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The goal of this rapid appraisal survey was to gain reliable information about the linguistic and sociolinguistic situation in Romania, as well as identify needs and partners for language development. The basis of the report was two weeks of fieldwork in Romania in early 2012, conducted by four team members. We visited and gathered information from roughly 100 participants in 9 locations in five cities, in an attempt to assess language attitudes, needs, and desires. Our research tools included participant observation, sociolinguistic questionnaires, wordlist comparison, and dialect network analysis. Here we discuss the general situation of the deaf in Romania, summarize our findings, and recommend possible directions for future development. While our limited time in the country does not allow us to draw definite conclusions, it permits us to formulate a general summary of the sociolinguistic situation of the Romanian deaf community.
We found no evidence that Romanian Sign Language (LSR) is related to sign languages used in other countries; however, from our fieldwork, we can safely say that LSR varies significantly from region to region within Romania, with the three major variants being located in the Transylvania (northwest), Moldavia (northeast), and Wallachia (south) regions. While it is unclear exactly how different these variations are and how much they impede communication, it is clear that deaf Romanians recognize the differences and require some level of negotiation for communication between regions. Romania has a strong network of deaf organizations, including government support, established deaf churches, and several deaf schools. Deaf education varies widely from region to region and school to school; many schools continue traditions of oral education, while others employ deaf teachers and offer classes in LSR.
In summary, we believe that much opportunity exists for language development in Romania. Potential partners include the Asociatia Nationala a Surzilor din România (National Association of the Deaf in Romania, ANSR) and national deaf churches. Our findings suggest that Transylvania would be the ideal location for a language project, and key needs have been identified as LSR educational materials and Bible translation.