Useful words and phrases in Latvian

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Around a million and a half people consider Latvian to be their native language, of whom most, or ca. 1.4 million, live in Latvia. Latvian is a rare language; it is part of the Indo-European language family and together with Lithuanian forms the Baltic branch. The Latvian language began to emerge in the VII Century as the languages of the ancient Latvian tribes – the Latgalians, Semigallians and Selonians – fused, incorporating many borrowed words from the language of the Livonians, a Finno-Ugric tribe of Latvia.

Also, shades of the German, Scandinavian, Old Russian and Latin languages have influenced the Latvian language over the course of the centuries.

It is worth remembering that Latvian is related to Lithuanian, yet the languages are not mutually freely intelligible to their speakers. Whereas in the third Baltic country, Estonia, the completely different Estonian language is spoken, which belongs to the Finno-Ugric family. It also has to be noted that in Latvia, especially in Riga and the second largest city, Daugavpils, a large segment of the local population are ethnic Russian and thus, speak Russian.

While travelling in Latvia, some frequently used Latvian phrases may come in handy:

Expressions of politeness

Thank you – Paldies

Please/you’re welcome – Lūdzu

Good morning – Labrīt

Good day/afternoon – Labdien

Good evening – Labvakar

Hello/greetings – Sveicināti

Good-bye/see you again – Uz redzēšanos

Good night – Ar labu nakti

Cheers! – Priekā!

Useful words

Yes – Jā

No – Nē

Taxi – Taksometrs

Bus/coach – Autobuss

Shop – Veikals

Police – Policija

Currency exchange – Valūtas maiņa

Hotel – Viesnīca

 

Source: Latvia Travel

3 IEMESLI, KĀPĒC VAJADZĒTU LEPOTIES AR LATVIEŠU VALODU

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Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

Kāpēc latviešu valoda ir svarīga? Vai nebūtu vieglāk, ja, līdzīgi kā ar eiro, mēs pieņemtu kādu plašāk pazīstamu Eiropas valodu? Lēnāk pār tiltu! Latviešu valoda ir reta, taču tā ieņem ļoti svarīgu lomu mūsu kultūrā! Zemāk atradīsi 3 iemeslus, kāpēc mums, latviešiem, vajadzētu lepoties ar latviešu valodu.

1. Latviešu valoda ir viena no retākajām aktīvajām valodām pasaulē.

Latviešu valoda ir ļoti eksotiska valoda, kurā runā tikai 1.75 miljonu cilvēku. Lai salīdzinātu, tā ir 33.7 reizes retāka kā itāļu valoda, gandrīz piecas reizes retāka kā zviedru valoda, kā arī gandrīz piecas reizes retāka par uiguru* valodu. Iespaidīgi, vai ne? Tas nozīmē, ka mums vajadzētu sargāt savu valodu, jo tikai 0,03% no pasaules iedzīvotājiem runā latviski!

Mūsu mērķis ir parādīt ar lepnumu, ka esam daļa no šī īpašā kluba: “Jā, es runāju latviski un lepojos ar to!”

2. Latviski runā teju tikai… Latvijā.

No 1.75 miljoniem cilvēku, kuri runā latviski, tikai 1.38 miljoni dzīvo Latvijā! Pārējie ir pārvākušies uz dzīvi citur – Krievijā, Amerikas Savienotajās Valstīs, Austrālijā, Kanādā, Lielbritānija, Vācijā, Zviedrijā, Brazīlijā, Lietuvā un Igaunijā. Latvija ir vienīgā valsts, kurā latviešu valoda ir atzīta par oficiālo valsts valodu.

3.Valoda ir mūsu kultūras spogulis

Valodu veido cilvēki, tāpēc tā lieliski atspoguļo mūsu kultūru! Mums ir jāsaprot, ka dzīvojam pasaulē, kurā mums ir vienreizēja privilēģija runāt tik reti sastopamā valodā, nevis otrādi – mums ir paveicies, ka esam daļa no šī īpašā kluba.

*Uiguru valoda ir tjruku valodu grupas valoda. Uiguru valodā runā uiguri Ķīnā, kā arī Kazahstānā, Kirgizstānā, Uzbekistānā un Turkmenistānā.

Avots: The words of Latvian. Visu rakstu lasiet šeit.

Answers to the 5 Most Common Questions about the Latvian Language

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Photo by  Bruce Mars on Unsplash

Every year on the 21st of February UNESCO celebrates the International Mother Language Day to mark the richness and diversity of the thousands of languages spoken across the globe.

As someone whose mother tongue is shared by roughly 2 million people in the whole wide world, I often encounter questions about the Latvian language. I asked my Latvian friends about their experiences and, while there may be no such thing as a silly question, we all get asked the same things over and over again.

Wonder no more – here is the ultimate guide to all you ever wanted to know about the Latvian language!

1. Do you have your own language?

Well yes, we do. Non-native speakers included, roughly 2 million people on the planet speak Latvian. That is approximately the population of Paris, France or around one fourth of the population of London, UK.

2. Is it similar to Russian?

No, not really. I am sure that both Latvians and Russians who have encountered the other language after the age of six will vouch for that. Latvian and Russian may belong to the same branch of the Indo-European language family tree but that does not mean that the two are similar. If proximity in the language tree is any indicator, a native English speaker should have an easier time understanding a German or a Dutch speaker than a Latvian would have understanding a Russian.

3. What is it similar to then?

The short answer: Lithuanian, yet the two are not mutually intelligible. As most people who ask this question don’t know more about the Lithuanians either, let me expand on this.

The descent of the language outlined in linguistic family trees is one thing, but when we talk about, e.g., similarities of words, history can be just as important. Through conquests and trade links over the past centuries the Latvian language has been strongly impacted not only by the Russian neighbors but also by the Germans, and it shares some similarities with Estonian and Finnish. Curiously, 9 times out of 10 speaking Latvian here in Northern Germany has resulted in questions whether my conversation partner and I come from Sweden or Denmark.

4. Do you use the Cyrillic alphabet?

No, we don’t. And the reason for this is purely a matter of history. Latvian was only a spoken language until mid-16th century when the efforts of Protestant pastors produced first texts in Latvian, starting  with the Lord’s prayer. As not only the clergy but also the upper class at the time were German speakers, the Latvian alphabet was based on the Latin alphabet and used the old German shrift.

The modern day Latvian alphabet was born in the early 20th century and has its peculiarities. It does not have the letters  Q, X, W, and Y but makes up for this shortage by having 11 other letters – long forms of vowels like Ā or Ē, soft forms of consonants like Ļ or Ķ, and consonants like Š that replace “Sh”. Which brings us to the next question:

5. What is up with the “Latvianising” of foreign names?

The meme on the right is not a joke, a foreigner can have a difficult time recognizing their own name by the time the Latvians are done with it. In addition to having a slightly different alphabet (see previous question), all male names typically have to end with an “S” and all female names with an “A” or an “E”. There are some exceptions but these are few and far between.

In addition, adapting foreign names to Latvian is necessary to make them usable in normal sentences. You see, the Latvian language has seven grammatical cases and while, e.g., in German these are constructed with the help of articles, in Latvian it is the end part of the word that has to change – something that is not possible unless the word ends “correctly”.

Source: Let the journey begin. Read full article here.

Neticiet, ja jums kāds saka – latviešu valoda ir maza valoda.

Brivibas piminkelis 18. novembris 2018

Brīvības pimineklis Rīgā, 2018. gada 18. novembris. Kadrs no Youtube reportāžas.

Pasaulē ir aptuveni 7000 (septiņi tūkstoši) dzīvu valodu, apmēram 2000 (diviem tūkstošiem) valodu runātāju skaits ir ne vairāk kā 1000 (viens tūkstotis). Latviešu valodas runātāju skaits ir aptuveni 2 000 000 (divi miljoni), tādēļ latviešu valoda pieskaitāma pie lielajām valodām.

Latviešu valoda ir moderna, attīstīta, lietota visās dzīves jomās, viena no 24 Eiropas Savienības oficiālajām valodām. Svarīgs nosacījums valodas attīstībai informācijas tehnoloģiju laikmetā ir tās klātbūtne/lietojums interneta vidē un datorprogrammās. Nesen izsrādāta oriģināla mašīntulkošanas sistēma latviešu valodai un lietotājiem ir pieejams latviešu valodas runas atpazinējs, kas ierunātu tekstu pārveido rakstiskā formā.

Valoda attīstās, šodien jauni latviešu valodas vārdi top ne tikai Rīgā, bet arī Briselē un Luksemburgā. Pēdējo 20 gadu laikā vien latviešu valodā nākuši klāt apmēram 100 tūkstoši vārdu, ikdienā gan no tiem tiek lietoti kādi 5 tūkstoši. Pirms pārdesmit gadiem vēl nezinājām, kas tas zīmols, lielveikals, e-pasts, i-banka vai blogs un čats. Jāatzīst, ka viens otrs no valodnieku vai tulkotāju izdomājumiem gan nav sevišķi veiksmīgs, bet vairums atbilst latviešu valodas likumībām un izklausās labi – ja mūsu valodā jau ir dzīvot vai ceļot, kālab tad mēs nevarētu teikt – laivot, talkot vai nūjot. Dažkārt jau zināmiem vārdiem rodas jaunas nozīmes. Piemēram, vārds mākonis ne vienmēr nozīmē to, kas lietainā dienā virs galvas, mākonī mēs arī varam uzglabāt informāciju, un kas noticis ar peli?  Tagad tā var “dzīvot” uz mūsu rakstāmgaldiem? Pagājušajā gadā vien Briselē strādājošie latviešu tulki radījuši 500 jaunus vārdus latviešu valodā, tas nozīmē pusotru jaunu vārdu dienā. Pastāvēs, kas pārvērtīsies!

Autore: Iveta Grīnberga.

If someone tells you that the Latvian language is a small language, don’t believe it.

Brivibas piminkelis 18. novembris 2018

Freedom Monument, Riga, Latvia. November 18, 2018.  The Freedom Monument is a memorial located in Riga, Latvia, honouring soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence. It is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia. Source: Youtube.

There are approximately 7,000 living languages in the world. Two thousand of these languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. Latvian is spoken by about 2 million people, thus placing it in the category of large languages.

Latvian is a modern, developed language used in all spheres of life. It is also one of the European Union’s 24 official languages. An important condition in the development of a language in the era of information technology is its usage in computer programming and the internet. A recent advancement has the development of machine translation for Latvian language; there are programs that transform spoken Latvian to written text etc.

Latvian language continually develops. Today new Latvian words are created not only in Riga, but also in Brussels and Luxembourg. In the past 20 years, about 100,000 new words have entered the Latvian language of which 5,000 are used on a daily basis. Not that long ago we didn’t know what is a “zīmols” (brand name), “lielveikals” (supermarket), “e-pasts” (e-mail), “i-banka” (internet bank), or a “blogs” (blog) or “čats” (chat). It should be admitted that a few of the creations of linguists or translators have not worked out, but most adhere to Latvian grammar rules and sound alright. As we already have words such as “dzīvot” (to live) or “ceļot” (to travel), why wouldn’t we be able to say “laivot” (boating), “talkot” (doing community service), or “nūjot” (Nordic poling). Sometimes familiar words develop new meanings. For example, the word “mākonis” (cloud) doesn’t necessarily mean what is above our heads on a rainy day. We can now store information “mākonī” (in the cloud). And what has happened to “pele” (mouse)? Now it lives on our desk?! Last year alone translators working in Brussels created 500 new words in Latvian, about a word and a half a day. Those who adapt will survive…

Author: Iveta Grīnberga, Head of Latvian Language Programs at Baltic Media Language Training Centre