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

How Long Does It Take to Master Latvian?

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Latvian (latviešu valoda) is one of the two surviving Baltic languages (the other one is Lithuanian) which form a special subgroup within the Indo-European languages. Latvian is considered one of the most unchanged Indo-European languages spoken today and is roughly as old as Sanskrit. The Baltic languages are of particular interest to linguists because they retain many archaic features believed to have been present in the Proto-Indo-European language.

How Long Does It Take to Master Latvian? 

In order to learn the communication phrases used by tourists in daily situations a couple days in the language course will suffice. However, if you want to master written and spoken Latvian more properly, you should allow one to three years. In order to achieve an academic level, you will need at least five to seven years.

Is It Possible to Master It Faster?

With time and motivation you can master Latvian faster. The more time you dedicate to learning the language, the faster you will achieve the result. Daily communication in Latvian will be a great advantage. And do not forget the media (radio and television), press, cultural events, music, and films in Latvian.

Does Your Mother-Tongue Affect Your Mastery of Latvian?

If you speak Lithuanian or it is your mother-tongue, you will learn Latvian easier and faster. People proficient in Slavic and Germanic languages will see similarities with the Latvian grammar system and words loaned from these languages. The Baltic languages are more closely related to Slavic, Germanic, and Indo-Iranian (in that order) than to the other branches of the family.

Some important tips in order to master Latvian faster:

  • Learn each new word in the context it is used in.
  • Repeat what you have learned often because repetition is the mother of learning;
  • Use both real and virtual Latvian language domain;
  • Use the media (TV, radio, music, literature, social media platforms) in Latvian;
  • Read fiction in Latvian, start with easy Latvian;
  • Let yourself make mistakes, use the language, jump in the Latvian language river for a swim! You can do it!

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⭐️Valodu kursi klātienē un online uzņēmumiem un valsts iestādēm

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How Many Classes Does It Take to Master Latvian?

Each language learner is different, however, you can see roughly how much effort and time you will have to dedicate to learning the language below:

C2 – 60 classes (C2/1) + 60 classes (C2/2)

C1 – 60 classes (C1/1) + 60 classes (C1/2)

B2 – 60 classes (B2/1) + 60 classes (B2/2)

B1 – 60 classes (B1/1) + 60 classes (B1/2)

A2 – 48 classes (A2/1) + 48 classes (A2/2)

A1 – 48 classes (A1/1) + 48 classes (A1/2)

Source: Baltic Media Valodu mācību centrs.

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.

Nine suggestions on how to get the most of your Latvian language classes at the Baltic Media

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Nine suggestions on how to get the most of your Latvian language classes:

  1. If you wish to get the most of your language classes, there is one indispensable requirement, one essential infinitely more important than any rule or technique. This magic requirement is: a deep, driving desire to learn. We teach Latvian using learning by doing approach wich makes language acquisition more effective.
  2. Read each chapter of the text-book, go back and reread again, again and again.
  3. Stop frequently in your reading to think over what you are reading. Ask yourself just how and when you can apply each grammar rule, each new word. Memorize new words, lear words in phrases, keep reviewing these words untill they are storaged in a long term memory.
  4. Read with the pencil, pen, magic marker or highlighter in your hand. Marking and underscoring a book makes it more interesting, and far easier to review rapidly.
  5. Keep your learning materials on your desk in front of you every day. Glance through it often. Keep constantly impressing yourself with the rich possibilities to practice your language.dav
  6. Remember that learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.
  7. You are attempting to form a new way of thinking, thinking in a new language.
  8. Check up each week on the progress you are making.
  9. Make a lively game of mastering new language!

Good luck! Your Baltic Media Language Centre Team

Author: Iveta Grīnberga, Head of Latvian Language Programs.

“Guardian” analizē, kā Latvijai saglabāt savu valodu

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Photo by Paul Schafer on Unsplash.com

Internets un tā tehnoloģijas grauj daudzu pasaules valstu valodas, taču īpaši izteikti tas notiek Baltijas valstīs, teikts “The Guardian” publikācijā, kurā analizēts, ko latviešiem lietas labā darīt.

Bilingvisms Latvijā, Lietuvā un Igaunijā ir norma, bet trilingvisms arvien izteiktāk kļūst par jauno standartu, raksta “The Guardian”. Latvijā bilingvāli ir 95% iedzīvotāju un 54% var sazināties vismaz trijās valodās. Tādējādi Latvijā ir otrs augstākais bilingvisma procents Eiropā, un tā iekļūst tikai astoņu Eiropas Savienības valstu vidū, kuros vairākums pilsoņu ir trilingvāli.

Neskatoties uz labajām svešvalodu zināšanām, baltieši savu dzimto valodu tur sirdij tuvu, «The Guardian» publikācijā izsakās kompānijas «Tilde» pārstāvis Rihards Kalniņš. Tomēr uz jautājumu, kādu valodu Baltijas profesionāļi izmanto savā darbā, atbilde ir cita. Visbiežāk multilingvālie baltieši sacīs, ka sāk izmantot arvien vairāk angļu vārdu, lai skaidrotu savas tirdzniecības tehniskos aspektus, un dzimtā valoda tiek jaukta kopā ar terminiem angļu valodā.

Lai veicinātu mazāko valodu turpmāku attīstību, jāturpina attīstīt tehnoloģijas, kas šīm mazākajām valodām piedāvā tādu pašu atbalstu, kā lielākajām valodām. Runa varētu būt par darbvirsmas korektūras rīkiem, daudzvalodu aplikācijām un interfeisiem, tiešsaistes enciklopēdijām un citiem digitālajiem resursiem.

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