CENTRUL DE CERCETARE ŞTIINŢIFICĂ "INTERFERENŢE CULTURALE"
Studii româneşti în SUEDIA
Prof. Ingmar Söhrman
In 1961 Romanian became a university subject in its own right in Sweden as did the other Romance languages. Until then French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish had been united under the name of Romance languages which was mainly French with the obligation to study at least one more Romance language if the student wanted to have a major in Romance languages.
It was a mayor step forward when the other Romance languages got their independence, and you could focus on a particular language of your own interest without spending a year or two studying French first. Nevertheless, French kept dominating the field for a long time, of course, and it was not really until in the 90’s that Spanish was able to really compete in numbers of students, and Spanish has now in many respects taken over the role as the number one Romance language if you look at the “quantity”. Italian and Portuguese together with Romanian have needed more time, and although Italian now is the front runner of the three “smaller” Romance languages in Sweden, Romanian has had a more than reasonable exit as will be shown further down.
To say that Professor Alf Lombard’s role as promoter of the study of Romanian in Sweden was fundamental is a truism. Without his interest and dedication Romanian would hardly have had any position at Swedish universities today.
After graduating at Uppsala University in 1930 with the help and introduction of his professor Erik Staaf for the very first time Lombard paid a visit to Romania in 1934 where he met Professor Ovid Densuşianu and made friends with Professor Alexandru Z. N. Pop and a young linguist, Alexandru Rosetti, with whom he remained in close contact until Rosettti’s death. These two pillar stones in Romanian linguistics used to send each other a letter every month, and their correspondence has been published, and this is in itself a fascinating story to read.
When Lombard left Uppsala, where he had got his doctorate, and became full professor at the University of Lund in 1938, he gave the very first course in Romanian at university level in Sweden. Ever since the University of Lund has been, and still is, the centre for Romanian Studies in Sweden. Lombard’s enormous Romanian library was an inspiring treasure of knowledge. After Lombard’s death the main part of the library went to the University of Trondheim in Norway, where it is available for researchers.
Lombard’s interest in Romanian led to the publication of his now classic works, La pronunciation du roumain and later Le verbe roumain. Étude morphologique in two volumes in 1955. The modest title of his next book gives a false idea of its content, La langue roumaine. Une présentation, published in 1974, which was an improved translation of Rumänsk Grammatik, written in Swedish and published a year earlier. However, this presentation was – and is – a Romanian grammar with focus on the morphology, not only a presentation. Lombard’s last work on Romanian was the Dictionnaire morphologique de la langue roumaine (1982) that he wrote with Constantin Gâdei.
Lombard was made a corresponding member of the Romanian Academy already in 1947, and was also consulted as late as in 1993 when the orthographic reform took place after the revolution.
It might seem strange to dedicate so much space to one man’s work, but Lombard’s enormous production and his importance as instigator and founding father of Romanian studies in Sweden can not be overestimated, and the author of these lines can confirm that the recommendations that Lombard gave me in the 80’s and 90’s have opened many doors to Romanian linguistic circles.
Apart from Lund where Romanian has been a subject taught ever since it was made a subject in its own right in 1961, it has also been taught at an introductory level at Uppsala University, and during the years 1963 to 1973 Romanian was also taught at Stockholm University under the protection of Professor Ingemar Boström. In the 80’s it “came back” to Stockholm for a couple of years since the University of Lund “outsourced” Romanian courses to Stockholm for a couple of years.
Before 1961 Lombard gave courses on Romanian as a minor within the frame work of “Romance languages”, and this was done a fairy regular basis. Even after lombard’s retirement Lund has remained the centre for Romanian studies in Sweden, and to a certain extent in Scandinavia. Different teachers kept the studies going like Dagmar Falk, who got her degree from Lombard and wrote an advanced master’s thesis (filosofie licentiat) on the morphology of the Romanian noun as a continuation of Lombard’s work on the verb. She is still, well into her 90’s, a remarkable scholar in the field of Romanian. Her work was carried on by different contracted teachers like Gunnar Holmqvist, Torild Romundset and Torbjörn Wessner and from 1982 Coarlia Ditvall.
In 1997 Coralia Ditvall defended her master’s thesis Études sur la syntaxe et la sémantique de TOT en roumain and two years later she defended her PhD thesis La syntaxe de l’adjectif indéfini TOT en roumain moderne et ancien. Before her, there had just been one PhD thesis on Romanian presented at a Swedish university and that was when Lombard’s PhD student Elsa Nilsson defended her thesis Les termes relatifs et les proposition en roumain moderne in 1969. However, Nilsson did not continue working at the university.
When Professor Lombard retired Romanian was no longer allowed as a PhD subject until 1980, when it returned as an option. He was very active teaching and writing long after his retirement. He actually wrote half his publications after retiring, but he was also granted a long life, being born in Paris in 1902 and died in Lund in 1994.
Ditvall, who also had started under Lombard when he was long retired, was busy teaching from 1982 and could only carry out her research part time, but managed to get her degree as we have seen. Had she not been a PhD candidate at the beginning of the 80’s it is possible that Romanian as a PhD subject would not have returned.
The Romanian language had been taught not only in Lund but also in Copenhagen until the death of prof. Lozovan. In times of economic restrictions and hard demands on producing students in Sweden (and Denmark) an agreement was made between the universities of Lund and Copenhagen, and Ditvall was appointed senior lecturer of Romanian at Lund but also examined students in Copenhagen. Her situation was tough, and it has to be recognized that she managed to do what seemed impossible. Against all odds Romanian has survived, but with the executioner’s sword on her throat Ditvall well knew that it was a question of ‘succeed or perish’. The danger is still not gone, but Ditvall started developing internet based courses on all levels up to M.A. that could be studied at home and giving conversation exercises over the phone and later over the net.
Many people became and become interested in languages like Romanian later in life for professional or personal reasons. Ditvall has always been extremely available for her students and has mostly also had the support of one or two contracted teachers on something like a 20 % contract. These students have had one real meeting a year which has been a colloquium with exercises, exams and conferences on the beautiful little island Marstrand on the Swedish west coast, where linguists and other researchers in the field of Romanian culture and society have presented their works to the students. Romanian culture and music have also been present, mainly in performed by the music band Calabalâk. These meetings have become some kind of scientific gathering of researchers from different fields that deal with Romania and Moldova and Romanian matters in other countries. Rapports from these meetings are available on Rumän-Info which is a network that Ditvall keeps going. Anybody interested is free to contact her in order to get all the information given there in Romanian and Swedish email@example.com .
It is hard to know the exact number of students that have really passed the different courses that have been offered in Lund and Stockholm. What seems a fair estimation is that at least 100 students have studied Romainan for at least 1 semester and some up to four semesters in Lund up till the 90’s. In Stockholm some 30 students did pass the exams. During this last decade when “production results” have become increasingly more important there has been something between 120 and 150 students registered every semester at the University of Lund. The number seems relatively stable but with a slightly increasing tendency. However, not all of them have studied full time, and for many Romanian is ‘just’ a hobby, much dedication and devotion, but not so many exams, although between 60 and 80 % of the students actually finish their courses.
Ditvall and her collaborators have dedicated much time to developing ‘textbooks’, instructions and exercises available on the internet also using web cameras and other means of support to replace the classroom face-to-face situation.
No dictionaries existed for Swedish students. The Danes were better off since there was a Danish-Romanian dictionary published at the end of the 80’s by Poul Høyby and Valeriu Munteanu. Otherwise they had to use English or French dictionaries. Valeriu Munteanu who taught Danish and Swedish at the University of Bucharest for many years was working hard on a Swedish-Romanian dictionary that was almost finished when he passed away in 1999. Through the dedication of his wife, Sanda Munteanu, and the collaborators that she gathered the dictionary was published a couple of years after her husband’s death. That this dictionary is a valuable instrument both for Romanian students studying Swedish and Swedish students studying Romanian is evident. There are also some shorter dictionaries of which the one produced in the Lexin series is worth mentioning. In 2006 Söhrman published a history of the Romance languaes, Vägen från latinet (The way from Latin), where Romanian is given its due share in order to help student to get into how the Romanian language has developed and what it shares with the other Romance languages and what not, as well as why this is so.
Arne Halvorsen, who is professor of French at the University of Trondheim in Norway, and who is a dedicated scholar of Romanian, published a Romanian-Norwegian dictionary a couple of years ago, and that is also a very good help also for Swedish and Danish students, since the languages are so close to each other, although we are still waiting for a good Romanian-Swedish dictionary to be written. Halvorsen actually studied Romanian with Lombard and is now also responsible for the lion’s part of Lombard library that is now to be found in Trondheim.
There are no courses on Romanian in Norway at the moment, so Ditvall’s internet courses are the only option for Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Finland, however, is another case. Professor Lauri Lindgren, who held the chair of Romance languages at the University of Turku for many years managed to establish a Romanian lectureship there, and this is still very active. Lindgren himself has been an active scholar of Romanian studies, and published several articles on Romanian and Romanian culture. At the International Committee for Balkan Studies it so happens that the two Scandinavian members, professor Lindgren and professor Söhrman are the only ones representing Romanian. All the other members are Slavists. Unfortunately Romania, for some reason, has not been represented at these meetings.
In Lund Romanian is still kept has a research field and in 1999 Medina Fodor defended her master’s thesis Le fonctionnement référentiel des pronoms démonstratifs roumains aceasta/acela dans la prose littéraire moderne, and Vivan Franzén, who had spent several years in Romania presented her master’s thesis at the Department of General Linguistics on verbs that express oral communication in Romanian (Verb som uttrycker muntlig kommunikation i rumänska ). In 2002 she defended her PhD thesis on word intonation and word meaning in Romanian (Ordbetoning och ordbetydelse i rumänska). Her knowledge and open personality would have been a great support to the teaching of Romanian in Lund, but, unexpectedly, she died soon after the defence of her thesis.
Ditvall has mainly dedicated herself to the teaching of Romanian which is an admirable task, but she has also kept on doing research work in order to keep Romanian linguistics going in Sweden. So has the author of this article, who has carried out the Lombard legacy and tried to be an academic support for Romanian studies in Lund and written several articles lately on Romanian genitive and past tenses as well as on cultural contacts and more ‘popular’ themes like articles on Romanian authors and language in the Swedish National Encyclopaedia. He was also awarded an honorary membership of the Linguistic Institute of the Romanian Academy last September.
Not being one of the most studied language at European universities and under a strict economic threat of being eliminated Romanian is nevertheless doing pretty well in Sweden, although the future seems to have some shady clouds.
Romanian has not only been taught at university level but also at different language schools in Sweden. It is impossible to know how many people might have studied there, but there was a certain interest in the 70’ and early 80’s and now again there is an increasing interest. Romania is now a member of the EU, tourism is coming back, and there are quite a few Romanian immigrants to Sweden. The contacts between the two countries have not been enormous, but should not be underestimated, just look at the Turkish word calabalâk that is found in Romanian and Swedish but not in the surrounding languages. It has of course to do with Charles XII’s involuntarily stay in Bender in 1709.
Although it is not the subject of the present article the existence of translations from Romanian to Swedish (as well as the other way round) is of great importance as an introduction to the Romanian culture, and there are fortunately some good translators in both directions. Recently a Romanian Cultural Centre has been founded in Stockholm which, of course, is also very important as a means of spreading knowledge on Romanian culture and stimulating an interest in modern Romanian reality. The director of this institute is the excellent translator of Romanian poetry Dan Shafran. The establishing of this centre will hopefully contribute to an increasing interest in Romanian culture and language.
The many Romanian immigrants to Sweden has evidently had a positive effect on the number of students studying Romanian in Sweden, but in modern multicultural society it is of great importance that young (and even older) citizens are given the possibility to study and carry on studying their ‘old’ cultural identity as well as their new one. At the same time it is extremely important that Europe as well as other parts of the world keep up the multilingual possibility and concern and also gives the means for people who meet new cultures to enter them directly and not just through other languages. Thus, Romanian has a future in Sweden as well as elsewhere.
 Ingmar Söhrman, ’Rumänskans ställning i Sverige’ Moderna språk, 1983, 229-232. “Invatamîntul limbii române in Suedia”, Limba si literatura nr 1, Bucureşti, 1984, pp. 61-63.
 Ingmar Söhrman ’Limba Română în inima profesorului Alf Lombard’, Columna 11, Publicaţie l Lectoratului de Limba Romaână Universitatea din Turku, decembrie 1997, pp. 15-20.
 Nicolae Mocanu, Ioana Anghel & Heinz Hoffmann, Corespondenţă: (1934-1990)/Alexandru Rosetti & Alf Lombard. Vol 1-, Cluj_Napoca: Clusium, 2000 -
 The earlier development of the Romanian immigration to Sweden is described in Ingmar Söhrman, ‘Imigrantii românii in Suedia’, Alergatorul de la Maraton, Aarhus, 1987, pp. 221-230.
 Ragnar Ängeby & Ingmar Söhrman, Sverige och Rumänien/Suedia şi România, Stockholm, 2000.