eParaksts, Latvian Passport or eID?

Using your mobile device or computer and a good Internet connection you can now open Latvian bank accounts, digitally sign legal documents and transact with hundreds of Latvian government agencies and service providers – from anywhere in the world. Documents signed with eParaksts (e-signature) have the same legal effect as printed documents signed in person.

Although eParaksts was launched more than 15 years ago, the combination of software upgrades, better useability, redesign of the latvija.lv government services portal as well as unlimited free use, means that eParaksts is now an essential tool for dealing with national and local authorities in Latvia. In fact, during the recent pandemic, eParaksts was often the only way to sign documents when many offices and businesses were closed or had restricted opening times. 

We wrote about this topic many years ago (Is this the dawn of Latvian e-services?) and highlighted some of the challenges. With the release of eParaksts Mobile you can now bypass card readers and not have to install complicated software on your computer. In fact by downloading two Apps you can be digitally signing documents entirely on your iPhone or Android smartphone. 

Signing up for this service has also become simpler. Go to eparaksts.lv , select the eParaksts mobile section and click on the “Apply for eParaksts mobile”. 

In the Contacts section you will first need to verify your identity via a Latvian bank, then provide a Latvian-based mobile number to which a 4 digit code will be sent and then an email address to which another 4 digit code is sent. In the Contract section you will be presented with three options to sign the eParaksts legal agreement: either visiting a public notary, using a card reader and eID card, or choosing the courier option. If you reside outside of Latvia and are planning to visit Latvia in the near future, we highly recommend the courier option (allow 3 days) where you will be asked to nominate a delivery address. After signing the document, you will receive an email with the eParaksts password (allow up to 3 days) which will enable you to complete the last two steps in the process (Pairing a device & eParaksts password).

Using eParaksts is even easier. Go to eparaksts.lv (or use the eParaksts LV App on your phone) and click on the “Validate or sign” button and follow the prompts. Have your mobile phone next to you when it asks to verify your identity. The result is a digitally signed document that you can download or email.

In the online world eParaksts trumps both the Latvian Passport and eID card (but you’ll definitely need to continue to use these documents if you are travelling).

The vocative case: Arnis! or Arni!

Ever since living in Latvia I was puzzled about why the vocative was constantly being misused. No wonder, as many of the Latvian grammar texts only briefly touch on the topic and it rarely appears in the declension tables. It seems that even in daily emails and other digital communications the vocative case is either avoided altogether or just plain wrong. But that is about to change!

In the Latvian language the vocative case is used to address a person or object: Mārtiņ! māt! skolotāj! Ieva! It is usually formed from the nominative case minus the last letter and there are declension groups where it is identical to the nominative. Its origins come from the Sanskrit language, but many modern Indo-European languages have lost the vocative case entirely. It is still very relevant for the Baltic and also most Slavic languages.

An interesting survey was conducted several years ago from various regions in Latvia which revealed that the nominative form was used for the vocative, especially amongst the male population. Is this the influence of the Russian language which has rid itself of the vocative case? Would a survey addressing the émigré Latvians in other parts of the world show different results?

The screenshots that appear in the top of this article were collected over the last six months. Recently I nearly fell off my chair when I received an email from a major telco (telecommunications company) and staring at me was Sveiks, Arni!, but this is extremely rare. Others skirt around the issue by using a general address form such as, E-pakalpojumu lietotāj! God. LMT klient! Sveiki! or even changing the case and inserting the recipient’s name in quotes. Marketing and Communication specialists will tell you that a personalised address is much more effective.

So why the interest in the vocative? Many years ago, while studying Latvian grammar in school, rather than follow the cue of my classmates and gaze into the air, I was inspired to put my basic programming skills to the test and create a prototype to decline nouns and further digitalise the Latvian language. Deklinators was born and made available for Windows and Macintosh computer users. The same, but much improved algorithm was used years later in the Latvian Nouns app for iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones. 

About a year ago, together with professional developer Pāvils Jurjāns we embarked on an open-source project to release the Deklinators algorithm to the general developer community. Several days ago, on the 18th of November we released the first version:    

For developers: GitHub

For users: Demo website

Now there should be no reason not to use the Latvian vocative case correctly.

Latvian Verbs App redesigned

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Latvian verbs”? For most, it’s plain and boring grammatical tables you needed to memorise at Latvian school.

As a 16-year-old, attending Latvian school in Melbourne, and having to look at these tables every week, I was convinced that this challenging part of Latvian grammar could be digitalised to run on computers. That was thirty years ago when personal desktop computers first began to appear in schools, and I longed for the day to try out my new idea – even if it meant sneaking into the computer room after classes.

Fast forward to April, 2021 and the latest version of Latvian Verbs for iPhones and iPads is now available. It is a major upgrade after a 5-year hiatus – completely redesigned and redeveloped! The valuable feedback received from our users worldwide means that it is now even easier and friendlier to use.

Overview of the new Latvian Verbs App (30 secs)

To help illustrate how Latvian Verbs works, let’s look at the verb nopirkt (to buy) in the past tense:

The prefix is no, the verb stem is pirk with the suffix t. Depending upon the person (es, tu, viņš.. viņas) the suffix changes quite predictably and is shown highlighted in red.

Changing to the future tense, we can see a similar pattern: prefix, stem and endings highlighted in red.

In the present tense, it becomes trickier. In our example, the verb stem has changed from pirk to pērk, in the 2nd person singular, the stem ending changes from k -> c and there is no longer a vowel suffix.

If you tap on nopirkt you will get additional useful information about this verb. The classification provides hints on which conjugation rules to apply. The 1st conjugation refers to all verbs where the verb stem is only one syllable (there are also 2nd and 3rd conjugation verbs that end in -āt, -īt, -ēt, -ot, -ūt and have two or more syllables). The 1st conjugation is the most complex and is further divided into 5 groups – nopirkt belongs to the 2nd group and other similar verbs are listed as a reference. The prefixes section shows the most popular prefixes that can be used with the base verb pirkt. Changing a prefix will often change the overall verb meaning as well.

If you need help with the pronunciation of the verb forms, tap on the share icon, select the Izrunā ar Tildes Balsi option (this is a free App download from the AppStore) and listen to the audio. Alternatively, you can share the verb with others as well as mark it as a favourite for future reference.

The Lists section provides the top 50 and top 100 Latvian verbs and, as with all languages, there are also exceptions with additional notes that you can study further.

For more advanced learners, tap on the settings icon and choose the palatalised r and open/closed e options. The compound tense and passive voice (beginners should avoid the passive voice) are off by default. Switching these on reveals the complexity of Latvian verbs.

Advanced users can also choose from indicative, relative, conditional, debitive and imperative moods to further explore the many different Latvian verb forms.

All of the above works well on iPads in portrait as well as landscape modes.

To download Latvian Verbs from the AppStore just search for “Latvian Verbs”. If you would like to provide feedback or have any questions on Latvian Verbs, please use the contact link through the App or post on the Latvian Verbs Facebook page.