All Language Resources is an independent review site. If you click a product link, we may earn money from a seller at no cost to you. Writing and analyses are author opinions. Learn More

Learn Lithuanian

So you’re considering learning Lithuanian: perhaps you’re planning a trip to Vilnius, the city of angels, hoping to read some of its heart-clenching literature, or simply want to make friends with Lithuanians who live near you.

Get started to learn Lithuanian with this beginner’s guide. Delve into grammar, resources, tips, and answers to FAQs. Learn Lithuanian today!

No matter what your goal is, the right resources will help you achieve it quicker and more effectively. Keep reading for our recommendations for everything from apps and podcasts to textbooks and audio courses. We’ve also included tips on how to create your personalized Lithuanian study plan to help keep you on track.

About the Lithuanian Language

Lithuanian is a language of resistance: it was outlawed for decades, and despite this, flourished – partly thanks to a book-smuggling tradition that is now celebrated annually on the 16th of March.

Yet this isn’t the only thing that makes Lithuanian remarkable: it’s also the oldest surviving Indo-European language in the world, and only one of the two Baltic languages still in use today. (The other one is Latvian, but it isn’t mutually intelligible.)

In fact, Lithuanian has marked similarities with other ancient languages, including Sanskrit, Latin, and Ancient Greek.

Lithuanian’s continued existence is particularly impressive given that it was a mostly oral language for much of its history, and the country has also spent centuries under the rule of other nations.

In the 14th–16th centuries, it was one of the most powerful states in Europe but its time as an empire was short-lived. Ongoing wars with Russia forced it to join a Polish-Lithuanian Confederation that was supposedly an equal partnership. It didn’t take long, however, for Poland to become more powerful.

Lithuanian nobles started using Polish to appear more refined, and it was mainly illiterate peasants who maintained their Baltic identity. (This may go some way to explaining why the earliest examples of written Lithuanian in existence are religious texts rather than political documents.)

200 years later, in the 18th century, Russia, Prussia, and Austria forcibly divided up Poland for themselves. Lithuania, which was by now just a Polish territory, was allotted to Russia.

It took Lithuanians centuries to shake off Russian control. In fact, aside from a short 22 years of independence after WWI, it was ruled over by either the Russian Empire, Nazi Germany, or the USSR up until 1990.

While part of the Russian Empire, the Lithuanian language was outlawed. It was forbidden to either print it in a non-Cyrillic alphabet or speak it in public up until 1918.

This meant that Lithuanian – once the dying language of peasants, looked down on for being uncultured – was now the battleground for a nationalist movement angry at the erosion of its culture and colonization of its land.

And so, when the country gained independence in 1918, it decided on a standardized version of Lithuanian and proclaimed it to be the national language. (Although you’ll still come across different Lithuanian dialects as you travel across the country.)

As for Russian, Lithuania has a complicated relationship with the language that it was forced to speak for so long. Older generations, having grown up during the Soviet occupation, tend to know it quite well. And although a lot of people prefer not to speak it, it’s on many restaurant’s menus, due to tourism, and it often comes out when people swear.

Today, Lithuanian is spoken by around 4 million people and written in an adapted 32-character Latin alphabet with 20 consonants, 12 vowels, and several diacritical marks. And while it’s mostly used in this one, small country, Lithuanians remain proud of their language and its heritage.

How Difficult Is Lithuanian?

Ask most Lithuanian language learners what they think about the language, and they’ll tell you that it sounds beautiful, but the declension is challenging.

The Foreign Services Institute agrees that it’s a “hard language,” otherwise known as a Category III. Even so, it considers it easier than Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, and only roughly as difficult as Greek or Russian.

Besides, it’s hard to complain too much when you realize that Lithuanian’s difficulty is in part due to its status as the oldest Indo-European language. It contains ancient grammatical characteristics that aren’t commonly found in other modern European languages (although you’ll come across them in Latin and Ancient Greek, for example).

For example, in certain Lithuanian dialects, nouns don’t just have single and plural forms, e.g. “apple” vs “apples”. They also have a dual form for when you’re speaking specifically about two things.

Let’s talk about the declension that’s responsible for Lithuanian’s reputation as a difficult language. Declension is when a word’s form is changed to reflect its grammatical function. Take London, which in Lithuanian is translated to Londonas. That “as” ending changes depending on what you want to communicate about London. This means that:

  • “I went to London” becomes Važiavau į Londoną.
  • “I am from London” becomes As is Londono.
  • “I was in London” becomes Buvau Londone.

Learning Lithuanian requires memorizing declension tables and having a firm understanding of grammar and syntax. You’ll struggle to decline correctly if you don’t know what mood or direct and indirect objects are.

On the other hand, declensions remove the need for prepositions. There’s no need to learn the equivalents of “from,” “to,” “into,” and “behind.” Given that there are at least 150 prepositions in English, suddenly declension tables don’t look too bad.

There aren’t any articles (“the,” “a,” “an”) either, although there is grammatical gender. In other words, if you were to say that your mother is studying the Lithuanian language (lietuvių kalba, by the way), both your mother and the Lithuanian language would be female.

Pronunciation is fairly consistent, and spelling is phonetic. Unlike in English, you won’t have to wonder how a word is said. And sentence order is generally subject-verb-object – although this can be tweaked with if you want to emphasize something.

There’s no denying that learning Lithuanian will take most English speakers longer than, say, Spanish or French. Yet should you let that put you off it? Absolutely not!

Learning this language is a rewarding process that opens up the door to a country of romantic landscapes, charming cities, and warm-hearted people whose faces will light up when you speak to them in their native tongue.

How to Learn Lithuanian

One person’s fool-proof method for learning Lithuanian might not work for you. Before you download your first app or sign up for a course, ask yourself:

  • What you want to achieve
  • How much time you have to study
  • Your preferred way to learn (if you know it)

What you want to achieve

Perhaps you just want to travel through Lithuania this winter. Maybe you’re hoping to move there. Or you could want to surprise your partner by speaking to them in their native language.

Identifying what you want to achieve will help you focus your Lithuanian studies. You’ll be able to work out the level of proficiency you need, the topics you want to talk about, and the skills that will be most useful.

After all, if you’re just sweet-talking your partner, you won’t need to learn how to ask about train timetables. And if you’re mainly speaking to friends online, slang will probably come in handier than business jargon.

How much time you have to study

Do you have two hours a day to study? Fantastic!

Do you only have 30 minutes? That’s also great. There’s no shame in not having much time to study. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about how much time you have so that you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Try to study consistently: it’s far better to practice for a small amount of time five a week than to study all Saturday – but only Saturday.

Creating a study schedule can help keep you on track. Don’t forget to give yourself some days off, though! It’s a cliché, but language learning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Your preferred way to learn

No matter what your aims are, your study methods need to suit your learning style. Some of us hate being at a desk. Others get bored by fiction or find their attention wanders when listening to podcasts.

Don’t use this as an excuse to avoid grammar or vocabulary. There will always be elements of language learning that you find duller than others.

However, don’t force yourself to use a language-learning method you dislike if there are better, more engaging ways to achieve the same goal. Here are a few ideas:

  • Language exchanges are a great way to improve your colloquial Lithuanian as well as your response time
  • Journaling, reading the news, and using flashcards or word lists can improve your vocabulary and grammar
  • For reading practice, you can turn to novels, short stories, and the news
  • To work on your listening, try podcasts, vlogs, TV shows, and movies as well as Skype classes and language exchanges
  • Want to improve your understanding of colloquial Lithuanian? Vlogs normally have more slang than TV shows, while humorous podcasts will have a more casual tone than informational ones

Most importantly of all, don’t get demotivated if something is difficult or you feel that you’re not making progress. Learning a language is tough and improvements can be hard to spot. But instead of focusing on what you can’t do, think about all the things you can do in Lithuanian – and take pride in how much you’ve already achieved.

What’s the Best Way to Learn Lithuanian?

The best way for you to learn Lithuanian will likely depend on your learning style. Do you focus best when face-to-face with another person? In this case, finding a language exchange partner for regular conversations or paying for a tutor (if expense is not an issue) may help you learn most efficiently.

On the other hand, a more visual learner will thrive with one of the apps recommended in this article, like Pimsleur or Ling. These app-based Lithuanian courses can help you master tricky grammar concepts in a more visual way, while also providing practice and conversation exercises.

What’s the Easiest Way to Learn Lithuanian?

For most English speakers, the easiest way to learn Lithuanian is to find a course to provide a framework for your language learning. You will likely want to bolster your learning progress by adding on extras like conversation partners, but to start out, a course can make sure you cover all the basics in a logical order.

It is also really important to find even a little bit of time every day to work on your Lithuanian course. You will learn much more efficiently by studying a little every day than you will if you try to cram in three or four hours on the weekend.

How Can I Teach Myself Lithuanian?

You can teach yourself Lithuanian by drawing from a wonderful wealth of online resources, like app-based courses, free grammar tools, conversation partner connections, and more. 

One of the best things about teaching yourself Lithuanian is that you can craft your own learning plan and set goals that fit your lifestyle. For example, you can use an online course to cover the basics of Lithuanian, refer to a textbook to make sure you understand declensions, and find a conversation partner to make sure you focus on speaking Lithuanian in real life.

It’s a good idea to mix and match your learning tools even if you do pay for an app-based course, hire a tutor, or even sign up for a course in person if you have access to one locally.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Lithuanian?

On average, it will take English speakers about 900 hours of dedicated study or class time to learn Lithuanian. This estimate comes from the Foreign Services Institute, which classifies Lithuanian as a Category II or moderately difficult language.

Of course, how long it will take you to learn Lithuanian will also vary based on lots of personal factors. Do you already have a background in Latin or Greek? Did you grow up speaking more than one language? Have you learned another language recently? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you will probably learn Lithuanian faster than most English speakers, because your brain already has tools in place to help you.

How to Learn Lithuanian Fast

One of the best ways to learn Lithuanian fast is to immerse yourself in the language. If you can take a trip to Lithuania and immerse yourself in the history, culture, and modern life of this amazing language, go for it!

If you can’t afford to travel abroad right now, you can do your best to create your own immersive environment. You can find lots of ideas for this in this article, such as reading Lithuanian novels, watching Lithuanian YouTube videos, and much more The idea is to spend as much time soaking in the sounds of the language as possible during the day.

Where to Learn Lithuanian: Additional Resources for Learning Lithuanian

Literature, music, and news among others are some of the many other resources that could come in handy as you’re learning Lithuanian. Adding a few more resources to your study plan could be essential in helping you sharpen your language skills.

Lithuanian Textbooks and Reference Books

The great thing about a textbook is that you know it will follow a logical and comprehensive syllabus – even if it won’t give you as many chances to practice speaking or listening.

Beginner Lithuanian (A1–A2) Textbooks

Starting from scratch? Take a look at Easy Lithuanian. It’s often used in Lithuanian language courses, and for good reason: it starts from A1, the explanations are clear and simple, and the examples are relevant to modern-day life. Depending on where you buy it, you might need to get in touch with the author directly for the free audio files.

You might also like Colloquial Lithuanian. While the vocabulary is sometimes dated, the grammar explanations are clear and there are plenty of exercises. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing the audio files – you can get them online for free.

Nė Dienos Be Lietuvių Kalbos/Not a Single Day Without Lithuanian, Volume 1 is hard to come by but praised by Lithuanian learners. Be aware, though, that it’s completely in Lithuanian. You’ll need to either work through it with a teacher or have some basic Lithuanian knowledge.

Complete Lithuanian (Teach Yourself) is a popular textbook that promises to take you from a complete beginner into an accomplished intermediate speaker. However, some reviewers complain that it lacks sufficient English-language explanations.

Teach Yourself Lithuanian is comprehensive but the grammar explanations can be challenging to understand.

Intermediate and Advanced Lithuanian (B1, B2, C1+) Textbooks

Nė Dienos Be Lietuvių Kalbos/Not a Single Day Without Lithuanian, Volume 2 covers grammar, vocabulary, writing, and more. Unfortunately, it’s just as hard to come across as volume 1. You’ll probably have more luck finding it if you’re already in Lithuania.

Meanwhile, Practical Grammar of Lithuanian will help you polish your understanding of the language’s tricky grammar rules. Make sure to buy the updated 2019 version rather than the 2008 one.

Lithuanian Fiction Books

For a slightly easier introduction to Lithuanian literature, start by using Interlinear Books to read classic short stories by Jonas Biliūnas in both Lithuanian and English. He’s one of the country’s most well-known writers.

You should know, however, that Interlinear Books modernizes his work, switching obsolete vocabulary for more modern-day options. This can help language learners, but if you want to read authentic texts, you might be better off popping into a bookstore.

Another option is reading traditional Lithuanian tales, along with the literature that draws on them. Kazys Boruta was one of several writers who used Lithuanian folklore to create fables criticizing the Soviet regime during a time of intense censorship.

Looking for something more contemporary? Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s heavy-hitting memoir Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros tells the story of the teenage deportee taken to a Soviet labor camp, while in Sigitas Parulskis’ Trys sekundės dangaus, the protagonist is shaped by his experiences of serving as a paratrooper in the Soviet army.

Ričardas Gavelis is a celebrated author known for his postmodern novels and short stories. And if you’re looking for something a little more escapist, Kristina Sabaliauskaitė’s bestselling Silva Rerum series is set in the 1600s and adored by reviewers for its historical details and good characterization.

Music, News, and Other Lithuanian-Language Resources

Music can be a fun way to pick up new vocabulary. Just make sure a new phrase isn’t poetic licence or offensive before you try it out in conversation.

The Lithuania 100 Spotify playlist from the government’s official account – yes, you read that right, the Lithuanian government is on Spotify – will introduce you to a range of songs, new and old.

Gjan, Hiperbolė, and Jauti are all popular rock or pop bands, while Saulius Mykolaitis is praised for his beautiful lyrics. Žalvarinis leans more toward folk. Arklio Galia tends to produce rock and jazz-inspired music.

Meanwhile, reading the news can keep you up to date on current affairs in and outside of Lithuania at the same time as increasing your Lithuanian literacy. There’s a thriving media landscape, despite concerns about potential censorship. To start off, try LRT, Delfi, 15min, and Lietuvos Rytas.

With all this reading, you’re bound to come across new vocabulary. You can look up words in the LingvoSoft Online Dictionary and check their pronunciation with Forvo.

Alternatively, install the Readlang Chrome extension and web app to translate the words and phrases as you come across them, as well as create flashcards. You can also upload texts and videos to the library, as well as viewing other people’s uploads. It currently has a beta version for Lithuanian.

Lithuanian might sound daunting, but this romantic language is worth the effort. In fact, the hardest thing might be getting started. So download a couple of these apps, start browsing italki for tutors, and create your customized study plan.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *