Latvia is often referred to as “the singing nation”. This is because it is quite hard to find a Latvian who has never sang in a choir or been involved with a singing group at some point in their life. After every few years, Latvians normally hold a song festival, where thousands of singers participate. Folk songs are highly valued. ‘Daina’ is one of the most distinguished Latvian folk songs. About 1.2 million lyrics and 30,000 melodies have been traced in the history of Latvian songs.
Latvian is the official language of Latvia. It became the national language when Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Latvian is spoken by 1.5 million people. The language falls under Baltic languages of Indo-European languages. The language has been influenced by German and Russian. Latvian is closely related to Lithuanian. Even though the two languages are different, once you learn how to read in Latvian, you will be able to understand Lithuanian texts. The Latgalian language is a dialect of Latvian and it is protected by law. Pronouncing Latvian words is not as difficult as pronouncing words in other languages. The main challenge you may face when it comes to pronunciation is when it comes to vowels, as many words tend to have long vowels. Latvian is written using Roman script.
Latvians speak a number of other languages quite well, so it is quite easy to get around in Latvia if you can speak English or Russian well. Other languages that are spoken in Latvia include Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian. Livonian is an almost extinct language that is spoken in Latvia. It is protected by the government so that it does not completely disappear. Learning some bit of Latvian will come in handy, especially if you plan on being in the country for an extended period of time. If you want to gain Latvian citizenship, you will be required to pass a language exam to show that you are proficient in Latvian. Most Latvians are Lutherans, Roman Catholics or they belong to the Russian Orthodox church.