncratic, use the ‘Find’ function in Acrobat.

The latter part of this book consists of health education literature in Romanian and English for direct use with clients, including information about how to use the U.K. National Health Service, together with two child development questionnaires. Finally, there is a section on the immunisation schedules in Romania and Moldova.

We apologise in advance if we have not covered the subjects or questions you are looking for, but this work is an inevitable compromise between comprehensiveness and length. The document is already fairly lengthy, and readers may find it more economical to search for and print only those sections relevant to them, rather than the whole file.

For international use, some American terms such as “mentally retarded” have been included.

abetween a in cat, and u in cut
ăa short vowel, like er in water
âno equivalent in English: like ur in burn but shorter. A little like u in the French un
c1.  like k, when followed by a, ă, â, î, o, u.

2.  like ch, as in church,  when followed by e or i

3.  like k when followed by h, then e or i, such as in chei (quay) or chimic (chemical)

e1.  e  in leg

2.  ye as in yes, at the beginning of words

g1.  like g as in good, when followed by a, ă, â, î, o, u.

2.  like g in George, when followed by e or i

3.  like g in good when followed by h, then e or i, such as in gheizer (geyser) or ghid (guidebook)

i1) like ee in keen

2) following a consonant at the end of a word, is virtually silent, unless:

3) it is at the end of a word with a

consonant followed by l or r, such as litri, in which case it is pronounced as ee.

4) In şi (and) it is also pronounced as


5) If followed by another vowel it is pronounced like y in yet, such as ieri (yesterday)

îsame as â; used interchangeably with it
jlike the s in pleasure
ll in leg (not “dark l”, as in ball)
oo as in pot
qas in English qu (only occurs in imported words)
rtrilled r, as in Scottish pronunciation. Is audible even if appears in the middle or end of a word
ţts as in rats
uas oo in noon, but shorter (like North of

England pronunciation of butter)

was in wet (only occurs in imported words)
yas in yet (only occurs in imported words)
zz  as in zebra

Diphthongs and Triphthongs

ailike eye
âilike French œil
auow as in cow
ăusimilar to ow as in row
eabetween a as in palm, and ya
ei1.  ay as in day

2.  yay as in the old English words

“yea” or “oyez”

eu1.  ayo as in Mayo

2.  yay-o

ia1.  ya

2.  iya, when at the end of names of countries, e.g.  Anglia

iaui-ow (ow as in cow)
ie1.  ye as in yes

2.  i-ye

ieiyay as in the old English words “yea” or


iilenghtened i
ioyo as in yonder
oioy as in toy
ouo as in English go
as in brewer
uias in Louis