Balts mind their language

  • 2008-02-27
  • Mike Collier in association with BNS

LINGO LAWS: In Riga you can order a 'sendvich' but you will not be able to park and ride...

RIGA - The Riga City Council culture, art and religiousaffairs committee has sent Riga mayor Janis Birks and heads of variouscommittees a letter suggesting a Latvian translation of the term 'park andride'.

The term would be applied to three large parking facilitiesthe local authority is planning to build on the outskirts of the capital cityin the next three years' time, the press service of the city council toldBaltic News Service.

The committee has offered the Latvian term 'noliec un brauc'instead of 'park & ride' as it "describes the purpose precisely - toreduce in the central part of the city the traffic of private cars that arriveeach day in Riga from its suburbs, and it is unambiguous. In other words, youpark and then you ride.

The committee has urged adoption of the Latvian term toavoid "unnecessary pollution of the Latvian language andmisunderstandings."

"This indeed is not a case when we should borrow anduse in our documents words of a foreign language only because we are unable tofind a fitting phrase in Latvian," said Helmi Stalte, chairwoman of theRiga City Council committee.

Many hours of analysis and discussion are spent on ways toprotect the Latvian language from such linguistic "pollution" everyyear, though plenty of English-language words make it through the net. The Spice(which should properly be pronounced 'Speetzuh', not in the manner of a flavor-enhancer)shopping mall was fined recently for running an advertising campaign in whichit shortened words in order to reflect its reduced sale prices. In effect, itwas penalised for punning.

Linguistic precision has also been exercising minds inEstoia and Lithuania.

The office of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves hasissued a statement clarifying comments he made to BBC interviewer Tim Whewell lastNovember but which have only just been published on the BBC's website.


According to the BBC report, when asked why he did not speakRussian, Ilves is quoted saying it would mean "accepting 50 years of Sovietbrutalisation."

The report goes on to say: "When I pressed him, sayingsurely it would only mean being able to communicate with a large number of hisfellow countrymen in their own language, he replied - as heads of state haveevery right to do: 'This is a real dead end, I don't want to discuss it.'"

The president's office said that Ilves can speak English,German and Spanish as well as Estonian, and is now learning French.

"President Ilves answered to a question according tothe context of which occupation and its consequences should be the reason forlearning a foreign language," the president's office said. "Theanswer to such a narrowly interpreted question inevitably carries a negation -occupation is not the reason for learning a foreign language."

Meanwhile in Lithuania people have been told by CultureMinister Jonas Jucas that they should protect their language by usingLithuanian letters in SMS text messages even though doing so could be morecostly than using unmodified Latin script.