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Your One-Stop Guide to Learning Lithuanian

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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.

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.)

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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.

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Resources for Learning Lithuanian

From apps and podcasts to textbooks and Skype classes, there’s no shortage of ways to teach yourself Lithuanian.

Lithuanian Classes and Language Exchanges

There’s nothing like a real person for helping you master tricky concepts and correct mistakes. If you work with a tutor, you can either use your classes and homework as your main study method or combine this with some of the other resources in this guide. Alternatively, language exchanges are a great way to put what you’ve been studying into practice.

Lithuanian Language Tutors

italki is one of the biggest databases of tutors out there, and when it comes to Lithuanian, it doesn’t disappoint. While some competitor brands have yet to recruit a single Lithuanian tutor, italki has a handful for you to choose from.

On this platform, teachers set their own prices, have public reviews, and offer trial classes. You can also use the website’s notebook and forums to ask questions and get feedback on your writing (although responses aren’t guaranteed). Find out more about italki in our review here.

If you’re not a fan of italki, Justlearn has one Lithuanian language tutor at the time of writing this article.

Lithuanian Forums, Q&As, and Native Corrections

With the freemium app HiNative, you can ask native speakers questions about Lithuanian. We’ve covered its features and user-friendliness here.

The Talk Like Antanas writing course will give you access to a Lithuanian Facebook group where you can complete five writing tasks every month. Antanas, a native speaker, will give you corrections on them. You can post questions in the group, too.

You’ll also find Lithuanian content on the WordReference Forums, although responders might not be fluent.

Lithuanian Language Exchanges

The apps HelloTalk, Speaky, and Tandem will let you connect with native speakers and language learners across the world. Since these are language exchanges, people might expect you to alternate between Lithuanian and other languages that you’re fluent in. Take a look at our reviews for more information (HelloTalk, Speaky, Tandem).

You can also use italki to find language exchange partners, in addition to the tutors, forums, and notebook corrections.

Online and App-Based Lithuanian Language Courses

While popular courses like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone don’t have Lithuanian courses, there are lots of alternatives for you to choose from.

Ling Lithuanian will feel familiar to Duolingo-users. It will help you pick up the language through example dialogues, quizzes, and spaced repetition. There’s plenty of content: it takes you all the way from basic introductions to making wishes and discussing outer space. We wouldn’t use it on its own, but it’s a good supplementary option – especially if you want to learn while on the go.

Pimsleur will get you used to speaking Lithuanian and could help improve your spoken word recall. You’ll need to pair it with something to teach you grammar, but we were pleasantly surprised by how good their program is.

Glossika will also get you speaking Lithuanian quickly, although we think it’s more suited to lower-intermediate learners than complete beginners. We were also disappointed by some of the errors.

There’s a large assortment of unofficial Lithuanian Memrise courses, ranging from the general 21-lesson Colloquial Lithuanian through to the ultra-specific 60-lesson Lithuanian nouns with pitch accent. If you’re struggling with your Lithuanian grammar, you’ll be relieved to see a few courses on conjugation and declension. You might want to try a few of these courses: since these are user-made, the quality will vary. Oh, and check out our Memrise review if you have any questions.

I Kinda Like Languages has two introductory-level Lithuanian courses. We like the way it combines grammar explanations with drilling. While there’s limited content and no listening or speaking practice, it’s a good introduction to the language.

Mondly is another Duolingo-esque app that will teach you Lithuanian. It has a lot of beginner-level content, and on first inspection, we liked its gamification approach to language learning. Despite this, we found it quickly became monotonous.

Debesėlis has a 156-lesson Lithuanian course for beginners and lower-intermediates (A1–B1) as well as a grammar course targeted at upper-intermediate and advanced learners (B2–C1). For now, it’s completely web-based, although the company says they’re working on an app. We’re a fan of how comprehensive it is but aren’t convinced by its value for beginners: the lessons are brief, contain no practice activities, and don’t explain pronunciation.

Talk Like Antanas has a 30-chapter beginner Lithuanian course and a 20-chapter intermediate one. Both are delivered in Lithuanian, however, so you might want to start with something like Ling Lithuanian, I Kinda Like Languages, or Pimsleur instead.

Instant Immersion bills itself as being “as good as Rosetta Stone for a fraction of the cost!” We haven’t been able to try it out, but since it’s still quite pricey and there isn’t a free trial, we recommend giving some of the other courses a go first. After all, even if it’s a well-designed product, without a free trial you won’t be able to tell if it suits your learning style.

Lithuanian Language Courses to Avoid

You might come across adverts for Lithuanian language courses with Transparent Language, Cudoo, and 17 Minute Language. However, we recommend avoiding all these options.

In our experience, Transparent Language is repetitive and dull, not to mention that the learning material is full of gaps. Don’t expect to be able to create sentences or speak unassisted after using this rather expensive course.

As for 17 Minute Languages, it’s let down by its many errors and one-language-fits-all approach. The only thing we liked was the native-speaker audio.

Cudoo may not teach you everything listed on the course description pages, but that’s far from this Lithuanian course’s biggest issue. It also lacks practice opportunities, doesn’t give explanations or breakdowns, and despite teaching you very little, somehow still manages to teach you too much too fast.

Lithuanian Vocabulary Builders and Word Games

Feel like you’re getting a hang of the grammar but don’t have enough vocabulary for a full conversation? That’s where word lists and vocabulary games come in handy.

TrueLithuania.com has a succinct phrase list with common beginner-level words, along with explanations on how to form numbers.

Loecsen has 17 themed word lists that you can study. We like that not only does it have audio recordings of the words but that you can also record yourself saying them.

50 Languages has 100 word lists for you to choose from, complete with audio recordings. Toggle between the “show” and “hide” options to test your memory.

Learn Lithuanian Free is an extensive vocabulary builder and phrasebook. You can drill the material with multiple-choice games, spelling and listening tests, speed tests, match-the-word games, and a mixed tests option that draws on all the other games.

Clozemaster tests your ability to recognize the missing word from a random sentence. While it doesn’t adapt to difficulty, it will help you improve your word recall rather than just your word recognition. You can also use the multiple-choice option to make it a little easier. We think it’s a great option for upper beginners and lower intermediate learners.

Babadum will test your spelling as well as your word recall. You’ll see a series of pictures and will then have to select the right letters from a selection at the bottom in order to spell the correct word. Some pictures can be hard to recognize, but Babadum helps you out by telling you how many letters it should include.

Just going for a short trip? Try uTalk, a phrasebook with a series of built-in memorization games. Some of the drills are more challenging than others – you really have to know the phrases to succeed at the memory game. We like that you can record yourself and listen to two native speakers, one male and one female.

We’ve already mentioned the courses hosted on Debesėlis. It also has over 200 Lithuanian word lists. Many are too short to be useful, but if you search through them, you’ll find some highly specific lists that might come in handy. Bear in mind that you’ll need to find your own way to drill them, however – there are no in-built flashcards, games, or even pronunciation guides.

You can use Anki to create your own flashcards. This app is well-loved by language learners for two reasons: one, it adapts to how difficult you find the word. Two, it has a large range of shared user-created decks that you can search through. For example, this Basic Lithuanian set has over 1,600 flashcards.

Online Lithuanian Conjugators and Grammar Tools

Cooljugator has 4,400 Lithuanian verb tables, meaning it can help you double-check you’ve conjugated them correctly, spot if a verb is irregular, and understand the differences between būsiu and būčiau.

Vytautas Magnus University has several tools, including an Accentuator and Morphological Annotator.

And if you’re familiar with Python, Gramtool is a useful option for understanding affixes and grammatical functions.

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 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.

Podcasts and Audio Courses for Learning Lithuanian

The Lithuanian Out Loud podcast is no longer updated but has nearly 300 back episodes that you can choose from.

Real Lithuanian Podcast is hosted on Patreon and will give you access to short stories and podcasts in exchange for your monthly support. Talk Like Antanas is another Patreon-supported Lithuanian podcast. Both provide transcripts.

Flyent will let you listen to five Lithuanian texts online for free before asking you to purchase additional ones and/or gain access through inviting friends or heavy usage.

The Colloquial Lithuanian audio clips are designed to accompany the textbook of the same name. Some of them can stand alone, however, and all 50 tracks are available online.

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 the 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.

Lithuanian YouTube and TV

Whether you want to study grammar or simply practice your listening, there are plenty of options on YouTube.

The frequently updated Lithuania For You has over 160 videos lessons and counting. Take a look at the playlists to help you get started.

Talk Like Antanas has fewer videos for you to choose from but the easy-to-follow explanations draw praise from language-learners. The series on cases is a good resource to bookmark.

When you’re ready to progress to YouTube content and TV designed for native and fluent, try Žinių radijas: the YouTube channel for the news and talk show radio. It’s updated multiple times a day and the language is relatively learner friendly. Most videos are between 20 and 45 minutes, but there are some that fall outside that range.

If you want to challenge yourself with slang, try entertainment channel LaisvėsTV. Their clips range from 5 minutes up to an hour.

Do you live for business interviews and insights? Proto Industrija will keep you entertained while helping you pick up new vocabulary.

You can also watch Lithuanian television shows online courtesy of public broadcaster Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT).

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 creating 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.

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