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Lingua franca in Lithuania

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Moai
5/30/2015 19:25 EST

I'm a spanish engineering student who just found out that I'm going to spend the next autumn semester studying in Kaunas, and probably extend it to the spring semester. From what I've read, I know that apart from lithuanian young people learn Russian at school and old people know the language from the time their country was part of the Soviet Union. I've read as well that Lithuania is one of the slavic countries with less russians and less fraction of the population understanding russian (but still above two thirds or so). I'm obviously going to end up learning some basic Lithuanian for survival purposes, but I feel that Russian would be a much stronger language to put my efforts into learning, mainly because of its potentia future uses, as an engineer (the more widely spoken languages I can speak, the better). ¿What do you think?

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Jimushkas
5/30/2015 20:19 EST

My wife is from Lithuania and she grew up in Soviet times learning Russian. Her son grew up learning English. He was an engineering major at Klaipida University where he got his BS and Masters in Engineering. As I understand it, some of his texts were in Russian which caused him some problems but he overcame them.

Focus on your Lithuanian and you can use English. Right now, there are a lot of Lithuanians who aren't too happy with Russia.

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austm
6/1/2015 02:23 EST

Hello, a Lithuanian person, living in Kaunas here.

Firstly, Lithuania is NOT A SLAVIC COUNTRY. And Russian minority makes less than 10 percent of the population here.

Secondly, learning Russian and living in Kaunas is especially bad idea. Kaunas is exceptionally Lithuanian city and many people grew up never hearing Russian language here and can't speak it at all. English is the language to learn – you can now be understood communicating in English in most of the places you are going to need as we have plenty of foreign exchange students. If you feel Russian is something you will need in your career, go ahead, but you will hardly have a chance to use it in Lithuania.

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chatrbd98
6/1/2015 10:22 EST

First time I went to Lithuania in 1999, I happened to meet and talk to a Lithuanian English teacher at one of the local universities. At that time she said that at her school they had 8 Russian instructors and 2 English instructors. I was also there last year and happened to talk to her again. She said that now there were 6 English instructors and 1 Russian instructor. Each time I go to Lithuania, it seems more and more of the Lithuanian people are able to communicate in English. Especially those who have come along after the Soviet Union. However, it seems that learning Russian might be beneficial in that most of the former Communist Bloc countries were forced to speak Russian and you would probably be able to communicate with many more people throughout eastern Europe. But, learn Lithuanian if you are going to live in Lithuania.

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Moai
6/2/2015 08:17 EST

My bad about lithuanian ethnicity, it slipped my mind and only realised after I'd sent the post. I know most of the people in lithuania and specially Kaunas are lithuanian, and from your message i guess I'll put more effort into learning Lithuanian (I have no problem with English). However, don't the people older than 28-29 still know russian, and some youngsters know it from highschool (although less and less in favour of English)?

Thanks for your replies.

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Moai
6/2/2015 08:30 EST

From your messages (and toher replies that I've gotten so far in other forums) I now know I'll mainly learn Lithuanian (and I really wanted to before, for example for its linguistic rarity).

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sbdagape
6/5/2015 09:17 EST

If I may offer a different perspective... I am an American living permanently in Kaunas and trying to learn Lithuanian. You are correct that anyone over the age of about 40 had to learn Russian growing up. Unless they sought to learn English for some professional reason, they will not understand your English. This includes some vital contacts like the experienced electrician, plumber, etc. etc. Anyone over the age of 50 will definately know Russian and you can converse with them to practice the language. I have had a very difficult time communicating with this entire generation (which happens to be most of my husband's family). I, myself, am in my 50's, so the only people I can talk and make friends with are more my son's age. I think you will be fine not knowing Lithuanian while you are here as long as you spend your time with other students and in restaurants and shops where employees are young people. You probably won't need the plumber. LOL. As for the value of Lithuanian, although it is a fascinating and beautiful language, once you leave here, you will never use it again. Russian, on the other hand, will likely be very useful for your future. If it were me, I would study Russian. Be aware, both languages are very difficult to learn for those of us who learned latin-based languages. The structure is completely different and hard to wrap your brain around. Just my opinion....but I did ask my Lithuanian husband and he agrees. Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

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