Language (s)

17 11 2009

You´ve probably heard about the Basque language (euskera, or euskara), how complicated it is and about its mysterious origins. Right. So you come and expect everybody to speak it and you´re afraid that you will not understand a word. Wrong.

Basque is spoken by around a 30% of Basques, that is, roughly half a million people. Spanish is spoken by 100% of Basques. There are two TV channels (ETB-1 and ETB-3) that broadcast exclusively in Basque (5% audience) and one channel (ETB-2) that broadcasts in Spanish (15% audience, approx.)

All public signs are written in these two languages, leading some times to confusion to those that speak only Spanish (as you see on the traffic sign right, Iruña is Pamplona in Basque). All towns have two names, one in Basque and one in Spanish. For example, the best known is Donostia-San Sebastián. Then you have two Basque names for some towns and no Spanish one, or one of them is taken as the “Spanish” one: Zornotza-Amorebieta, Hondarribia-Fuenterrabía (low level of irony here…). In any case, Basque is widely protected in public life and enforced in schools (that will be the subject of another post). But, sadly, it´s not spoken as a standard rule by most of the population. Yes, we mix sometimes  Spanish and Basque, a few words like “egun on” for “good morning” and “agur” for “good-bye”, to mention the two most used. Or calling “ama” and “aita” to your parents in Basque, followed by Spanish.

In any case, a beautiful language to learn, that is spoken kind of  “I to my grandma´s go” or “weather the to be fine going to is”. Very interesting.