How To Say And Ask For Directions In Lithuanian

In anticipation of a coming trip to Lithuania this fall — and as I spend time learning about my heritage — I have decided to learn a little about the language. This is also a really good opportunity for me to put my list of the 10 most important things to know, to get by in any language to the test.

We've already learned some Lithuanian greetings, some common courtesies, how to ask questions, and numbers. This week, let's learn about directions.

6. Directions

šiaurė : north

pietūs : south

rytai : east

vakarai : west

kairė : left

dešinė : right

tiesiai : straight

aukštyn : up

žemyn : down

virš : over

po : under

į priekį : in front of

už : behind

prie : by

šalia : near

toli : far

čia : here

ten : there

šis/ši : this

anas/ana : that

prieš : before

po : after

Putting it together

When we add these direction words to the numbers, we end up with the ability to give or (more likely!) receive directions. I might hear du blokus į šiaurę ir tada vieno bloko rytuose... pastato norima kairėje"two blocks north and then one block east; the building you want is on your left" when I ask someone kur yra artimiausia restoranas? or where is the nearest restaurant?

It will be important to remember that in a noun-declined language, the endings are going to change depending on the noun's role in the sentence. So I might hear a word that doesn't exactly match one in that list above, but sounds close, so I'll need to listen carefully. Naturally, it will help a lot if there is opportunity to learn the basic rules of Lithuanian noun declension.

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  • How common is Russian in Lithuania? It's a former Soviet satellite so I would suspect that most people know it--if it's anything like Ukraine where you'll actually see people using Russian much, much more on a day-to-day basis then you'd actually be better of learning Russian. I learned this from a Ukrainian I talked to--the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, but unofficially it's Russian: people use Russian for their regular daily communication and there are Ukrainians who don't even speak Ukrainian, but EVERYONE speaks Russian.
    Between this and similar situations to varying degrees in other former Soviet satellites, I determined that if I'm interested in traveling to multiple Eastern European countries with no particular emphasis on any one (I am) then, by far, the most useful language to learn would be Russian. I was just wondering what the deal was in Lithuania.
    Oddly, I've heard that now English is actually slightly more prevalent than Russian in Eastern Europe, including the Balkans, and that if you don't speak the local language then English is the most useful language to know.

  • My understanding is that anyone who was around during the Soviet times speaks Russian, and anyone who grew up in Lithuania afterwards likely speaks English, so in either case I'm fine.
    However, since I have a Lithuanian heritage, it is important to me to learn about the language. This isn't simply a pleasure trip, but a chance for my father and I to learn about our family's roots. And for me, that includes the language -- which I will continue to use here in Chicago after the trip is over.
    Not to mention the fact that people respond better if you speak to them in their language, rather than making them deal with you in one they don't normally use.

  • Also, I forget to point out in my reply that this is also meant to be a real-world test of my 10 Things list. I plan to report back on what worked and what didn't, and update the list as necessary.

  • Some corrections:
    vakarinis -> vakarai
    teisus -> tiesiai
    priekinis -> į priekį
    tolimas -> toli(you had to have adverbs there and not adjectives, plus some of the adjectives were not correct)As for Russian, people over forty speak it in the country and a lot of people originating from the capital (Vilnius) speak it as well as a few little cities where you're unlikely to go to anyway.. Young people do not speak it. It is nowhere near popular now and it is unconceivable for natives to use Russian as oppose to Lithuanian in their everyday lives. The best big city to practice is probably Kaunas, for only the old generation remembers Russian and not that well anyway and nobody it is rear to hear foreign languages spoken in there anyway.

  • Doh! I knew there would be some errors in this one. This information is getting harder and harder to find. There aren't easy phrasebooks for Lithuanian the way there are for so many more popular languages. :)I have a feeling that you're going to correct even more mistakes next week when I do verbs! :)

  • No phrasebooks? Well, that gives me a business idea, huh...

  • I should clarify. No GOOD phrasebooks. I found one really bad one.

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