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Spanish Regional Languages - Basque

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 26th Nov 2009

Further to my recent Blog on Spanish Regional Languages, my ignorance prompted me to take a closer look and find out about the history, background and meaning behind some of the major regional languages spoken in Spain. The next language in my quest is the Basque language :

Cleary one of the most distinctive and enigmatic languages of the world, The Basque language (Known as Euskara in their own language, Euskadi in Castillian) is the mother tongue of approximately one fifth of Basque population which is approx 625,000 out of about 3,000,000, However, out of this number about 566,000 live in the Spanish part of the Basque country with the remainder in the French part. Taking Basque as a second language aswell, it is estimated that over 1 Million people speak the language in total.

In order to confuse us outsiders even more, there are apparently also 6 recognized Basque dialects: Bizkain, Gipuzkoan, and Upper Navarrese in Spain and Lower Navarrese, Lapurdian, and Zuberoan (in France).


A law was passed in Huesca in 1349 that essentially outlawed and penalized the use of Arabic, Hebrew and Vacuence (Latin for Basque)

Given that the Basque Country is clearly part of Spain and Europe you would expect that linguists would classify the language as Indo-European, however they class it as a totally isolated language as it can not be compared to any other language and as such its origins can not be clearly traced. It is believed to be an ancient language that was around long before the other Indo-European languages took shape as opposed to be a new Language.

When the outsider first hears the language, or sees it written, it appears to be an unintelligible collection of Ks, Xs and Zs I have found a Basque poem by Joseba Sarrionandia that I have posted blow along with its English translation to show the effect...

Esklabu erremintaria

Sartaldeko oihanetan gatibaturik erromara ekarri zinduten, esklabua, erremintari ofizioa eman zizuten eta kateak egiten dituzu. Labetik ateratzen duzun burdin goria nahieran molda zenezake, ezpatak egin ditzakezu zure herritarrek kateak hauts deitzaten, baina zuk, esklabu horrek, kateak egiten dituzu, kate gehiago.

The blacksmith slave

Captive in the rainforests of the West they brought you to Rome, slave, they gave you the blacksmith work and you make chains. The red iron that you carry out the oven can be adapted as you want, you can make swords in order that your people could break the chains, but you, this slave, you make chains, more chains.

Some useful Vocab

English Spanish ( Castillian ) Basque
Hello Hola Kaixo
How are you ? Que Tal ? Zer Moduz ?
Fine , Thankyou Bien, Gracias Ondo, Eskerrik asko
Yes Si Bai
No No Ez
Coffee Cafe Cafe
Goodbye Adios Agur
Good morning Buenas Dias Egunon
Good Evening Buenas Noches Gabon
Now Ahora Orain
Good Afternoon Buenas Tardes Arratsaldeon

Comment on this Blog

Thanks for the heads up Paul! something seems to have gone astray in our formating of the table when we uploaded it. I can only hope that there haven't been too many Bar owners up in the Basque country that have been puzzled by anybody using the vocab we listed!
Tumbit - Admin - Sat, 26th Jun 2010
Sorry to be nitpicky, but "garagardo" is beer, No = ez. Anyone wishing to learn Euskara would do well to enquire with the government-sponsored organisation called AEK. You pay something like 300 up front for the year, go to the classes & get most of your money back if you attend regularly. Have just spent the last year going to classes. I can honestly say, it's harder than Arabic!!
Paul Attard - Sat, 26th Jun 2010

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