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Latvian: The language with three dialects and 1.5 million native speakers

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10 facts about the Latvian language


Latvian, along with Lithuanian, belongs to the Baltic language group developed from Proto-Indo-European.


The standard Latvian Alphabet has 33 letters, of which 22 are unmodified letters from Latin.


It has three dialects: the declining Livonian, Middle Latvian and High Latvian. The dialects are mutually intelligible.


The Standard Latvian language is based on the Middle Latvian dialect usually spoken in Central and Southwest Latvia.


Each phoneme has its own letter in the Latvian alphabet, so you don't have to learn how to pronounce a word.


Latvian has around 1.5 million native speakers. Most live in Latvia, and around 150,000 have emigrated elsewhere.


Latvian is similar to Lithuanian because they have similar roots, but the two languages are not mutually intelligible.


Due to its history, most borrowed words in the Latvian language come from the German, Russian and English languages.


The first printed text in Latvian was printed in 1525, and Johann Ernst Glück translated the Bible into Latvian in 1685.


Latvian was influenced by Finnish, which resulted in the word accent being fixed on the first syllable.

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Origin of the language

The Latvian language emerged in the current Baltic states.

History of the language

It is believed to have originated in the 8th century.

Learning the language

It takes approximately 1,100 hours to learn Latvian as an English speaker.


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Latvian language for beginners

These are ten basics words to start learning Latvian

True: īstens

New: Jauns

Style: Stils

Hi: Sveiki

Sad: Skumji

Come: Nāc

Way: Veidā


Good: Labi

Bye: Čau

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Oh, these quiet short moments, which so once in a lifetime a person can steal for destiny when the heart freezes and becomes dumb of happiness.

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I'm very emotional: to lose love is the same as dying.

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Fun facts about the Latvian language

Prolonged vowels

Four letters in Latvian have a horizontal line over them. The line over ā, ē, ī, ū means the sound of the vowel must be extended when pronouncing it in a word.

11 special characters

The Latvian language has 11 special characters. Along with prolonged vowels, you can find č, ž, and š, which are similar to Slavic languages, and commas under letters ķ, ļ and ņ and on top of the letter ģ.

The ultimate challenge

Blatantly aware of their challenging language, Latvians tease new speakers by asking them to pronounce words with unique letters, such as “šaursliežu dzelzceļš” which means “narrow gauge railroad.”

Beware of the pronunciation

How you pronounce accents can drastically change the meaning of some words. “Kāzas” with a long “a” means “wedding,” but “kazas” means “goats.”

Feminine nouns exceptions

Most masculine noun genders have the letter “s” at the end of the word. However, some feminine words like “valsts” (country) or “nakts” (night) also end with “s.” These are exceptions to the rule.

9 vowels

If you thought your language has a lot of vowels, hang on. Latvian has nine vowels. With the exception of “o,” each has its own long version.

Pink is a unique color

When describing masculine objects, color words take an “s” at the end. However, “rozā” (pink) keeps the same form for both feminine and masculine nouns.

Love phrases

If you're in love with a Latvian, for example, “es mīlu tevi” means “I love you.” For more advanced speakers, you can utter “es mīlu tevi”, which means “beautiful as a flower.”

How to be negative

If you want to negate the verb in Latvian, add “ne” in front of it. For instance, “es saprotu” means “I understand” and “es nesaprotu” means “I don't understand.”

'Don’t “sveiki” strangers

“Sveiki” and “čau” are informal and friendly greetings. However, if you meet an unfamiliar person in a formal situation, use "labrīt” or "labdien."

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