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7 facts about the Lithuanian language

The Lithuanian language is one of the oldest languages in the world.
“Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant,” stated Antoine Meillet, one of the most influential French linguists a century ago. Here are some basic facts that will help to better know the Lithuanian language.
 

The archaic structure of the Lithuanian language

The ancient Balts were settled and they were not inclined to mix with other tribes, so their languages maintained their ancient form. There are about 7,000 languages still spoken in the world. They can be grouped into language families according to their similarity and kinship (common origin): Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Niger-Congo, Afro-Asiatic, Austronesian and others. The Lithuanian as a Baltic language belongs to the Indo-European, one of the most widely-spoken language families in the world. The ancestors of today’s speakers of Indo-European languages spoke a single language, which linguists call Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The scholarly consensus is that Lithuanian is the language that has retained most of the features of the Protolanguage, i.e. it is characterised by a very ancient linguistic structure: declensions (of nouns, adjectives and pronouns), short and long vowels, diphthongs, etc.

The diacritic letters appeared somewhat later, when the vowel plus nasal consonant combinations an, en, un, in became long vowels ą, ę, ų, į (e.g. žansis > žąsis). So, in fact, the diacritical marks are not a feature of antiquity. The Lithuanian language has many similarities with Sanskrit – the classical language of ancient India, e.g. Sanskrit ákṣi – Lithuanian akis (‘eye’), Sanskrit ávi – Lithuanian avis (‘sheep’), Sanskrit dánta – Lithuanian dantis (‘tooth’), Sanskrit devá – Lithuanian dievas (‘god’), Sanskrit dína – Lithuanian diena (‘day’), Sanskrit sūnu – Lithuanian sūnus (‘son’). Sanskrit is still used as a scholarly and liturgical language in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Probably no one would be able to unequivocally assert which is the very oldest language in the world; but it’s a fact that the Lithuanian language is one of the oldest and most archaic living languages in the world, and it has preserved more features of PIE than any other Indo-European language.

Ancient spoken language, modern written language

It is not clear when the Lithuanian first began to be written. The official written languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Latin, Chancery Slavonic and Polish.  In the long run, as the use of Polish increased due to the gradual Polonisation of the gentry during the 18th century, the Polish language encroached in all fields, even becoming a threat to the role of spoken Lithuanian; but fortunately, the common people kept on speaking Lithuanian.

The de facto beginning of the contemporary Lithuanian written language is related to the appearance of the first known Lithuanian printed book in 1547 – the Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The first known printed version of the Lithuanian alphabet is included in the book too. It is true to say that isolated texts written in Lithuanian before this date are known to exist.

Not every Lithuanian of today would be able to read the first Lithuanian book

In the Catechism of Mažvydas you will not find the currently-used Lithuanian diacritic letters ą, č, ę, ė, į, š, ų, ū, ž. The Catechism of Mažvydas is written in Gothic script, a specialised type of Latin script, which is characterised by ornately scrolled letters. Here is a page from the Catechism of Mažvydas:


If we rewrite this in normal Latin letters, we get:

Bralei seseris imkiet mani ir skaitikiet
Ir tatai skaitidami permanikiet.
Maksla schito tewai iusu trakszdawa tureti,
Ale to negaleia ne wenu budu gauti.

In modern Lithuanian it would appear thus:

Broliai, seserys, imkit mane ir skaitykit
Ir tatai skaitydami permanykit.
Mokslo šito tėvai jūsų trokšdavo turėti,
Ale to negalėjo nė vienu būdu gauti.

Today’s Lithuanian alphabet is a supplemented Latin alphabet

The contemporary Lithuanian alphabet (abėcėlė) consist of 32 letters. Diacritical marks – ą, č, ę, ė, į, š, ų, ū, ž – appeared in Lithuanian relatively recently, only a few centuries ago. The alphabet published in the Mažvydas Catechism contained no diacritic letters. We see 23 capital letters in Latin script and 25 lower case letters in Gothic script. For example, Mažvydas used the German letter combination sch to represent the today’s Lithuanian š (in English it is sh). Although the letter w is used in the Catechism, Mažvydas did not include it in the alphabetic table.


Lithuanian language alphabet in the Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas

Some diacritical marks were borrowed from Czechs and Poles a few centuries ago

Since the Latin alphabet lacked enough letters to represent all the sounds of the Lithuanian language, solutions were sought by looking at the languages of their neighbours. In the 19th century Lithuanians borrowed letters with the caron č, š and ž from Czech. The Czechs had started using them in their language in the 15th century. They were introduced by Jan Hus, an activist of the Czech national movement, as he worked on creating a national system of writing for the Czech language.

The letters with the diacritic hook (ogonek) ą and ę were borrowed from Polish, and on their example the letters į and ų were created. However, the pronunciation of ą and ę in Lithuanian and in Polish is different: The diacritic hook in Lithuanian means a long vowel but in Polish it is pronounced as a nasal sound. The letter with the overdot ė was first used in the 17th century by one of the pioneers of Lithuanian writing, the Evangelical Lutheran pastor Daniel Klein in his book, the first Grammar of the Lithuanian language. The letter ū was invented over a century ago by the Lithuanian linguist Jonas Jablonskis, known as “the father of the Lithuanian language”. In 1901 he published Lietuviškos kalbos gramatika (“A Grammar of the Lithuanian language”), which included the alphabet as Lithuanians still use it today.

Unsuccessful attempt to force the Russian alphabet on Lithuanians

The Lithuanian language suffered a severe period of hardship from the end of the 18th century until the early 20th century, when it was subjugated by the Russian Empire, with the Tsars implementing an assimilationist policy. The Tsar’s régime banned the publication of books in Lithuanian using the Latin alphabet. They could only be published if they were printed in “graždanka” (Civil Script) – a modified version of Cyrillic. Some books and calendars were published using this Russian-based alphabet; however, the Lithuanian national movement was strengthening at the time and these publications were not popular, they were boycotted.


First Lithuanian book published using Russian letters

Kauniškiai dialect is the basis of Standard Lithuanian

Standard Lithuanian is based on the dialect called Kauniškiai. Just to be clear, this dialect is not the one spoken in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city. We are talking about the dialect to the southwest of Kaunas (Marijampolė, Prienai, Kalvarija, etc.), also known as the Suvalkiečių dialect. There are two basic dialects in Lithuania: The High Lithuanian dialect (aukštaičių tarmė) and the Low Lithuanian (Samogitian) dialect (žemaičių tarmė). Each of them is divided into various subdialects. In the 19th century, the people of the Suvalkija region played a major role in the formation of Standard Lithuanian, as that is where the leaders of the national renaissance movement such as Jonas Basanavičius and Vincas Kudirka, among others, were active. They organised the printing of Lithuanian books and periodicals, which required standardisation of the language so that everyone could read it. The major contributor to the standardisation of the Lithuanian language was the linguist Jonas Jablonskis, also a native of Suvalkija. The newly-emerging Standard Lithuanian was used for publication of Lithuanian books and periodicals, e.g. the newspapers Aušra (‘Dawn’) and Varpas (‘Bell’). Because of the Russian Tsar’s ban on the use of the Lithuanian alphabet in publishing, the material was printed in so called Lithuania Minor, which belonged to Prussia (German Empire), and it was distributed in Lithuania and abroad.
 

Although the written Lithuanian language is relatively ‘young’ (barely a century has gone by since the final standardisation of the alphabet and writing system), the spoken Lithuanian language is old and archaic, having been able to survive for thousands of years and to get through various attempts at robbing Lithuanian speakers of their identity. Unlike in the ancient days, modern Lithuanians are no longer stay-at-homes; in fact, they are inclined to migrate. About a million residents have left Lithuania since independence was restored in 1990. Some are returning, and others may return, but the majority will stay abroad, and Lithuanian will not be the native language of their children or grandchildren. Today, the same as several hundred, one hundred or fifty years ago, for Lithuanians it is important to maintain the oldest Indo-European language, whether they live in Lithuania or abroad.

Dainius Sabaliauskas
CEO of Eurotradus translation company
President of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies

(Sources: Universal Lithuanian Encyclopaedia, Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language, Digital Collections of the Vilnius University Library, Publications of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language)

This article is also published on the news portals We love Lithuania and The Lithuania Tribune.

European Language Industry survey – début of Lithuanians and an important message to interns

The results of the European Language Industry survey 2019 have been published. This year’s edition of the survey is the most successful one since its start in 2013. It includes responses not only from Europe, but also from North and South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania – in total 1,404 respondents from 55 countries. Northern Europe, including the Baltic States, was distinguished as a separate region.

Lithuania has participated for the first time. Although the Lithuanian participants were not numerous – only 23 (7 translation companies, 14 freelancers, 1 translation department and 1 training institute) – they still outnumbered their peers from Latvia and Estonia.

The survey was fairly broad in scope, but in summary, the translation industry has concerns about the constant pressure on prices, growing competition and the increasing use of machine translation; although the latter is only used regularly by a minority of translation companies and translators. For the first time, the survey assessed the gender breakdown in the sector. Females clearly prevailed in the freelance category (80%) among respondents, with a nearly equal distribution among the representatives of the translation companies.

Lithuania took a slightly different position when assessing the added value of internship to the company. Unlike most, Lithuanians do not believe that interns contribute significantly to creating an added value of translation companies. Still, good news for students – Lithuanian translation companies, including Eurotradus, intend to continue cooperation, i.e. to employ interns.

The full report of the survey is available here.

Is artificial intelligence threatening the global translation industry?

On the initiative of Eurotradus, the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies and the European Commission organised Lithuania’s first joint conference for translation agencies, institutions, translators and interpreters on 29 November 2018 in Vilnius.

The conference was moderated by Dainius Sabaliauskas, CEO of the Eurotradus translation agency and president of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies. Arnoldas Pranckevičius, head of the European Commission’s Representation in Lithuania, was welcoming the participants. More than 130 language specialists from all over Lithuania attended this one-day event at the Novotel hotel. Additionally, the conference was streamed live over the internet in order to communicate with and inform hundreds of people remotely, including students of institutions of higher education, i.e. Vilnius University, Kaunas University of Technology and Mykolas Romeris University.

The online audience was given the opportunity to ask questions, express their opinions and take part in the surveys just like the audience in the conference hall. The main focus of the conference: Is artificial intelligence a threat to the global translation industry? The program included topics like fast-evolving translation technologies, personal data protection and the latest developments in the translation market.

The conference was concluded by the discussion on collaboration between translators, interpreters, translation agencies and institutions. A video recording of the conference, presentations and survey results can be found on the event’s website. More information concerning the conference and technologies can be found on Delfi.lt, the major Lithuanian news portal. Insights and opinions can be viewed on the Facebook pages of Eurotradus and the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies.

Eurotradus at “Sail of Shanghai 2018”

On 6–7 September 2018, we attended the largest independent Chinese trade fair in Lithuania. The Cruising Exhibition for Economic and Cultural Cooperation “Sail of Shanghai” along with the Belt and Road initiative sailed to Kaunas this year.

For this well-known Chinese exhibition, Eurotradus has not only been a passenger but an active member of the ambitious crew of Chinese and Lithuanian exhibitors and contributors. Almost 70 companies participated in the economic & trade event, covering such areas as home appliances, textile, clothing, hardware, electronics and new energy technologies. Navigated by our two sophisticated interpreters who translated from Chinese to English, Lithuanian, and vice versa, this voyage became a valuable experience for all participants. Within a tight schedule full of workshops, presentations and seminars, our interpreters provided professional interpreting, proofed intercultural competences and won the audience attention through profound knowledge of various industries. Our interpreters went the extra mile for an even better understanding and deeper connection which has been acknowledged by all exhibitors.

The “Sail of Shanghai” is aimed at injecting new momentum into full-range, broad, multi-level economic and cultural cooperation with Shanghai. Lithuania has an especially great potential in information technology, high-tech, life sciences and laser technologies. According to Ina Marčiulionytė, the Ambassador of Lithuania in China, the country wants to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with Shanghai in various fields, and to promote the establishment of friendly relations between the cities of Shanghai and Lithuania’s second-largest city Kaunas. The exchange project was organised by the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (SPAFFC), the Shanghai “B&R” Trade and Exhibition Committee in cooperation with Versli Lietuva as well as the Kaunas municipality.

Charged with trust, stability, common commitment and a collective logic that goes beyond the individual, together with our interpreters and our partner Versli Lietuva, we managed to guide the ship into the Baltic Business sea safely. “Xie xie” to everybody who contributed to this special event!

Eurotradus at the international workshop “German Studies and Market Requirements”

Dainius Sabaliauskas, head of the Eurotradus translation agency and President of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies, speaking at the international workshop “German Studies and Market Requirements” (Germanistik für den Beruf), drew attention to the importance of the German language in the translation sector. The value of trade between Lithuania and Germany is counted in billions of euros. Germany is Lithuania’s second-largest trading partner on the basis of annual turnover. Therefore, there is always a demand in Lithuania for German-speaking specialists, especially qualified translators of the German language. This workshop was held at the end of March 2018 on the initiative of the Department of German Language at Vilnius University.

About 100 students are studying German Philology and German Language in the Faculty of Philology at Vilnius University as their principal or accompanying subjects (Bachelor’s and Master’s studies). It’s true that in secondary schools, German as a second foreign language is chosen by only a few students – less than one tenth. Employer representatives who participated in the discussion stressed that people who learn not only English, but also German, have a much greater range of employment opportunities. “Englisch ist ein Muss, Deutsch ist ein Plus.” (“English is a necessity, German is an advantage).

How does a modern translation agency work

In cooperation with Lithuanian universities, EUROTRADUS – a translation and localisation company – continues a series of lectures about modern translation technologies. In February 2018, EUROTRADUS representatives presented the way modern translation agencies operate to the undergraduate and postgraduate students of Vilnius University. Students were acquainted with project management systems and computer-assisted translation tools, requirements of the ISO 17100 standard for translation services, and the peculiarities of translation work for agencies and translators. Moreover, this year, as every year, 6 students have joined EUROTRADUS for an internship.

EUROTRADUS: modern technologies support export to foreign markets

EUROTRADUS translation and localisation company shared its experience in using modern technologies with business people in different regions of Lithuania. In March–November 2017, Dainius Sabaliauskas, CEO of EUROTRADUS, did presentations at the VERSLO GAZELĖ (BUSINESS GAZELLE) conferences in the cities of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Alytus, Utena and Telšiai. In addition, he spoke to regional business leaders on aspects of cooperation with clients and partners across the globe, differences between languages and cultures, and the importance of professional translation and localisation for the export of goods and services to foreign markets and the expansion of international business. These conferences are hosted by Verslo Žinios (Business News), a major business news portal and newspaper in Lithuania.

More information:
Verslo Gazelė conference in Vilnius
Verslo Gazelė conference in Kaunas
Verslo Gazelė conference in Klaipėda
Verslo Gazelė conference in Šiauliai
„Gazelles“ in Šiauliai: A time for optimism has started
Verslo Gazelė conference in Panevėžys
Panevėžys: Excelling in Industry, Struggling with Workforce
Verslo Gazelė conference in Alytus
Lack of Workers Challenges Alytus Gazelles
Verslo Gazelė conference in Utena
Gazelle 2017 in Utena: How Will We Be Competing Tomorrow?
Verslo Gazelė conference in Telšiai
Gazelles in Telšiai are very dependent on one factory

 

 

 

CEO of Eurotradus has been elected President of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies

On 29 September 2017, Dainius Sabaliauskas, the CEO of Eurotradus translation and localisation company, has been elected President of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies.

Eurotradus workshop for lecturers of Lithuanian universities

As CAT tools have become an integral part of the global translation market, all translation professionals should be able to use them. In its continuous collaboration with Lithuanian higher education institutions, the Eurotradus translation company has always given extra weight to the importance of technologies. Eurotradus invited lecturers from major Lithuanian universities to a practical workshop intended to shed some light on the usage of web-based CAT tools. On 24 January 2017, representatives of Vilnius University, Kaunas University of Technology and Mykolas Romeris University participated in the workshop. They quickly learnt the principles of modern CAT tools and undertook to apply them for lectures and homework. Workshop participants were able to witness that one can learn how to use a CAT tool in just a matter of several hours. The main advantage of web-based CAT tools is that they work in a web browser without even needing to be installed on a computer, which makes it very easy for students to translate – no matter where they are, no matter what device they use.

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Eurotradus Shared Its Technology Experience with the Heads of Business Companies

4 October 2016, Vilnius. At the “Technopelnas 2016” conference, the CEO of the EUROTRADUS translation company shared his practical experience of using modern technologies in daily business.

In our work with international clients and the world’s leading technology companies, we are always in step with the most advanced technologies. We implement large-scale and complex projects using modern project management and translation memory systems which optimise our processes, save time, and reduce costs.

The “Technopelnas 2016” (Technoprofit 2016) conference held by Verslo Žinios, a leading business news portal and newspaper, invited the heads of small and medium-sized enterprises. The event was intended to show the potential of information technologies to business companies, reveal what’s new in the field, and introduce the most high-tech companies in Lithuania. The event is a venue to gain practical insights from the representatives of the savviest companies that invest in technology solutions.

Read more on http://konferencijos.vz.lt/technopelnas/

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