Latvian Language Solutions
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Middle Latvian dialect
Spoken between the northern and southwestern regions of Latvia, it is the basis for literary Latvian. This dialect includes several subdialects: Semigallian, Courlandian, and the dialects of Central Vidzeme, a region between Valmiera and Latvia's capital city, Riga. Because this dialect is the basis for literary Latvian, it bears no significant differences from standard Latvian, and will tend to disappear with time. In regions that have contact with other languages, however, there are some vocabulary differences. For example, in Central Vidzeme, people that live close to the Estonian border, will have borrowed some Estonian words. Those who live closer to the Lithuanian border, however, have included Lithuanian loanwords in their vocabulary.
Not to be confused with the Livonian language, a dying indigenous language of Latvia, this dialect is spoken in the northwest of Latvia and along the Bay of Riga. This bay splits up the two territories where the Livonian dialect is spoken and, for that reason, two subdialects emerged: one that is spoken in Kurzeme and another spoken in Vidzeme. This dialect originated from Livonian speakers that started to speak Latvian and assimilated some Livonian grammar into the language. One of the several differences between this dialects and standard Latvian is the shortening of diphthongs and long vowels and the disappearance of short vowels in the end of words. The use of this dialect has declined due to the standardization of the language.
High Latvian dialect
This dialect is spoken in eastern Latvia and it has two groups of subdialects: Latgalian and Selonian. Latgalian is not only a dialect but a written language as well, and it is used by the Roman Catholic church and in some cultural activities in some areas of eastern Latvia. Of all the Latvian dialects this one differs the most from standard Latvian in pronunciation, in both vocals and consonants the sounds are modified. Additionally, because eastern Latvia was under the subordination of Poland and Russia for centuries, this dialect borrowed some words from Slavic languages such as Polish, Russian, and Belarussian.
Common Latvian verbal greetings include Sveiki (Hello), Labrīt (Good morning), Labdien (Good afternoon), and Labvakar (Good evening).
Latvians generally greet each other with a quick and firm handshake with direct eye contact. Although this is not exactly a norm, some Latvians do offer a light kiss on the cheek when greeting close friends or family. Because official titles carry some importance, when introducing someone their honorary title, “kungs” for a man and “kundze” for a woman, should be used. Also, to avoid being rude, you should wait for an acquaintances invitation before moving to a first-name basis.
Latvians are direct communicators, but words are generally embellished to avoiding hurting the feelings of others. Latvians are polite and courteous but can be very reserved, so making small talk can be slightly uncomfortable. In low context communication cultures, such as the one in Latvia, too much background information is unrequired, therefore straightforwardness is appreciated. Latvians are usually slow to pay compliments and doing so too quickly with not enough reason may be seen as suspicious. Additionally, personal matters are not discussed in business settings.
Personal Space and Touching
During conversation, Latvians prefer to keep a distance of an arm’s length or even more if they’re talking to strangers. Among friends and family this distance can be shortened. Because Latvians are usually reserved people that value their personal space, there tends to be no touching during conversation. Nonetheless, among younger people a brush of the shoulder/hand is not uncommon. It is also normal to see young couples holding hands in public.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Direct eye contact is expected, but it should not be held continuously throughout the entire conversation. Avoiding eye contact completely can be a sign that the person has something to hide. Latvians are not particularly emotive speakers, and they prefer not to use too many hand gestures.
Latvian Culture Reference Guide
Republic of Latvia
Latvian, one of the last two remaining Baltic languages, is the official language of the Republic of Latvia. There are around 1.7 million speakers of Latvian worldwide and the majority of them, an estimated 1.5 million, are Latvian residents.
The language is also spoken by small numbers of people in several countries, such as the United States, Ireland, the U.K., Brazil, Russia, Australia, Canada, and some neighboring countries, such as Estonia, Sweden and especially in Latvia’s southern neighbor, Lithuania.