Sveiki! (Hello!) Latvian (latviešu valoda), has about 1.5 million speakers in Latvia. Sometimes also referred to as Lettish, Latvian is one of two present day Indo-European Baltic languages, the other being Lithuanian. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, which is atypical for a small language, but is the result of Latvia’s large immigrant populations in the country.
Latvian Fun Facts
Although Latvian is a Baltic language and related to Lithuanian, the two are not mutually intelligible. Both Latvian and particularly Lithuanian are considered to be the most archaic of still-spoken Indo-European languages.
Latvian is the mother tongue of only about 60% of the country’s population (under 50% in major cities). Russian is also widely (and natively) spoken by many Latvians due to the country’s years under Soviet rule.
The main difficulty in pronouncing Latvian is dealing with garumzimes (long vowel signs). Many words possess long vowels, which are marked with a horizontal stroke above the letter. Making an error between a short and a long vowel can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
Latvian and the Livemocha Community
- Only 4% of Latvians on Livemocha are learning Latvia, despite the fact that only 60% of Latvians are native speakers of the language. Most Latvians on Livemocha are learning English.
- Though most Latvians are learning English, more Latvians are learning Latvian on Livemocha than people from any other country.
- Outside of Latvia, Latvian speakers on Livemocha primarily come from the UK, the US, and Norway.