Latvian and Lithuanian are both Baltic languages from the Indo-European language family. Both of these languages are believed to have features that were present in the early stages of the Proto-Indo-European language. Latvian and Lithuanian are mutually intelligible, meaning speakers can understand the other language without much effort. They are the only two Baltic languages that hold official status - Latvian in Latvia, and Lithuanian in Lithuania.
In the 13th century, multiple Baltic tribes merged together and joined their languages to create the Latvian language. The changes and assimilations of the merging languages lasted for several centuries. Over the years the language saw influences from German, which was met with resistance and the desire for popularizing Latvian. During the 20th century, the language again was influenced, this time by Russian during the Soviet Occupation, which decreased the population of Latvian speakers. In 1991, Latvia gained independence and moved to educate citizens in the language, as well as bilingual education for ethnic minorities. Today, 60% of the Latvian population are native speakers, with a total population of just under 2 million speakers, and the use of the language is increasing.
Lithuanian and Latvia were for a long time considered dialects of the same language. It wasn’t until the German occupation of Latvia in the 13th century that the languages began to differ. Without the same influence from German, Lithuanian could develop and evolve as a language. Although there were some translated biblical materials, Lithuanian was mainly spoken due to low literacy rates. In 1864, the language was banned along with all materials using the Latin alphabet. Books were smuggled across the border, which aided in the growth of the Lithuanian National Revival. In 1904 the language ban was lifted and the language became an official language in 1918. Today, Lithuanian is spoken by approximately 3 million people, mainly in Lithuania and the Baltic area.
If you need anything translated into one of these languages, come on over to Lionbridge onDemand. Stay tuned for our next A-Z blog where we’ll tell you about the Lionbridge languages that begin with “M”.
(*These are the languages for which we have translators on staff and ready to go. If there is a language that you do not see on this list, you can put in a request and we can find and source a linguist for you.)