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Do They Speak English in Latvia?

Do They Speak English in Latvia

Key Takeaways

Primary LanguageLatvian
English ProficiencyHigh among young people and urban populations
Reasons to LearnTourism, Business, Education
Language EducationEnglish is taught in schools


Latvia, a captivating nation in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, boasts a rich history, diverse culture, and a unique language landscape. While the primary language is Latvian, there’s an increasing proficiency in English, especially among the younger generation and in urban areas. But how widespread is English in Latvia, and why? This article delves into the linguistic landscape of this Baltic gem.

The Linguistic Landscape of Latvia

Latvian: The National Language

Latvian is the official language and is spoken by the majority of the population. It belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-European language family.

Did you know?

  • Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages.
  • There are some similarities between Latvian and Lithuanian, but they are distinct languages.

Russian Influence

Due to historical ties with Russia and the Soviet era, a significant portion of the population also speaks Russian.

LanguagePercentage of the Population

The Rise of English

With Latvia’s accession to the European Union and the subsequent increase in tourism and international business, English has been on the rise.

  1. Tourism: With its beautiful architecture and scenic landscapes, Latvia attracts tourists from English-speaking countries.
  2. Business: As Latvia integrates more with global markets, English serves as a crucial business lingua franca.
  3. Education: Many young Latvians opt for higher education in English-speaking countries.

English Proficiency in Latvia

Latvia demonstrates a relatively high level of English proficiency, especially when compared to some other Eastern European nations. There are several factors contributing to this proficiency:

  • Education System: English is a mandatory subject in Latvian schools. Most students start learning English in primary school and continue through high school.
  • Media Consumption: The prevalence of English-language films, TV shows, and music has also aided in the natural acquisition of the language.
  • Cultural Exchange: Latvia’s participation in student exchange programs and international collaborations has fostered English usage.
Age GroupProficiency Level
18-29Very High
30-49Moderate to High
50 and aboveLow to Moderate

Why Do Latvians Learn English?

Understanding the reasons behind Latvia’s increasing English proficiency provides insights into its cultural and economic shifts.

  • Career Opportunities: Knowing English opens doors to global job markets and international corporations based in Latvia.
  • Higher Education: English proficiency is often a prerequisite for those seeking to study abroad.
  • Cultural Integration: With increased global connectivity, English serves as a bridge to understanding international pop culture, news, and events.

Tips for Travelers and Expats

For those planning to visit or settle in Latvia, here are a few pointers:

  1. Younger Generation: If you’re in the urban areas, especially Riga, you’ll find that many young people speak fluent English.
  2. Service Industry: In restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions, staff generally have a good command of English.
  3. Learning Basics: While many Latvians speak English, learning a few basic phrases in Latvian can be a gesture of respect and goodwill. For example, “Paldies” means “Thank you.”


While Latvian remains the heart and soul of Latvia’s linguistic identity, English is steadily making its presence known. As Latvia continues to integrate into the global community, its linguistic landscape will undoubtedly continue to evolve. Whether you’re a traveler, business professional, or just a curious mind, understanding the role of English in Latvia provides a window into its dynamic culture and future trajectory.