In Moldova, speaking the wrong language once had serious consequences

The World in Words

Moldovan Flag

Nicolas Raymond

Moldova holds a special place in the heart of The World in Words host Patrick Cox. 

Many years ago, Patrick lived in the small, Eastern European country for six months, teaching journalism in the capital, Chișinău.  

The region also looms large for his co-host Nina Porzucki. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova’s neighbor, Romania. Moldova and Romania share much in common — including the food.

Patrick Photo

Patrick Cox and one of his radio students at a market in Chișinău, Moldova, in 1998. Patrick was in Moldova as a Knight International Journalism Fellow and was attached to the country’s Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent.


Patrick Cox

So when a Moldovan restaurant opened up near The World in Words studios in Boston, the podcast crew had to get a taste. This week on the podcast we head over to the Moldovan Authentic Restaurant in Newton where restauranteurs Artur and Sandra Andronic talk about their native tongue and language politics in Moldova, while Nina and Patrick sample their mamaliga and sarmale.


Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki sat down to interview Sandra and Artur Andronic about growing up in Moldova and their mother tongue


Rupa Shenoy

Plus, we also dip into the World in Words archives for a little bonus segment. What would happen if you dropped a group of monolingual speakers of different languages onto a deserted island? Linguist Derek Bickerton wanted to find out.

He studies creole languages and he proposed a scientific study that would do just that — he even had an island in mind. He wrote about his adventures with creoles in a memoir called Bastard Tongues. This week on the podcast, what happened with Derek Bickerton’s study.


2:00 The story of linguist Derek Bickerton’s dream of a linguistic experiment to test his theories on pidgin and creole languages


Stuffed cabbage and grape leaves (sarmale) and pies filled with potatoes or cheese (placinte) are some of the traditional dishes we sampled at the Moldovan Authentic Restaurant.


Patrick Cox

10:20 Patrick and Nina debate who would play Derek Bickerton in the movie about his strange experiment.

11:35 Meet Artur and Sandra Andronic, owners of the Moldovan Authentic Restaurant in Newton, MA

12:00 What is the official language of Moldova?

13:00 Russian speakers versus Romanian speakers

14:35 Growing up bilingual in Moldova

20:00 Patrick’s favorite Moldovan song, the "Numa Numa" song...

And for the original version — “Dragostea din tei” by O-zone