Romanian: Full Steam

We are accustomed to the idea that the lessons of language textbooks draw their material from the great and eternal themes of life: family, work, travel, weather. This is an illusion of course, which is easily unveiled by the apparently period-related texts of a not more than twenty or thirty year old language reader. But it is a safe illusion, because it promises us that we would be able to take advantage of the lessons in all our life, among the changing conditions. I wonder what would high school students say if the lessons of their, say, English reader would summarize Obama’s election campaign, Bin Laden’s liquidation, Prince William’s wedding or the Greek financial crisis?

Precisely this kind of lessons can be found in István Popovits’ Romanian reader published in 1941 under the title Romanian: Full Steam, whose introduction already indicates its timeliness:

“With the return of a part of Transylvania to our thousand year old homeland, apart from our dear Hungarian brothers and sisters a significant Romanian minority has also returned. My book aims at the easy mastery of the language of this minority.”

Hungary regained Northern Transylvania by the authority of the Second Vienna Award on 30 August 1940. This region had 1 million 344 thousand Hungarian and 1 million 69 thousand Romanian inhabitants. In Transylvania, allotted to Romania in the Trianon Treaty of 1920, education was in Romanian, and after the return of the northern part of the region the new, Hungarian-based education also made obligatory to the Hungarian students of Transylvania to learn the language of their Romanian fellow countrymen from the first to the eighth class. And its textbook was precisely Romanian: Full Steam, whose lessons also informed the students about the most important contemporary political events.

The Carpathian Basin after the two Vienna Awards (1938, 1940) which adjudged the Hungarian-majority areas of the neighboring countries to Hungary. Dotted line indicates pre-1920 Hungarian state boundaries.

The following two pages with lesson 27 of the textbook were sent by our reader Tamás Deák as a historical document which nicely fits into the series of wartime phrasebooks presented in our blog.

„Twenty-seventh lesson
The occupation of France and the armistice

It happened what none would have believed: France was occupied by the German troops in less than a month. It shared the fate of Poland, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In the face of the disaster suffered, the French government led by Marshal Pétain requested and received armistice from Germany and Italy on serious conditions.

What were the reasons of this unheard-of defeat? The newspapers and diplomacy listed a lot: freemasonry, democracy, anarchic party politics, the deterioration of morals, which gradually drugged and killed the true spirit of France.

The toughest philippic over the defeated France was told by the country’s marshal, Pétain. By announcing on radio the tragic fate of his country to the world, he was not afraid to point out the causes which brought France to the collapse: that it had few friends, weapons and children… «After our victory (of 1918) the desire of benefit and enjoyment stifled the spirit of sacrifice. Everyone wanted more than he gave. They were striving to avoid all efforts. And now the catastrophe has come.»

These simple, but historic words told in a country which was at war against God and the Church, to whose political leaders nothing was sacred, and which was a worldwide distributor of pornography, had the effect of an earthquake, and opened people’s eyes to reality.”

The symbols of Vichy-France headed by Pétain, on a poster and explained in a school textbook (Archives du Musée de la résistance et de la déportation de Grenoble)

“French people! You are not sold, neither betrayed or abandoned. Come to me with confidence!”

“Abandoned population of France, be confident to the German soldier!”

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