As a quickly growing economy and geographically the central country of the Baltic States, Latvia is an excellent market for any business operating in the Baltic and Scandinavian region as well as beyond. The economic environment is relatively similar across the Baltics, however, despite the small populations, the local languages are not, while remaining an important part of the national identity in each country.
Consequently, when entering the Latvian market, it is a good idea to have your company’s website, advertising materials, product descriptions or catalogues translated into Latvian. Transly translation agency is based in neighbouring Estonia – and we know our neighbours inside out. Our translators will have your sales materials or letters translated into Latvian quickly and with high quality. If necessary, we also offer our customers various additional services related to translation, such as layout and text insertion into websites.
How common is the Latvian language?
In Latvia, Latvian is spoken by 2 million people, 1.3 million of whom speak it as a native language. Outside of Latvia, there are about 100,000 additional speakers of Latvian. Roughly 37% of Latvians, i.e. 725,000 people, speak Russian at home. Although the Latvian language is similar to Lithuanian, Latvian is the more modern of the two. Meanwhile, Lithuanian retains more archaic features.
Latvian and Lithuanian are Eastern Baltic languages. Their closest relatives are various eastern languages: Armenian, Albanian, the Slavic languages and the Indo-Iranian languages. However, Latvian and Lithuanian have also gone through several changes due to the influence of Central European, i.e. centum languages. As the retention of the characteristics of satem languages is rather weak in Latvian and Lithuanian, they are considered to lie somewhere between satem and centum languages.
What does Latvian have in common with other languages?
The closest relative of the Latvian language is Lithuanian – together, they are considered the most archaic living Indo-European languages, retaining many features of Proto-Indo-European, primarily its noun cases. However Latvian and Lithuanian are not mutually intelligible. Latvian is also considered to be the closest Indo-European relative of the Finno-Ugric languages. This is, among other aspects, evidenced by the fact that the pronunciation of the Latvian language is more similar in nature to that of Estonian and Finnish than to other Indo-European languages.
Latvian also shares some lexical similarities with German and Russian. For example, the Russian equivalent for the Latvian word “sirds” (“heart”) is “сердце” (“serdtse”), while the German equivalent for the Latvian “naba” (“belly button”) is “Nabel”. Similarities with English, however, are relatively few and far between both in terms of grammar as well as lexicon.
What makes the Latvian language interesting?
Many Latvian words have only been added to the language within the last 200 years. Latvian linguists have worked hard to replace German-origin words in the language. At the same time, however, the newly coined Latvian words intended to replace the German ones are often not necessarily Latvian either. In Latvian, the word “colour” or “paint” used to be “pērve”, derived from the German “verwe”. In addition, this word had the synonym “blaka” in Latvian, which also came from German. To replace these, a new word was coined – “krāsa“, which strongly resembles the Russian word “красить“, meaning “to paint”. Thus, in this case, the Latvianisation efforts have not been too successful. Latvians also tend to avoid English loanwords.
Accordingly, for example, the Latvian word for “computer” is “dators“, which is a loan from Swedish that uses the word “dator“. Similarly, the Latvian word for “keyboard”, is “tastatūra“, which resembles the German “Tastatur“. Therefore, many new Latvian words actually come from other languages despite efforts to avoid foreign loans. It is also interesting to note that although Latvian has borrowed many words from German, the two are not actually linguistically related at all, since Latvian is not a Germanic language.
What does Latvian say about the Latvian people?
Languages can often provide valuable insight into the attitudes, customs and habits of the people. This is also true for the Latvians. The Latvian proverb “Dzirdi daudz, runā maz” (“Listen a lot, speak little”) suggests that Latvians are reserved and not very talkative. Meanwhile, the Latvian proverb “Kā vecie svilpo tā jaunie danco” (“The young dance, while the elderly whistle”) reflects the hierarchical structure of Latvian society. Moreover, the Latvian saying “Sargi sevi pats, tad Dievs tevi sargās” (“Watch yourself, God will guard you”) implies that Latvian society is individualistic rather than collectivistic – i.e. one should manage on one’s own, rather than rely on others.
What should one consider when entering the Latvian market?
Latvian business culture is similar to that of the rest of the Baltics as well as Germany. Latvians are very proud of their country, language and culture – initially distant Latvians will always light up if you speak a few words of Latvian to them. When entering the Latvian market, you would also do well to consider the following:
- Latvians like short meetings. Getting straight to the point without long-winded introductions, coming sufficiently prepared and being direct are a sure path to success when negotiating with them.
- Latvians tend to be late. There is no doubt that they do their best to get to meetings with foreign partners on time, but they might not always succeed. Latvians are not overly punctual.
- Latvians take business seriously. Their conservatism translates into clothing and how they conduct business meetings. Business is no joke to them.
- The structure of Latvian organisations is hierarchical and business culture is formal. The decision-makers are top executives, so decisions can take time.
- Latvians like telephone calls. The best way to contact a Latvian business partner is by telephone. This ensures that all matters are concluded as desired. Important business decisions, however, require face-to-face meetings.
- Latvians prefer one-on-one meetings. Large gatherings are not appropriate for Latvian business meetings. At most, both sides should be represented by two people, but it is better and faster to have person-to-person talks.
What should one consider when ordering a Latvian translation?
Our main Latvian translation service is English-Latvian-English translation. English-Latvian translators and Latvian-English translators are relatively few. Among these few, however, there are still some wonderful translators that we have access to. We also work with adept Latvian and English editors, who provide language editing for texts translated from Latvian into English.
Our translators and project managers always do their best to deliver timely and high-quality translations, though it is important to keep in mind that Latvian-English-Latvian translations can take slightly longer than Russian-English-Russian or Finnish-English-Finnish translations.
How do I order a Latvian translation?
To order an Latvian translation, please send us an e-mail. If possible, also include the text you wish to have translated. In addition, please indicate your desired deadline and give us a short description of the purpose of the translation. Don’t forget to add any term bases, if you have them, and clarify the desired file format for the translation. Our project manager will be in touch with you shortly to ask any additional questions or to provide a quotation. If you are satisfied with the offer, we will then begin your translation.
Latvian-English and English-Latvian translations
We mainly offer Latvian-English and English-Latvian translations. However, do not hesitate to contact us with requests for other language pairs either – we will always do our best to find a solution to your translation needs.