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Baltic Media Ltd., Elizabetes iela 11, Office No. 1
LV-1010 Rīga Latvia/Lettonie
+371 29 44 68 45
To find out our on-site and online course schedule click here.
Baltic Media Ltd., Elizabetes iela 11, Office No. 1
LV-1010 Rīga Latvia/Lettonie
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.
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:
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!
Yes – Jā
No – Nē
Taxi – Taksometrs
Bus/coach – Autobuss
Shop – Veikals
Police – Policija
Currency exchange – Valūtas maiņa
Hotel – Viesnīca
Source: Latvia Travel
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Sirsnīgi nosvinēti Ziemassvētki, izlocīta mēle latviešu mēles mežģus izrunājot, Ziemassvētku dziesmas latviešu valodā dziedot Baltic Media Valodu mācību centra latviešu valodas kursos ārzemniekiem, kas apmetušies uz dzīvi Latvijā
Katrs latviešu valodas students Ziemassvētkos saņēma dāvanu, ko tagad varēs lietot visu gadu. Tā ir neliela piespraude ar uzrakstu Mācos runāt latviski. Ārzemnieki, kas mācās latviešu valodu mūsu valodu kursos, daudzkārt sūdzas par to, ka paši latvieši nekādā ziņā neveicina latviešu valodas apguvi.
Ja kāds restorānā pieklājīgi un lēni cenšas pasūtīt ēdienu latviski, tad viesmīlis nereti pāriet uz angļu valodu, nedodot iespēju vingrināties latviešu valodas apguvē. Tādās reizēs gribas kliegt: „Mīļie tautieši, kas jums kaiš?! Kāpēc nejūtat lepnumu par to, ka kāds mācās jūsu valodu?”
Baltic Media Valodu kursu komanda cer, ka šī nelielā piespraude, kas norāda, ka kāds vēl tikai mācās, varbūt runā lēni un ar kļūdām, veicinās sapratni un lepnumu par savu valodu pašos latviešos.
Jaukās latviešu meitenes, ja jūsu vīrs vai draugs ir, piemēram, itālis, indietis, francūzis, soms vai kādas citas tautības pārstāvis un MĀCĀS RUNĀT LATVISKI, ticiet man – viņš jūs ļoti mīl. Palīdziet viņam, runājiet ar viņu latviski!
Autore: Iveta Grīnberga, Baltic Media Latviešu valodas kursu programmu vadītāja.
Nine suggestions on how to get the most of your Latvian language classes:
Good luck! Your Baltic Media Language Centre Team
Author: Iveta Grīnberga, Head of Latvian Language Programs.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash.com
The scale of reference, developed within the Council of Europe’s document Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, is recognized as a European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency according to six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2). The Self-evaluation language skills chart helps you to evaluate your proficiency level.
A – Basic level
A1 – Breakthrough or Beginners
|Listening||I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.
|Reading||I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
|I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
|Writing||I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.|
A2 – Waystage or Elementary
|Listening||I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.|
|Reading||I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.|
|I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
|Writing||I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.|
B – Intermediate
B1 – Threshold or Pre-Intermediate
|Listening||I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.
|Reading||I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.|
|I can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
|Writing||I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions
B2 – Vantage or Upper-Intermediate
|Listening||I can understand extended speech and lectures and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar. I can understand most TV news and current affairs programs. I can understand the majority of films in standard dialect.|
|Reading||I can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints. I can understand contemporary literary prose.|
|I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views.
I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest. I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
|Writing||I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests. I can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. I can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.|
C – Advanced
C1 – Effective Operational Proficiency or Advanced
|Listening||I can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships are only implied and not signaled explicitly. I can understand television programs and films without too much effort.|
|Reading||I can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style. I can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to my field.|
|I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. I can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes. I can formulate ideas and opinions with precision and relate my contribution skillfully to those of other speakers.
I can present clear, detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion.
|Writing||I can express myself in clear, well-structured text, expressing points of view at some length. I can write about complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report, underlining what I consider to be the salient issues. I can select style appropriate to the reader in mind.|
C2 – Mastery or Proficiency
|Listening||I have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.|
|Reading||I can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialized articles and literary works.|
|I can take part effortlessly in any conversation or discussion and have a good familiarity with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms. I can express myself fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely. If I do have a problem I can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it.
I can present a clear, smoothly-flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points.
|Writing||I can write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style. I can write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points. I can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works.|
© Council of Europe
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.
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