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Exciting news, language learning aficionados from around the world! Mondly can now help you enrich your language portfolio with Latvian, a unique language that has only 1.7 million speakers worldwide.
The Latvian language in a nutshell
Also known as “Lettish”, the Latvian language is the official language of Latvia and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the earliest texts in Latvian are two catechisms written in the Gothic script that date from the 16 century. With the first grammar of the language appearing in the 18th century, the literary Latvian language developed over the course of the 19th century. Then, in 1922, a modified Latin alphabet was adopted.
The Latvian standard alphabet we use today consists of 33 letters: 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except q, w, x and y) and other eleven modified letters (ā, ē, ī, ū, č, š, ž, ģ, ķ, ļ, ņ).
When it comes to Latvian grammar, the most important aspects you should know are that primary word stress is on the first syllable (with a few exceptions), word order is relatively free (but the unmarked order is subject–verb–object) and that there are no articles in Latvian and definiteness is expressed by the adjective’s ending.
How similar are Latvian and Lithuanian?
As a Baltic language, Latvian is most closely related to sister language Lithuanian. Linguists even claim that, for quite some time, Latvian and Lithuanian were different dialects of the same language. However, Latvian has followed a more rapid development that made the two contemporary languages rather different.
Unsurprisingly, Latvian and Lithuanian do share a lot of features, but they are not mutually intelligible enough to make conversation possible.
How similar are Latvian and Russian?
These days you can’t talk about the Latvian language if you don’t mention Russian as well.
Latvia has long historic ties with Russia: both during tsarist times – when Latvia was a part of the Russian Empire – and the Soviet occupation in the second half of the 20th century, when the Russification policy greatly affected the Latvian language and Russians have immigrated into Latvia without learning Latvian.
Today, more than a quarter of Latvia’s 2.2 million people are ethnic Russians, most of whom are taught in Russian. However, the only official language is Latvian.
So how similar are Latvian and Russian? Well, in terms of grammar, they share some resembling features, but the phonology is quite different. While Latvian focuses on long vowels and diphthongs, Russian uses softened consonants. Of course, Latvian does have consonants, but they are pronounced differently. Take for example the Russian “n” which is dental and alveolar and Latvian “n” which is palatal and velar.
When it comes to vocabulary, it’s been said that it is sometimes easy for Russian people to understand Latvian words. However, most of the time, these words are either borrowings from a third language or a similarity coming from the proto-language.
Speak Latvian today
It can be really tricky to master Latvian pronunciation if you don’t actively live in Latvia. But with Mondly, the award-winning language learning app, you’ll have access to a unique, fast and highly efficient learning method that allows you to learn Latvian naturally with practical topics, authentic conversations and bite-sized Daily Lessons.
Get Mondly now and learn your first Latvian words and phrases today!