In anticipation of a coming trip to Lithuania this fall, I wanted to learn a little about the language. I decided this would be a 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.
It’s impossible for me to list everything that a person might need while away, but there are a few basic things everyone needs to know. Remember, this isn’t about fluency, it’s about speaking enough to get by. (But if fluency is your goal, you still need to know these things!)
oro uostas : airport
viešbutis : hotel
bankas : bank
valiutos keitykla : currency exchange
bankomatas : ATM
policija : police
ligoninė : hospital
vaistinė : pharmacy
telefonas : phone
tualetas : restroom
baras : bar
kavinė : cafe
restoranas : restaurant
geležinkelio stotis : train station
metro : metro
autobuso stotelė : bus stop
taksi : taxi
ambasada : embassy
konsulatas : consulate
And here are a few ways to ask for things:
Atsiprašau, kur yra... : Excuse me, where is...
Prašom pasakyti kaip nueiti į ... pesčiomis? : Please tell me how to get to ... on foot.
Kaip nuvykti į... : How do I get to ... on foot?
Ieškau artimiausio... : I am looking for the nearest...
Man reikia... : I need...
Nouns are not declined when using the verb to be or when saying you need something, but when you want to find something, when you are looking for it, or when you want to know how to get to it, you should know how to use the accusative case.
Fortunately, this is pretty simple to do in Lithuanian. First, for words ending in an s, you simply drop the s so you're left with a vowel. Then for all words, just convert that final vowel to a long vowel.
Keep in mind that this is a bit of a simplification. While the accusative is easy to form in Lithuanian, it does have a few more nuances than just what I've described here. But this should work in most situations. And it's close enough that when you're wrong, people will understand what you were trying to do.
Still, if you want to avoid noun declension altogether, you can just ask where is questions. In fact, if you're extremely lazy, Lithuanian actually doesn't require the is, so you can just ask "where hotel?" and not worry about grammar at all!
Putting it together
Just grabbing from the examples above, we can now say Prašom pasakyti kur yra tualetas? to ask for the nearest restrooms. We can get help with a taxi by saying Atsiprašau, man reikia taksi. And when we want to walk to a cafe, we can ask kaip nueiti į kavinę pesčiomis? And of course, to use the easy example, say Kur viešbutis? to ask where the hotel is.
If you’re following along on the 10 things list, this is an exciting milestone, because you’re finally armed with the tools to form sentences on your own. Yes, they’re likely to be grammatically incorrect, but this is the 10 things you need to know in order to get by, not the perfectionist’s guide to fluency. You're probably not going to understand much of the answer, but with the right combination of hand gestures you'll get the idea. Next week, we'll figure out how to understand some of the responses one might get.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.