Labas! Here we are together again to learn something new about Lithuanian. Previously, we have looked into many basic phrases and vocabularies in the Lithuanian language. This week we will look into all the languages spoken in Lithuania.
Lithuanian, or as they say it, lietuvių kalba, belongs to one of the two Baltic languages left of the Indo-European language. Another from the Baltic language would be the Latvian, which is the reason why the Lithuanian language is closely related to Latvian. In the past, there were many more languages from the Baltic language group, but now there are only two left in the world. Some of the extinct Baltic languages ones include Skalvian, Selonian, Sudovian, and Old Prussian; some of these were even spoken by people of Lithuania at some point before going extinct.
Therefore, since the 19th century, to identify a Lithuanian citizen, one of the definitive factors is to see whether one can speak Lithuanian or not.
Lithuanian kalbos is the sole official language in Lithuania; you will probably hear Lithuanian most of the time if you visit Lithuania. There are about 2.8 million native Lithuanian speakers and 200 00 more speakers from other nationalities who are Lithuanian speakers too. Since the language is quite old, primarily the oldest among Indo-European languages, it is said that it still retains features of the Proto-Indo-European language; so, until the present day, you can still find traces of Sanskrit in the language. i.e:
The modern Lithuanian language has two dialects the Aukštaičių (Aukštaitia, Highland Lithuanian), and the Žemaičių/Žemaitiu (Samogitian, Lowland Lithuanian). The two dialects can be divided into a few subdialects: Aukštaitia or the Highland Lithuanian dialect can be divided into the West, South, and East, while Samogitian also can be divided into West, North, and South- depending on geographical area.
The Samogitian dialect is said to be influenced by a Baltic tribe language that has gone extinct- the Curonian language; hence, the modern Samogitian is quite different from the standard Lithuanian language and can also be considered a different language.
Russian is considered one of the largest minority languages used in Lithuania, second after Polish, spoken natively by 8.2% of the population. Russian native speakers live primarily in city areas. Those who speak Russian include other ethnicities like Belarussians, Jews, Ukrainians, and others.
These Russian speakers are referred to as Russophones. Many of the Russophones speak another language as their first and second language. However, their Russian is better than their Lithuanian, or they cannot speak Lithuanian at all in some cases. Hence they, mostly the older generation, stick to Russian.
Russian is also the second most used foreign language used in Lithuania, although the numbers are decreasing every day. It was crucial to master Russian during the Soviet Union occupation, making the older generation fluent in said language. However, many from the younger generation do not believe it is necessary to learn the language, as it is just a tie to past colonization.
Since the popularity of Russian has been declining, many public signs and inscriptions have been replaced with English.
Poles in Lithuania are the largest minority group, and most of the population is concentrated in southeast Lithuania. However, since they have quite a several communities in Lithuania, some towns actually use Polish as the primary spoken language- since there are 5.8% of native speakers from the whole Lithuanian population.
While all the official communication uses strictly Standard Lithuanian Language, these minority languages are promoted by the government to be used and taught in the regions they were used, and also used as a medium in public school.
While the native speakers do speak the language, it is rare for non-Poles to learn and speak Polish as a second language. Nevertheless, there are still many Polish signs for tourists, especially in polish-inhabited areas.
English is the most popular foreign language in Lithuania and also the most popular for Lithuanians to learn, with 30% of the whole population can speak the language, and 80% of the youth can speak the language.
However, the older Lithuanians are most likely to stay away from learning English since it was not promoted much during the Soviet occupation. However, the younger Lithuanian generation is aware of how most tourists or foreigners speak English most of the time. Hence, it is taught in school and used in tourist hotspots, like hotels, museums, and others.
German is also one of the popular foreign languages used by the Lithuanian people. This is due to the Soviet Union and its close relationship with East Germany. German is spoken by 8% of the population.
Other foreign languages that can be heard in Lithuania are French (spoken by only 2% of the population, and Spanish (spoken by 1% of the population).
Want to be part of this ancient language? We've been over the fact of how cool Lithuanian as a language is many times. The perfect tool to set you up is Ling App. Ling App can provide you fun and engaging activities that can help you memorize and understand Lithuanian better.
Nonetheless, Ling App can also help you explore other European languages like Russian, Latvian, and many more languages from other continents. Simply follow the regime set by Ling App, stay consistent and patient, and you are set for your biggest adventure. Sėkmės!