Word of the day – paldies

Yesterday I learnt how to say thank you in Latvian – paldies /pal’dies/ – from the Latvian lads who delivered and installed my new garden shed. Although they didn’t speak much English, we managed to communicate. When I asked where they were from, they didn’t understand the question, then one of them said, “oh, what country?” and they told me Latvia.

In situations like this when I find myself speaking to people whose language I don’t know and who don’t speak much English, I tend to feel frustrated. Not by their limited English, but by the fact that I don’t know any of their language. It also helps to try saying things in various ways until you find one they understand, as the “Where are you from?” example demonstrates.

Looking at the Latvian phrases on Omniglot, it strikes me that hardly any words look familiar, apart from the lab part of labdien (good afternoon) and labvakar (good evening), which resembles the Lithuanian word labas, which is used for hello, and in such phrases as Laba diena (good afternoon) and labas vakaras (good evening), both of which are similar to the Latvian versions. The words dien (day) and vakar (evening) also resemble their equivalents in Slavic languages such as Czech – den and večer,and Russian – день (den’) and вечер (večer).

Are any of you learning Latvian or planning to learn it?

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This entry was posted in Language, Language learning, Words and phrases.

6 Responses to Word of the day – paldies

  1. Andrew says:

    “In situations like this when I find myself speaking to people whose language I don’t know and who don’t speak much English, I tend to feel frustrated. Not by their limited English, but by the fact that I don’t know any of their language.”

    They probably felt embarrassed for precisely the same reason (not knowing any of your language) ;)

    It’s going to be really interesting to see how education and especially language-learning evolves as the world becomes more and more connected and it becomes easier and easier (and therefore more common) for people to travel and immigrate. We’re going to HAVE to learn to get along with and communicate with each other.

    Personally, I think it will result in the death of a lot of small languages and the domination of the great majority of the world’s population by a few languages, i.e. everyone WILL learn multiple languages in school, but what will happen is that everyone will learn 3 or 4 of a dozen or so languages so that way you’ll be able to communicate with everyone else in the world because out of those 3 or 4 languages, if they came from a pool of 12 or 16, the odds of you and another person not having at least one language in common will be pretty slim.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  2. P. says:

    Last year we watched Waterbomb for the Fat Tomcat, a charming Latvian movie about two young girls who get into various sorts of mischief. I didn’t pick up much Latvian vocabulary from it, but one word that stuck with me was the word for “why”, kāpēc? (roughly “kah-paits”), which the younger girl used often.

  3. P. says:

    Oof, apologies for the bad link. Here’s a fix.

  4. Yenlit says:

    I’ve had various dealings with Latvians and Lithuanians (Estonians too) but they always tended to be ethnic Russians.
    I remember the claims that Lithuanian is supposed to be one of the closest languages to the original Indo-European and even that some of Lithuanian words are even older than Sanskrit? Whether these are lofty claims or not I don’t know because I’ve never investigated it further?

  5. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Yenlit:

    Lithuanian has evolved very conservatively from Proto-Indo-European, and for that reason it’s very popular for linguists to learn. Not sure about the “older than Sanskrit” part, though.

  6. Squary says:

    Not understanding their language has its ups, too, though. You don’t get to hear all the constant swearing.