How to combine travel with language learning (12-day trip to Romania, Moldova & Ukraine)
I recently completed a fantastic 2-week trip to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, which allowed me not just to combine many of the tourist attractions of these 3 European countries but also to work on my language skills in Russian and Romanian. My itinerary featured 6 cities in 12 days, namely: Bucharest, Chisinau, Balti, Vinnitsa, Kiev and Kharkiv.
Romanian is the official language of Romania and Moldova (where it is referred to in the constitution as ‘Moldovan language’ or ‘limba moldovenească’) and while the Russian language does not have official status everywhere in Ukraine (just in the south and east) or in Moldova (only in the internationally unrecognized Transnistria region – see the video towards the end of the article), it is widely spoken in everyday life in most regions. These provided multiple opportunities to use both languages and to work on my level in both of them.
Map with our itinerary
During the 12 days, I traveled with an American friend who speaks English, Arabic, Spanish and French but no Romanian or Russian so I had to interpret for him along the way. Despite having little or no previous exposure to these two languages, my friend threw himself in the deep end enthusiastically, using Google Translate and some language apps to figure out the basic expressions that he would need on our trip.
Parcul Valea at sunset – Chisinau, Moldova
In addition to using Google Translate, traveling in the country of the languages you’re learning also exposes you to the language via the signs and media (e.g. TV and newspapers), spontaneous conversations with locals and the typical ‘tourist language’ necessary to navigate your way through a country. Moreover, we used the messaging apps on Facebook chat and VKontakte to maintain contact with new and old friends, giving an opportunity to spend even more time communicating in Romanian and Russian.
Click below for the different stages of the trip!
Part 1 – Bucharest, Romania
Part 2 – Chisinau and Balti, Moldova
Part 3 – Moldovan border to Vinnitsa, Ukraine
Part 4 – Kyiv, Ukraine
Part 5 – Kharkiv, Ukraine
Part 6 – Flight out of Kyiv, Ukraine
St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – Kyiv, Ukraine
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