What writing system(s) does this language use?
Lithuanian uses the Roman alphabet, which was originally used to write Latin, with several extra letters added and some no longer used. The Lithuanian alphabet has 32 letters and is written left to right. The letters are:
a, ą, b, c, č, d, e, ę, ė, f, g, h, i, į, y, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, š, t, u, ų, ū, v, z, ž
Most of these letters are pronounced as the ones in English, however the vowels are quite different: a is pronounced either as u in cup or as a in father; ą is pronounced as a in father; e is pronounced as e in send; ę is pronounced as a in sand; ė is pronounced somewhat as ea in pear, but more like eh in German mehr; i is pronounced as i in tin; į and y are pronounced as ee in sleep; u is pronounced as oo in room; ų and ū are pronounced as oo in boom.
č, š and ž are pronounced as ch, sh and zh (or g in beige), respectively.
How many people speak this language?
About 3.5 million people in Lithuania speak Lithuanian as their native language, together with some 500 thousand Lithuanians living abroad. Lithuanian is rarely used as a means of international discussion, and few people learn it as a foreign language. However, the language is very old and has preserved a lot of ancient words and grammar rules, so some people study it in universities, if they are learning about history of languages in general.
Where is this language spoken?
In all of Lithuania and some parts of neighbouring countries. Also in large Lithuanian communities in the US, England, and Ireland.
What is the history of this language?
Lithuanian is said to be the oldest language that is still spoken as a native language. This is because there are a lot of old grammar forms and words remaining, hardly changed from what was used several thousand years ago by the first inhabitants of Europe.
However, the importance of the language was not always respected. In medieval times, even though Lithuania was a large country, people spoke Belarussian or Polish much more than Lithuanian. Lithuanian was considered a "peasant tongue", "unworthy" of noble people. In the 19th century, Lithuania belonged to the Russian Empire, and the government did what they could to completely destroy the language. For more than forty years in the second part of the century, it was forbidden to write in Lithuanian. After the First World War, Lithuania regained independence and the language became the official language of the country. After World War Two, Lithuania was once again occupied, this time by the Soviet Union, and language repression continued although not as severely. After the Soviet Union fell, Lithuanian became once again the official language of the country. Efforts are now made to preserve the language as much as it is possible.
Most of the famous Lithuanians are, unfortunately, famous only in Lithuania. Martynas Mažvydas wrote the first book in Lithuanian in 1547, "the Catholic Cathecism"; and Kristijonas Donelaitis wrote the first work of fiction in Lithuanian in the 18th century (that's the 1700s), Metai ("The Year").
What are some basic Lithuanian phrases I can learn?
Labas! - Hi!
Laba diena - Hello (literally, "Good day")
Labas rytas - Good morning
Labas vakaras - Good evening
Labanaktis - Good night
Taip - Yes
Ne - No
Kaip gyveni? - How are you?
Ačiū - Thank you
Prašau - Please
Atsiprašau - Sorry
Mano vardas ... - My name is ...
Tu man patinki - I like you (literally, "you are liked by me")
Aš myliu tave - I love you or more accepted in proper Lithuanian: Aš tave myliu.
Kur tualetas? - Where is the toilet?
Aš alkanas/alkana - I am hungry (for a guy/girl)
Aš pasiklydau - I am lost
What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?
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