Annemarie Sorescu Marinković
Institute for Balkan Studies
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Serbian Language Acquisition in Communist Romania
Abstract: The paper analyzes a unique linguistic phenomenon characterizing Romania’s western border areas for almost a decade, in the 1980s: the acquisition of the Serbian language by Romanians in Timişoara under the communist regime, primarily through exposure to Yugoslav television programmes. It gives a necessarily sketchy overview of private life under communism, notably the situation in the Banat province, whose privileged position as a result of being closest to the West both geographically and culturally was reflected in the acceptance of pluralism and a critical attitude towards authoritarianism. Taking into account the literature on foreign language acquisition through exposure to television programmes, the study is based on a research involving Romanian natives of Timişoara who, although lacking any formal instruction in Serbian, intensively and regularly watched Yugoslav television programmes in the period in question, and on evaluating their competence and proficiency in Serbian, through language tests, narrative interviews in Romanian and free conversations in Serbian. The conclusion is that most respondents, despite the varying degree of proficiency in Serbian depending on their active use of the language before and after 1989, showed a strong pragmatic competence, which appears to contradict the author’s initial hypothesis.
Keywords: TV foreign language acquisition, Serbian language, Romania, Timişoara, communism