Speaking Latvian is hard

Back in August, the UK’s New Statesman published an article on Riga, arguing that it was becoming a ghost town with out migration, poor social security and lack of investment in infrastructure, coupled with politicians constantly playing the ethnic card to distract people from the real issues in the country.

I didn’t agree with all of it, ghost town sounds fairly wide of the mark and Latvia is far from the only country with politicians trying to distract from real issues by targeting foreigners. However, the comments in response were depressingly predictable. As if to prove the writer’s point, rather than dealing with the substantive issues raised, a lot of those commenting attacked or blamed other nationalities. First up was the blinkered patriot:

U really suck with these comments,Riga is one of the beautifull cities of europe and we have nice culture and nature.Not only Riga but all latvia.Even Uk isnt so beautifull and most countries.We have clean country .Im living in other country but not compare with my darling latvia.I want return to Latvia again

nice nature, yes. Clean country…? Ummm…

DSC01287 DSC01686

I can't see the wood for the (beer bottles on) the trees

I can’t see the wood for (the beer bottles on) the trees

Latvia does have wonderful nature. Unfortunately, not all of it is clean or well-maintained.

Worse, the “no one except Latvians can criticise our amazing country” mob were out in force:

A person like Agatha Pyzik, who is Polish and is living now in UK, should not comment things (Latvia,), she has no exact knowledge of.

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AGATA PYZIK you are Polish aren’t you? So why didn’t you write about your own ”poor country”, where people aren’t just working for poor money but even stealing and demolishing? I know I just got off topic but, women, know your place!

What next? Scientists shouldn’t comment on Mars, since they haven’t been there and don’t live there? (Especially if they’re women.)

I do agree with one aspect of the comments though, a little bit of exact knowledge would be useful.

LatviaPoland2004-121

One of the recurring themes among the comments was about language.

You have to know language and basic historical facts about the country where you live…

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It is the Russians, who invaded the country, who remain, and who can’t bother to learn the language of the country where they live…

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it is laughable that a great many of them still cannot speak even basic Latvian, despite it being their host country’s language…

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How can you expect to give a political power to people who don’t give a rat’s ass about Latvian language?

Now, you’d think, given such attitudes, that Latvians would be going out of their way to help and assist anyone who takes the time to try and learn or speak a little Latvian, right? Sadly, the opposite is true. The title of this post isn’t a reference to Latvian’s series of noun cases, moods or verb declensions, it’s down to the difficulty of getting native speakers to speak it with you.

A few months back, I headed off to Berlin by bus. Entering the ticket office, I checked the name on the ticket seller’s name badge, to give me an idea of whether I should try Latvian or Russian. She had a common Latvian name, so Latvian language then. The conversation at the bus station went like this:

Me: Sveika.

Ticket seller: Hello.

Me: Es gribu celot uz Berlini

TS: To Berlin? Okay, when do you want to go?

Me: Ceturdiena.

TS: What time?

Me: Pus septinos?

TS: Okay. One way?

Me: Nej. Tur un atpakal.

TS: When are you coming back?

and so on. It was only when we got to the payment stage that she finally switched to speaking Latvian. Now, I know my grammar isn’t the greatest and my accent hardly sounds the most authentic, but I was trying and getting nowhere with someone who clearly understood my Latvian but refused to engage in the language with me. How can I improve if I can’t practise? It’s catch 22.

It’s not just me, my friends here from The UK and Ireland have had exactly the same. My friend has been having Latvian lessons for a while, but when he asked in a bar (HHC, in front of Pulkvedis) in Latvian, the barman rudely laughed at him and said “Man! Just speak English with me.”

Often, there is absolutely zero attempt at understanding any foreigner speaking Latvian. Last week, I was out with my friend in one of the beer gardens in the centre. I’d just finished a Kvass and asked for another. “Vēl vienu” I said. He just looked at me like I was speaking Chinese and said “Uhhh?” My Latvian friend shook her head astonished “He really couldn’t understand that?!” Indeed. We’re at a beer garden, I’ve just finished my drink, what could I possibly be asking for?

It’s not only foreigners speaking Latvian that Latvians are rude and dismissive of. Try and speak Russian and you might often get derisive sniggers. The friend learning Latvian went to the cinema. It was a Russian film, but had some American actors playing the part of Russian people. Rather than applaud their efforts at learning a language which is not the easiest for English speakers, the audience constantly laughed at them.

That’s kinda ironic, since many Latvians who go to Moscow tell me that they are instantly pinged as non-locals and charged the foreigner price for museums and so on.

museum prices in Kyrgyzstan

museum prices in Kyrgyzstan

When Riga tried to introduce a two-tier pricing system for public transport in the city, the former President, Valdis Zatlers, compared it to the times he was charged higher prices in Moscow museums. If Zatlers, a highly educated man who spent the first 35 years of his life in what was then the USSR, can’t speak Russian with an accent which passes as “native”, then it’s not realistic to expect Americans who learned the language later in life to do so, nor laugh at them for trying.

It’s really bizarre stuff. I got paranoid about speaking Russian here, but down in Kazakhstan, no problem. I maybe had to repeat the odd thing here and there, but I was able to communicate. Now, it could be that the mountain air in KZ magically improved my Russian, but it could also be that people made an effort.

Most shocking of all was in Stockholm. I’ve passed A1 level in Swedish so decided to try it there. Given that Swedes have exceptionally good English, I worried that I’d be wasting my time and that people would just switch to English. Not at all. Everywhere I was able to just speak Swedish. The one exception was in a metro station, where she switched to English with me. However she looked like she was from The Philippines or near, so it was possibly easier for her to speak English as well(?)

Incredibly, it’s not only Westerners who get this. I was out with my friend, an ethnic Russian who speaks fluent Latvian. The waitress asked her something in Latvian, she replied in Latvian, the waitress switched to Russian. Oh dear. My friend must have seen my reaction because she nodded and told me that it often happens to her. She tries speaking Latvian, they reply in Russian. It’s a no-win situation.

Despite all of that, I will have a final go at learning Latvian if I stay here an extra year, but just a little bit of cooperation from locals would be wonderful. It’s hard to work up the motivation to speak Latvian with Latvians if they refuse to speak it with you.

In conclusion, speaking Latvian is hard, speaking it with Latvians is harder still.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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41 thoughts on “Speaking Latvian is hard

  1. One comment on the higher price in Moscow museums. The entrance tickets to most of them cost just as much as to any European museum, comparable with Berlin, Paris, and definitely lower than London. Yet while we Europeans can afford them, the regular Russians (especially those visiting from provinces) cannot. Hence, the different prices. Still, it is kinda offensive that they determine you as a foreigner judging by your accent. they should rather just ask the Russians for passports to confirm their citizenship and get a discount.

    • Sure, but then where do you draw the line with that? Shouldn’t citizens of certain African countries then pay less than Russians? For me, a more reasonable argument behind that is that citizens of the country already support the museum through taxation. I can live with that, but the Russian museums often go one step further, having the discount for “friendly countries” such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, as well as their own citizens. That for me, is unacceptable politicising.

    • When I was in Moscow and had my free time from work I also visited tourist places and museums. But I had learned a simple truth – the less you speak, the less you pay. I have fluent Russian but Moscovites say that even Baltic Russians have accent, so I didn’t risk by engaging in long conversations. You just come to the ticket lady and say “Odin!” (One!), get the ticket and run! 🙂 No Thank you or please, as it would be too suspicious because none of the locals say that.

  2. It depends. When I went to a museum in Moscow, I was there with my Ukrainian friend. She bought her ticket without any problems since the cashier probably identified her as Russian person due to her fluent Russian. She never said, oh you`re Ukrainian, you`re good, but your Austrian friend must pay more. So Im not sure if they have any “special low prices for friendly post soviet countries”. Maybe its more like, if you have a western accent, pay a little more, help us to keep those museums alive. Like I said, they should determine a persons citizenship and right for a discount by him showing his passport, not by the fluency of his Russian. And yes, if you charge a higher price for foreighners, than its a higher price for all of them, incl Ukrainian, Belarussians and those Russians who forgot their passprts:-)

    Btw all Russians I met in Moscow and SPB were very impressed with my halfway decent russian, taught me jokes and swear-words and all. Not much English there so Russian is more than encouraged (not even sure if I would be able to get anything done Iif I didnt know the language). Most westerners I met actually complained that Russians are bad at English and you need Russian to get around. And in Latvia its the opposite I guess. As for Latvians not speaking Latvian to you in public places, restaurants etc… maybe they just want to get stuff done quickly and move on? still its kind of rude. also kind of suprised about the waitress speaking Russian to your friend. From what Ive heard people there seriously cannot stand Russian language and may even refuse service if you address them in Russian. Or is it a myth? Im planning a trip to Latvia to visit a friend of mine (she is a German expat) and I wonder should I speak Russian or English on the streets, or maybe German? The young people know english for sure but what about the older ones? Like a 60 year old saleslady in a pastry shop – would she understand me if i speak english to her? Will she be offended if I spoke Russian? its all kinda confusing.

  3. Well, I just googled quickly.

    Tretyakov Gallery Admission prices: Foreign citizens: Adults – 225 rubles, students and children – 130 rubles. For Russian and CIS citizens: Adults – 100 rubles, students and children – 50 rubles.

    Hermitage in St Petersburg: 400 roubles foreign citizens, 300 roubles Russian and Belarus citizens.

    That matches what people who’ve gone there have told me. It doesn’t seem to come down to “fluent Russian” since many Balts have that, but still get charged the foreigner price. My student who went there said he had to lie and say that he came from Vladivostok after the ticket lady challenged him based on his accent “sounding strange.” 🙂

    I’ve seen it more than once where Russians speak Latvian and just get replied to in Russian. Most people in the service industry in the centre are only employed if they speak all three languages. Seems really over the top for jobs which pay 320 euro a month, but that’s the reality here. I have heard of stories of conflict, for example from 2008: “Latvijas Avize reports about a conflict between a costumer who spoke Russian with a salesperson of a shop Narvesen and therefore was refused service. Salesperson asserts that she does not speak Russian and she is not obligated to speak it in Latvia because the only state language is Latvian. The salesperson admitted that she called the costumer an occupant and asked him to leave the shop. She also asserts that the costumer reacted angrily to her response and later in the day returned with his so-called advocate claiming for moral compensation from the shop. In an interview with the newspaper, legal representative of the costumer (who is neither advocate nor lawyer) states that Narvesen should apologise to the costumer because he was refused service which is violation of costumers rights.”

    With younger people, you’ll be fine with English. Older people, really hard to say. I often look at the name badge. If it’s a Svetlana, Jelena or Olga, I’ll try Russian. If it’s an Ieva, Ilze or Liiga, then Latvian. The technique which my ex used very successfully in Estonia was to say to them in Russian “Sorry, I’m Latvian, so I don’t speak Estonian. Can we speak English or German?” After that, these older ladies then chose which language based on their ability.

  4. I live outside of Latvia, but can add two things to the discussion. In my circles it is considered rude to speak Latvian in a group if there is even one person who does not speak fluently. Also, I speak Latvian with the accent of my grandparents (I was born in the US), and in LV people often switch over; I believe it is because they immediately pin me as a foreigner and want to practice their English. Fluent English can also be considered a status symbol?

    • I can get trying to be helpful and accommodating to foreigners and that would apply if someone was only visiting Latvia for a short period of time. But I often hear people here complaining about “people who live in Latvia and fail to learn Latvian.” Yes, I know that they basically mean the Russian community, but it is useful for foreigners to know some if they’re staying longer. That’s very hard to do if Latvians refuse to speak it with non-Latvians.

  5. you never know how true those stories about salespeople and customers really are. here s another one: http://ria.ru/world/20140107/988158230.html
    oh yeah its going to be a fun trip. Im pretty sure Latvians should employ people in the service industry only if they speak at least a minimal amount of English cause thats a world language (in austria we must all speak decent english to work as a waitress and such). Not sure about russian though. It should definitely be considered an advantage but not a necessity to get a job. I mean I dont expect people to cater to me in English, Russian, German or whatever,Im good even with sign language I just want to be understood.

    • Liene,

      thats the right way to go – if someone doesnt speak Latvian and they accomodate to him, thats very nice. But if that person is learning Latvian I guess he could just say – speak in Latvian, I want to listen to your conversation but please speak a little slower so that I could be included. Would that work with Latvians? Its how we do it in Austria with most foreighners. We speak Englsh to them one on one but when we are in a group we switch to German (and in austria we have our own special kind of German that needs to get used to) and help the foreighner to learn that way. Of course Im talking about the younger population. The older people hardly know any English, and the funny part is some of them (especially in villages) refuse to speak Hochdeutsh with foreighners, insisting on speaking the Austrian dialect which is really hard to understand.

      • I think it would work – but like I said, I don’t live in LV. While living in France it was important to show the first effort (begin in French) and then often the native speaker would switch over, preferring me not to butcher their beautiful language. Latvians are different, I believe they switch over because they want to practice their English (and show off) with a native English speaker.

    • It’s a tricky one, since they get a very large number of tourists from Russia, and many of them don’t speak English, so it does help in the service sector. In Jurmala, the seaside town near Riga, it’s definitely more likely that they’ll deal with Russian tourists rather than English ones.

      The Narvesen one definitely happened. It was a really controversial case at the time. To me it sounded like there was blame on both sides. She refused to speak Russian to him, he insulted her, she replied by saying something like “f*ck off back to Russia and occupy some other country.”

  6. I guess that rarely anyone can believe that any foreigner may want to learn Latvian language. This country is not only not used to inflow of people learning local language(s), but also has traditions of intollerance. It’s good for us here that you are still here. 😉

      • It was
        Swedbank before 2010, a room with the nice view. You told that I have an accent, but it’s not Russian.

      • Could be, I know for sure that it was before 2010 as then I started to move towards mine A1 in Swedish, which I didn’t get BTW, but what I got is some feeling that there there might be more than one way to do things right.

    • Swedish is super easy when you have English. It would be like learning Serbian after Russian. Different languages, but a load of common stuff. My other friend worked in Swedbank and he told me they gave up paying for Swedish courses in the end, since everyone that passed them just communicated with Swedish colleagues in English anyway 🙂

      • Maybe if English is your first language… I’ve seen germans who basically “flew” through SFI, but it took longer time for others. I found much similarities with Latvian and Russian too in Swedish AND working with Swedes from Baltics is one thing, but it was totally different thing when I was between them. At least for me. On the other hand, my ex found a love of her life in Sweden, so it’s different 🙂

  7. If it’s your friends who knows you are learning Latvian and no need to hurry- they’ll let you speak Latvian.

    If I would be waiter I wouldn’t let you speak Latvian. It’s for two simple reasons:
    1) time- it takes longer to get to the point if you are trying and searching for right words, while my English is better than your Latvian,
    2) to avoid misunderstanding- you maybe thought you said everything correctly, maybe I even agreed… but finally- you are getting something you did not try to order.
    Same with Russians. I have Russian friends and colleagues who speaks clearly Latvian. I’ll talk to them Latvian. But when I have a slightest doubts on their level- I’ll switch to Russian. It’s easier/faster to avoid problems before than solve them after.

    I guess you already noticed that Latvians are pretty silent people and prefer to talk less than those to the south/ west/ east of us. So that’s why- we just use the way it takes the least communication. Exceptions- when we’re drunk and/or we want to hang out with respective person.

    • I have to say, speed doesn’t seem to be something that a lot of waiters here worry a lot about. The waiter who said “uhhh” to me was slow as hell serving us. My friend even complained to him after he took over 10 minutes just to bring us the menu. I’ve been here since 2005, food words are one of the first things you learn and can sometimes be the only words you learn, since you need to eat. In the early stages, I got my girlfriend to translate dishes for me and only ordered what I knew. It’s rare now for me to see something on a menu in Latvian or Russian that I don’t know. It can still happen. Last year I saw “Trompetas de la muerte” on a Spanish menu, colorfully translated directly as “Trumpets of death.” I’ve had at least 7 years of Spanish study and that was a new one for me. The accurate translation “black chanterelles” doesn’t sound as exotic.

      I can only remember one situation where there was a mix up with the order. That was in Cili Pica where I ordered a pepperoni pizza and they brought me a *vegetarian* pepperoni pizza. That was down to the usual incompetence there rather than any language issue.

      Also, maybe the customer just doesn’t want to speak English? How do they know I’m English if I ask for something in Latvian? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve met Spanish or Italian tourists here with poor or non-existent English.

  8. I actually agree with Ivars. In all customer related seminars, webinars etc., it has been always emphasised that you have to speak in the language of the guest. Therefore all waitresses, shop stuff, ticket ladies have to know 3 languages – Latvian, Russian and English – so you can make the person feel free and speak free, without wasting time or letting him confuse something. Therefore – customer service related people won’t be the best choice to shine with your Latvian. Though most of the tourists should be happy that they don’t have to walk around with dictionary just to buy souvenirs or ticket to Jurmala.
    In other cases – yes, I have Russian friends who have said – speak to us in Latvian, let’s learn etc. but as soon as we switch to Latvian – they shut up and we don’t talk as they don’t know the language well enough to converse… so when I get bored talking alone, I switch back to Russian. I am confused – should I be ashamed I know other languages better than others?

    • But as I said to Ivars, how do they know the language of the guest is English? Sure, the vast majority of tourists here are from northern Europe, but there are some from Italy and Spain, whose English is not good. Also, it’s fine to speak the language of the guest, but if that guest keeps speaking with you in another language which you do speak, isn’t it bad manners to stubbornly continue in English, as though you’re not really listening to what they say?

      • To Zane and Ivars:
        You know Im that kind of person I looove it when somebody speaks German to me (especially if they attempt at Austrian dialect) and I appreciate it so much I actually dont mind talking slower and having a more strained/less free conversation as long as I can help someone learn my language. Before I moved to UK I taught German to a group of international students in Vienna and I loved meeting with them after class and talking about everything in German, no matter no unperfect their German was. I had the same experience in Russia/Ukraine – people really encouraging me to speak their language. As for the service thing, well I would say a waiter should speak to the guest in the language the guest wishes ( assuming you know that language) and I also believe it doesnt take all that long to take an order in Latvian. Simply explain to the customer what the dish is about in latvian and if you see he doesnt quite get it just repeat it in English. During my college years I worked as a waitress and hotel receptionist and thats what I did. I was fine with German as long as the guest chose it and only switched to English it there was a severe miscommunication.

      • Well, maybe it’s just our – Latvian thing. And as I think it might be connected to 90’s when there were always disputes about cashiers and waitresses ” Why does she/he speak to me Russian/Latvian, because my native language is Latvian/Russian!” Since then, as far as I can remember – customer service has always been “in my language”, no matter if I speak Latvian or Russian. So I guess this refers to English as well.

  9. In my experience, Latvians switch to English for two reasons – firstly, if it’s in a busy shop or restaurant, and they want to get things done quickly, and secondly, and possibly more commonly, they enjoy speaking English with a native speaker (paricularly if you are English, rather than American). I honestly think that, with English speakers at least, it isn’t malicious in anyway – sometimes I also think they like to show off how good their English is. But I agree they should really make more effort to speak Latvian with people that are trying, especially the Russians that live there, considering they complain a lot about Russian Latvians not making the effort to speak Latvian. That example in the restaurant really surprised me.

    But I have to say Latvians always react well to the very limited amount of Latvian I can speak – though given the small amount I know, we can’t exactly have interesting conversations!

    • That’s true, it’s not malicious, but it’s annoying. As Latvian isn’t exactly top of the curriculum worldwide, it’s natural that they should be surprised at foreigners speaking it and try and accommodate them. But if the foreigner persists in speaking Latvian, they should also accommodate that. I also don’t get the contradictory attitude. They seem to want more people to speak their language, but complain that the accent of foreign people in Latvian annoys them. You just can’t have it both ways. It’s very difficult for people older than 12 to achieve a native-like accent.

  10. I fully agree with your statements about Latvians not being at all helpful when it comes to learning their language, ive been here part time since 2008 and i have really made the effort to learn but when it comes to practicing its nearly impossible to get someone to engage with you, i have actually been offended a few times as they look at you like you a moron before proudly showing how good their own English skills are!! I work in the tourist industry and everywhere you go in the world the waiters know to try to accommodate and help as its a vital part of learning via practice and making mistakes,
    Its easy for Latvians to learn English for example, there is so much more resources available, Many comprehensive language courses, not to mention television programs with subtitles or other forms of entertainment all from English speaking countries, My son who is 2.5 can nearly speak full sentences in English due to watching educational programs on you tube. he cannot however speak more than a few words in Latvian despite spending his entire life here and attending kindergarten.
    Finally I think if Latvians realized how hard for it is for foreigners to learn their language with literally no resource materials available apart from like 1 book written in 1971 or something they may be more understanding and less condescending. To me its no surprise at all that the Russians haven’t bothered to learn Latvian, its probably because all the Latvians made them feel uncomfortable and stupid for trying.
    Its a shame but Latvians do need to learn some manners!!! (I think ill be in trouble with the wife when she reads this!!)

    • It just frustrates me because there is little or no effort to engage in Latvian, which makes it very discouraging for anyone who wants to learn it. I’ve started responding in Spanish sometimes when they do it, as it makes them stop and think what they’re doing: being replied to in a language that you didn’t use yourself.

      • If you are foreigner and you are not my friend(or relative), to say it bluntly – I would not waste my time(and not make my brain into work to comprehend what are you saying) in trying to engage in conversations in your broken latvian. That might sound rude, but why are you expecting exceptionally good attitude towards you from latvians, if they don’t have good relations among themselves? 😉

        And complaint is not about that russians couldn’t learn language, but because occupation should have ended with russians(all of them) packing up and leaving and paying up reparations. Russians should not live in illusion, that good language can make up for things their ancestors did. Unfortunatelly(because it seems really hard for them) for russians – the only most important thing that is asked from russians is apology. Just those 2 or 3 words is enough to make up with latvians – learning or becoming latvian, which they suck at anyway, is not really required… as Latvia is not going to expand to East and include all Russia. In near future, that is. LOL

      • Jānis, first off “broken Latvian/German/English/whatever” is usually used to refer to people with “A1” level i.e. people who are just starting a language and have nothing other than a few basic phrases. I lived in Latvia for nearly 10 years, my level is more like B1. I’ve more than once sat for a full evening speaking Latvian to people (those that can be bothered to speak it to me) and even did a wine course a few years ago, all in Latvian. The same applies to some of my friends. That’s not a reason anyway. My friend is third-generation Latvian. Grew up in Canada in a Latvian-speaking household, speaks fluent Latvian, yet she frequently has difficulty getting Latvians to speak Latvian to her, because she has a “foreign accent.”

        Also, that’s exactly what I mean… the attitude that “it’s a waste of time” to speak Latvian to foreigners, but yet on the other hand, you guys complain all the time about “foreigners who live in Latvia” not speaking Latvian! Many of you say you don’t want a multi-cultural society but refuse to make any effort to help foreigners integrate. Sorry, but it’s one or the other! By all means refuse to speak Latvian to foreigners, but don’t moan when, as a result, they don’t bother to learn it.

        I frequently have to listen to Latvians butcher the English language with phrases like “Thanks God”, “If I would know”, “I am living here 5 years”, “He told that” and so on, but I can get what they mean. How far do you think you’d have got with learning English if people refused to engage in conversations when you came off with “broken English” phrases like “If you are foreigner”, “to say it bluntly”, “make my brain into work”, “in near future” etc, such as you use above? That’s right, exactly nowhere! By the way, I’m not pointing out your mistakes to criticise you or mock you, but to make a point. You probably learned English at a Latvian school from a middle-aged woman who most likely had never set foot in an Anglophone country. She probably learnt English at Uni in Soviet times from books which dated back to the Kruschev era and therefore taught you lots of incorrect usages, including “I’m writing to You” or putting commas before “that.” (Above, you write: “should not live in illusion, that good language”, which is not correct.) That’s my point, learning good use of any language without contact with native speakers is very difficult.

        I expect you guys to engage because speakers of every other language on this planet can do so! I’ve done it with the Spanish, the Swedes, the Russians and the Catalans. Why are you guys the only ones who want to live in your own little 19th century foreigner-free bubble?

        Regarding the Russians, while I agree on the apology, I doubt that would make a blind bit of difference. If Putin flew to Riga and knelt at the Freedom Monument and begged forgiveness for the crimes of Stalin et al, a lot of Latvians would still complain about Russians living there and not speaking Latvian. It’s a little bit late in the day for them to pack up and “go home” to a country 99% of them have never lived in. On the contrary, Russians are likely to play an even bigger part in Latvian society in the future, since the older ones without citizenship will start dying off and will be replaced with younger ones with citizenship.

      • Jānis, you sound like a friendly person. I bet people want to be around you all the time. 😀

        Jānis, your English is far from perfect, I can easily tell that just by looking at your written English. I hope you expect to get the same attitude when you go abroad. I imagine you speak English when you’re abroad, it is obvious that you make mistakes. I bet you have an accent as well, yet you probably don’t expect anyone to ”not bother with your broken English”.

        Also, that kind of attitude is why the country is so miserable. Would it hurt to have good manners, and treat each other in a nice way?

  11. Estoy muy de acuerdo contigo! No sé cómo hice para llegar a esta página pero me parece que lo que has dicho es una observación que se les puede aplicar a muchos casos. Estando yo en China, pensaba que a mí me había llegado la muy esperada oportunidad de practicar el chino por todos lados y con todos que viese por las calles, ¡pero me costaba lograr que los chinos me hablasen en su propio idioma! Siempre se trataba de un “power play,” o sea que quién más se pudiese empecinar en usar el idioma escogido disfrutaba de la práctica del idioma. A los chinos les fascinaba que el idioma lo estuviese aprendiendo, pero se mostraban muy reacios a hablar conmigo. Creo que esto es lo usual en cuanto a cualquier idioma que no sea muy estudiado… Los bálticos no creo que hay muchas personas que lo estén estudiando. El chino, sin embargo, es casi un idioma mundial, eh.

    • Sí, estoy en Panama ahora y la diferencia es fácil de ver. No tengo absolutamente ningun problema en hablar espanyol a la gente aqui. Claro, mi espanyol es mucho mejor que mi Leton, pero una gran parte de la razon de ello es que cuando yo estaba aprendiendo espanyol, los espanyoles hablaban conmigo. En los comentarios anteriores, la gente da razones ilogicas para ello, una persona dice que esta situación es mejor debido a que su Inglés es mejor que mi Leton, pero en esa situación, nadie va a aprender leton. Rusos que viven en Riga pueden dar la misma excusa: no tiene sentido en el aprendizaje de Leton porque los letones hablan mejor en Ruso. No hay sentido en estos argumentos. En Letonia siempre insisten en que las personas que viven alli aprenden su idioma. No sé si es la misma en China?

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