If someone tells you that the Latvian language is a small language, don’t believe it.

Brivibas piminkelis 18. novembris 2018

Freedom Monument, Riga, Latvia. November 18, 2018.  The Freedom Monument is a memorial located in Riga, Latvia, honouring soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence. It is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia. Source: Youtube.

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

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