Scumpa and scumpa mica: Raising a Bi-Lingual Family

“Scumpa and scumpa mica.” The other day, Jay stopped what he was doing and looked over at Olivia and I with a smile, and said that simple sentence.  Loosely translated this is Romanian for “sweetie and little sweetie.” I had no idea he had picked that little phrase up.

Rom-English we call it. Sentence combinations of Romanian and English. I really want my daughter to be able to speak Romanian so that she can grow up learning her heritage and be able to speak with her grandparents and great-grandparents. As Jay puts it, she is half Romanian and half “everything else.” Since he is Canadian-American and I am out of practice, our attempts at the bilingual thing kind of ends up as a hybrid way of speaking. But he definitely tries and always surprises me how much he picks up, which is motivation for me to practice a little harder. I love the idea of us sharing another language as a family.

Think of all the perks: you can get away with all kinds of things when you are bilingual. You can reprimand your kid or remind them to say thank you without being obvious. You can make awkward remarks about the person in front of you in the checkout line, without getting into trouble.

I used  to be able to speak very fluently when we first moved to the US when I was two, but over time I assimilated into American culture and began using it less and less. Today I am at the point where I understand the majority of the Romanian I hear, or at least know enough to figure out what I don’t out of context. Sometimes I suffer from unfortunate mixups that can make for an unfortunate and awkward moment if I don’t have someone around who can translate when I get stuck. I feel like I still need that in case I run into trouble.

I often wish I had used the language more, because sometimes it feels a little awkward when I try to make conversation with other Romanians. The nice thing is speaking another language really is a little like riding a bike. When I spend an afternoon with my great-grandparents, in which I am forced to speak it because they don’t speak very good English, or just hanging out with my mom and dad – it really does come back to me!

For my daughter Olivia, I’m sure being bilingual would only help her in life, especially with getting scholarships for good colleges. But I don’t know if I would put a lot of pressure on my baby to learn another language just for that, but the family connection is a really good motivation. That I DO care about. I want her to be able to speak our native tongue, and be able to follow any recipes that are passed down in the family. Sure, looking good on a college app is a plus, but really family and our heritage is everything.

I am making efforts now to absorb as much as I can of Romanian culture, especially songs & recipes, so I can share them with my daughter. A lot of Romanian culture revolves around church, music, food and sarcastic jokes. I guess I just want her to have a little of what I had. Its funny how having a kid does that, all of a sudden you become obsessed with giving them opportunities to do all the things you used to do growing up.

I remember singing Romanian worship and folk songs with my dad at bedtime. We loved the Christmas carol, “O, ce veste minunata” which means “What wonderful news.” Here is a youtube video of “O, ce veste minunata”:


We used to read aloud this Children’s Bible:


And sang Christmas Carols from this songbook:


I am so excited to for Olivia to start talking, we are trying to teach her both English and Romanian words. I can’t wait for all the wonderful things I get to share with my daughter. I hope she loves our culture as much as I do. <3

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