Latvian 101

The history of the Latvian language (cf. below) has placed it in a peculiar position whereby it is spoken by a large number of non-native speakers as compared to native speakers. The minority population in Latvia reaches 900 000 people. It comprises Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Poles, and others. Most of them emigrated to Latvia when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union (1940 - 1991). In a recent survey, 60% of Latvia's ethnic minorities described their knowledge of Latvian as fluent. Fluency in Latvian is prevalent among the younger generations of the minorities.

The adoption of Latvian by minorities was brought about by its status as the only official language of the country, its prominence in the education system, its sole use in the public sector and by changes in the society after the fall of the Soviet Union that shifted linguistic focus away from Russian. As an example, in 2007 universities and colleges for the first time received applications from prospective students who had a bilingual secondary education in schools for minorities. Fluency in Latvian is expected in a variety of professions and careers.

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