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Basque language

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Hey guys!!  ^_^

By popular demand (well, maybe not so popular, but enough to encourage me), I've decided to write an introductory post to my mother tongue, Basque. First I'll make a brief introduction you to know what the hell I am talking about, and then, I'll teach you some basic words and concepts, right? OK. Then, ready, steady... GO!

Basque is a minority language which is only spoken in the Basque Country and between some people in the Basque diaspora (mainly living in Chile and Argentina since the emigration due to the civil war and the postwar period). The Basque Country is placed both in Spain and France: in the Spanish part, Spanish and Basque are co-official languages; in the French part, as other minority languages, Basque is not officially recognized (which makes the education in Basque pretty hard to evolve)

This is the map of the actual situation of the language (colors refer to different dialects; dark gray refers to Spanish speaking areas that were Basque speaking areas in the XIX. century)

This is the map of the expansion of the arcaic euskara (that's its Basque name) around the year 0 -  note that it is an approximation.

Euskara was in a very bad situation both after the industrial revolution because of the huge Spanish "inmigration" and as during and after Franco's dictatorship, who banned to use it at all - I guess that because he thought it was a threat to the unity of Spain. However, thanks to many people's efforts now the situation it's much better, though it is still a language in danger of extinction according to the UNESCO. 

Well, I think this was enough as introduction, so let's start with Basque 101 ;)


a (like 'a' in 'cat')


e (like 'e' in 'bed')


g (like 'g' in 'goal')

h (it is not pronounced)

i (like 'i' in 'in')

j (like 'y' in 'you')





ñ (like 'gn' in 'Bolognesa', but stronger)

o (like 'o' in 'sock')





u (like 'u' in the name 'Luke', but longer)

x (like 'sh' in 'sheep')

z (quite similar to English 'z', maybe more whistling)

Basic word and expressions:

Hello → Kaixo

Hi! → Aupa

Good morning → Egun on (Egun → day; on → good - used only in the morning)

Good afternoon → Arratsalde on → (Arratsalde → afternoon - also early evening)

Good evening/night → Gabon (Gau → late evening/night)

How are you? → Zer moduz (zaude)? (Zer → what; moduz → with ... way; zaude → you are)

Very well, thanks a lot → Oso ondo, eskerrik asko (Oso → very; well → ondo; esker-rik → thank-partitive case; a lot → asko)

And you? → Eta zu? (Eta → and; zu → you)

What's your name? → Nola deitzen zara (it's something like: how do you call (yourself)? <wie heissen sie? in german> - Nola → How; deitzen → call; zara → you are (you do yourself))

Who are you? → Nor zara? (Nor → who; zara → you are)

My name is ... → ... deitzen naiz (it's something like: I call... <Ich haisse...> - Naiz → I am (I do myself))

I am ... → ... naiz

How old are you? → Zenbat urte dituzu? (Zenbat → How many/much; urte → year; dituzu → s (plural) you have)

I am ... year old → ... urte ditut (Ditut → s (plural) I have)

Where are you from? → Nongoa zara? (Non-goa → where-from)

I am from ... → ...goa/koa naiz (-goa/-koa → from (declension))

Pronouns (pronouns are not used in sentences if we don't wanna stress the actor subject of the sentence)

I → Ni

You → Zu

(S)he → Bera (or hura)

We → Gu

You → Zuek

They → Beraiek (or haiek)

Some common concepts in philosophy:

Concept → Kontzeptu (this 'tz' sounds like a whistling 'ch' in 'Chinese')

Philosophy → Filosofia

To learn → Ikasi

To think → Pentsatu

To reflect → Hausnartu

To research → Ikertu

To investigate → Aztertu

To teach → Irakatsi

Language → Hizkuntza

Linguistics → Hizkuntzalaritza

Knowledge (to know) → Ezagutza (ezagutu)

Mind → Gogo

Will → Nahi

Value → Balio

Being → Izate

Thing in-itself → Berbaitango gauza (berbaitango → in-itself; thing → gauza)

Theory → Teoria

The ego → Nia

Perception → hautemate

Understanding → Ulermen

Imagination → Irudimen

To argue → Arrazoitu

Reason (capacity) → Arrazoimen

Goodness → Ongia / Ontasuna

Evil → Gaizkia

Body → Gorputz

Soul → Arima

Brain → Burmuin

Sense → zentzumen

To see → Ikusi

To hear → Entzun

To touch → Ukitu

To smell → Usaindu

To taste → Dastatu

Common sense → sen ona (sen → sense; ona → good)


It's quite late so I'm going to bed now, but whatever you wanna know, just ask and I will be pleased to answer.

Sweet dreams (amets goxoak izan)!!  :snooze:

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I'm curious how you would read adjacent vowels, as diphthongs or individually? What are the pronouncation rules for these?

Also, the Spanish influence is clear now. "Eta zu" is clearly related to Latin (and thus Spanish). Most of the philosophical words are also clearly loan words, but that is not as interesting when it occurs in a specialized field.

Eskerrik asko (no clue if I even used that right)

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Yeah, the Spanish influence is huge regarding to vocabulary and some expressions. It's curious how some dialects have turn those Spanish loans so Basque and use it very naturally, specially in small or interior towns. For example in Ondarru, a fisherman's town, there's this word to express that you're really having fun, kinkomoio, which is stressed in the 'mo' syllable; this word comes from the Spanish expression "¿Quién como yo?" (stress both in the word 'quién' and in the word 'yo'), which litellary means "Who's like me", and mean something like "Who's having so much fun as I am?!". Actually, the expression ¿Quién como yo? isn't even used in Spanish it is like a translation from Basque, and then, again, the loan is entered into Basque language. Isn't that kind of crazy? Heh :D

Anyway, as for what you asked, adjacent vowels are pronounced either as diphthongs or individually, depending on which vowels you combine. You'd pronounce the vowels individually, when they're in the end of the word, observe this examples:

Ogia → O/gi/a (bread)

Burua → Bu/ru/a (head)

Ardoa → Ar/do/a (wine)

Etxea → E/txe/a (house/home)


Some dialects, tend to put a consonant to separate the two vowels in this cases, thus, for example 'ogia', would be pronounced like 'ogiya', and 'burua' like 'buruba', but this is kind of arbitrary so don't take is as a rule. The rest of adjacent vowels are pronounced as diphthongs, observe this examples:

Aupa → Au/pa (hi)

Baina → Bai/na (but) - in this word and in every other word where the diphthong contains an 'i' and where this is before an 'n', that 'in' becomes 'ñ' (see the alphabet above)

Aita → Ai/ta (father/dad)

Aizu! → Ai/zu (it's something like, 'hey, you!', and comes from 'aditu egizu' the imperative form of the verb 'aditu', which means, listen or pay attention) 

Erein → E/rein (to work - the land or ground)

Eguerdia → E/guer/di/a (midday)


Some dialects tend to turn the diphthong into a single vowel, for example, 'aurpegi' (face) would be 'arpegi', 'ehiztari' (hunter) would become 'iztari', 'neure' (the stressed form of the word 'mine') would be 'nere' and so on. However, this is not normative in the standard form of the language, but only in its dialects. 

You may have noticed in the first explanation about adjacent vowels, that all words ended up with an 'a'. Well, this is due to declension. In Basque, the last 'a' of the word can be what we call 'a itsatsia' (adhered a), that is the 'a' that is part of the word (in this case, when declining the word, the 'a' remains in it); or can be also the result of declension, when the word is the object of the sentence or when it is the subject, BUT, only with intransitive verbs. 

For example the word, animal, in Basque is 'animalia', the 'a' is adhered, so, when we decline it, we add the declension to that 'a': there isn't any animal → ez dago animaliarik (ez → no - in this case n't; dago → there is; any → -rik - the declension; animal → animalia).

As for the words that take the 'a' due to the declension, we have, for example, 'etxe'. This is the correct form to look up in the dictionary. In sentences we would decline it this way:

(When our word - etxe- is a direct and known object) Aitak gure etxea saldu du → Dad sold our house (Aita → dad; gure → our; etxea→ house; saldu du → have sold)

(When our word is the subject of a sentence with an intransitive verb) Gure etxea oso handia da → Our house is very big (da → is - intransitive verb; oso → very; handia → big)

Actually the declensions in Basque are much more complicated and the 'a' appears more often and in more cases, but, for now, I think it's quite informative. Anyway, I'll explain some things on Basque declensions next time, this is probably the craziest aspect of the Basque grammar :p

and, again, any question you have, just let me know ;)

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Oh! I forgot to tell you the sad clown, you used 'eskerrik asko' perfectly.

Ez horregatik! / Ez dago zergatik!→ You're welcome! ;)

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If anyone would like to learn Basque a little more seriously you may find  this site interesting, besides, I would be very happy to help ^_^

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Thanks for these great posts, Sugoi. To what extent is the Basque language linked to Basque identity, and vice versa?

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Posted (edited)

I would say both are very linked to each other, though this could be more a perception than just an actual fact. 

The thing is, Basque is isolated from the languages that surround it, as the sad clown said yesterday, and this is kind of a sign of distinction for us (those who are not comfortable with being identified as Spanish). It makes us wonder, what the hell are we doing in a state whose culture has nothing to do with ours? Some could argue that Spain doesn't really have 'a culture' in itself, because theoretically it is a plural-national state, that's true. But the Spanish people has developed during the last five a very significant national feeling; maybe, due to the grandeur of its empire in a time. Anyway, the fact is that many people feel different and want to be recognized as different, and Basque language is the main argument to address to that distinction. 

I would say that the biggest sign of identity of the Basque people linked to the language is Bertsolaritza. This is something similar to battle rapping, but the more normative and polite: there are some measures like in poetry, and there are already some melodies among which you can choose one to sing your 'bertso'.  This is the pilot of a documentary on Bertsolaritza.

Bertsolaritza and also other cultural manifestations of the Basque identity, as well as the Basque language, are very linked to a will of independence, however this would come. Anyway, there are many people who feel just Basque and reject Spanish identity as their own that don't speak Basque. The socio-linguistic situation of many areas produced in the past a big difficulty to learn euskara in childhood, and due to the complexity of the language and because it is not necessary in practice, many people don't find enough motivation to learn it when they're adults, thus comes the argument that the euskara can't be the only sign of Basque identity. On the other hand, there's few Basque speaking people that don't want to be separated of Spain, they claim to feel both Basque and Spanish. This feeling, however, is more extended among Spanish speakers than among Basque speakers. Areas that are further from what we would call Spain, are mostly Basque speaking area, and are mostly defendant of independence. So yes, there seems to be a strong link between the language and the identity.

Which is very sad is how the language is politicized. As Basque speaker, there's something a can't understand. Some people are claiming now that they should have the right to choose in what language their kids are educated. Well, given that here both languages are co-official, I personally think that both should be learned, and even more taking into account the bad situation of Basque. It is a fact that everyone learns to speak Spanish here, if not in school, in every other sphere. But the same doesn't happen with Basque, and that's why I think everyone should study in Basque, so that everyone could be bilingual. Studying in Basque doesn't mean not to study the Spanish language at all, it means to have this as a subject, as we have English, with the difference that we are immersed in a Spanish environment. 

Some people being reluctant to this language is the clear prove that they link Basque to Basque identity, but this is not something that happens only among citizens. The Spanish government closed a dairy seven years ago under the accusation that it was collaborating with ETA, accusation which has just been largely disproved and even ridiculed → the sentence shows that one of the argument of the accusation is that: 1)Basque language is a primordial instrument of ETA in its strategy 2)Egunkaria was the only diary wholly written in Basque 3)Therefore, Egunkaria had to be created because ETA wanted that way (I know it sounds ridiculous but I'm not making it up, the sentence says so and many other similar things). See the case of Egunkaria here and here.

So, I think I'm talking to much... I'll tell you more later, if you want. Grammar, etymology or politics, whatever you prefer, heh. 

Bye!!  B)

PS: I'm sorry if you think this post is not objective. I think is as objective as possible, and that the style doesn't grant objectivity. However, if you think is too personal; well, yes, kind of. But I can't help that... 

Edited by Sugoi
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I haven't tried to learn Basque seriously, but I have read half way through a Basque course to try to get a feel for how the language works. I was very surprised at its sentence structure, because there is no other European language with the same general structure: it seems much closer to Japanese. There are two main ways in which languages work, and these are based on whether they are inward or outward reading (my own descriptions). An outward-reading language starts with the main idea of the sentence and then reads out to the edges of the net of ideas connected with it, so you might talk about "that man who works in the garage that belongs to my brother's dog's vet", but an inward-reading language starts at the outside and works inwards, starting with the brother, then the dog, then the vet and so on until it eventually gets round to mentioning the man who might be the subject or object of the sentence: my brother's dog's vet's garage-in works that man. The relative clauses run backwards and come ahead of the nouns they link to.

This sentence order results in a different style of thinking where people who speak such languages tend to be more aware of peripheral things in their environment: they start speaking from the edges inwards, so they tend to think that way too. It's been shown through scientific experiments that this is the case, where Japanese and Americans have for example been invited into a room to look at a fish tank for a minute or so before being taken out and asked to talk about what they saw: the Americans tend to focus on the fish and describe them, whereas the Japanese tend to talk more about the general tank contents, such as the background vegetation and the stony floor. It would be interesting to try the same kind of experiments on Basque speakers, though their early exposure to Spanish may reduce any such difference.

On the issue of identity, I should mention that there are proven genetic links between the native British (not the English) and the Basques. I come from Scotland where most people now speak English, but we've gone through a whole series of different languages which have come and gone, wiping out all trace of the original language to be spoken here. The Scots language is a relative of English, evolved from Anglo-Saxon by a different route. Before Scots, the language was Gaelic, and before that it was another Celtic language related to Welsh (Cumbric in the south of Scotland, and Pictish in the north) - we are not genetically Celtic people at all, so it is believed that these languages came in as trading languages and gradually took over. Before that it is believed that our ancestors spoke a language related to Basque. It is quite likely that the same is true of the whole of Iberia, so the Spanish may be related to you too, however diluted they may have become with the invasions of Romans, Moors and others. Seen in that light, it should be realised that Basque is a major European language which was probably spoken throughout half of Europe at one time. All Spaniards should be required to learn it, especially seeing as how keen they are to see the Basques as Spanish. Technology is also making it much easier to learn languages: they can be learned in a matter of weeks if you have access to the right learning materials, so they really shouldn't see it as such a terrible chore, but rather as a positive way of connecting with their ancient culture.

One last thing for now: I once saw a Cuban film in which someone played some extraordinarily beautiful Basque music and commented on how nice it was. I have no idea what the film was called, and I've never managed to track down the music either. Have you any idea as to what it might have been? It's hard for me to describe the music as I can hardly remember it now, so if you don't know about the film (something related to the Russians and the Cold War), it isn't something you're likely to be able to guess at easily, though a few names of musicians (it was probably some kind of folk music) might help me find it if someone's put it or anything like it on Youtube.

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Some information about the music

This is one of the oldest instruments that is present in out traditional music, it is called 'txistu' and it means 'whistle'. The first primitive instrument that is most likely related to the txistu, was founded in Isturitz, it is a kind of flute and it seems to have around 20.000 years. This is how the txistu sounds like:

The other oldest instrument in our musical culture is 'txalaparta', a word probably coming from 'zalaparta' (or vice versa) which means something like clash. This is how it sounds like:

→ performed by Oreka TX, the most popular duo of txalaparta in Basque Country

And here another "primitive" instrument called 'alboka', I don't know where does this name come from, but the instrument is a kind of horn and the sound could remind of bagpipes. Here:

→ performed by Ibon Koteron, one of the most famous alboka players in our country.

This other instrument is called 'trikitixa', probably due to the sounds it makes; it is very similar to an accordion, but it is a little bit smaller, its sounds are it's much more easier to play because it hasn't got so many keys. This instrument is really popular in our music. Here: → performed by Kepa Junkera, the best known trikitixa player in Basque Country, and even abroad. 

This four instruments are, together with a small drum in the case of the txistu and a tambourine in the case of the trikitixa, the essence of the traditional Basque music. However, it is now common among traditional music player in Basque Country to find other tradition musics in the world, and mix the sounds - this is specially the case of Oreka TX and Kepa Junkera:

Oreka TX after their musical documentary project Nomadak TX -

The trailer of the documentary -

Kepa Junkera's "Tatihou" song -

Kepa Junkera's "Reno" song -

Kepa Junker's "Nagoya" song - (this one has more modern sounds)

There's another kind of music which we call traditional, yet that's not very accurate. It was born in the 60s as a reinvention of the typical Basque singing (which was mostly based in Bertsolaritza) and its main instrument is the guitar, it was then called The new Basque song and its most representative musician are Mikel Laboa (who died two years ago) and Benito Lertxundi.

Mikel Laboa singing Baga biga higa, a song that simulates a spell used in covens (witches Sabaths) -

Mikel Laboa's best known song, Txoria Txori (this song has been also performed by Joan Baez and and by The Kelly Family-

is the translation of lyrics)

And this one, Izarren Hautsa, is one of the best songs ever... :p the original version is not his, but it is indeed the most famous (and the most beautiful) - ( the translation - very important)

Loretxoa is the best known song by Benito Lertxundi - (I haven't found a translation so, if you're interested just let me know and I will translate it my self - I mean it, it's no big deal)

Oi ama Euskal Herri is another very famous song by this singer, sung in a Basque dialect from the French part of the Basque Country - (the same as before)

I think it's enough for the moment :) David, I hope the musician you listen to in that film is among these, if not, let me know and I see if I can find out who it was. Good night guys! 

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Thanks for your thoughts on identity, DavidCooper and Sugoi. I'm particularly interested in the notion of minority languages as windows on the past and I'd like to start a discussion on the relationship between language and identity soon.

Sugoi, can you say anything about Euskara and politics, specifically the extent to which the language has become politicised or has politicised Basques in recent times?

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Hi Sugoi,

Thanks for going to so much trouble finding all those links for me. The first ones were very different from what I was expecting, but they are very distinct from anything Spanish I've ever heard. Youtube seems to have changed the way it works since I was last there, so I now have to wait about five minutes before I can get a video to play, making it very hard to hunt for anything, so your links were extremely helpful. Mikel Laboa and Benito Lertxundi's music sound close to the stuff I'm hunting for: it's definitely from the same stable, but you've already pointed me towards a few things that should find a place on my MP3 player.

Your attempted link to the words of Txoria Txori is actually a duplicate of the link to Youtube instead, but I found the words in Spanish and French here. Izarren Hautsa may actually be the song I'm looking for, but if so it must be a different version of it: it's hard to remember now what the music I'm hunting for actually sounded like as it was a good many years ago now that I heard it. I also found Spanish words for Loretxoa here, so I can follow it fine.

By the way, the word txori is actually one of the ones that made me wonder if there might be an ancient link with Japanese, because it's very similar to tori. Txori, tori; da, da; txiki, chiisai; haize, kaze; zuri, shiroi; zeru, sora; anaia, ani. These similarities may all be nothing more than chance, but I've found fewer connections between Hungarian and Finnish in the course of learning them to a similarly shallow level, and they are known to be linked. Look also at the postposition-like endings -n/-en/-an/-ean, -a/-ra/-era and -tik/-dik/-etik: these are used where Japanese uses ni, e and kara. The similarities are extremely tenuous, but it's still much more similarity than you would ordinarily find between completely unrelated languages. One of the things that surprises me most about languages is how almost all the words are unique to a specific language even if you ignore their meanings entirely, and it isn't normal to spot links unless the languages share a known common ancestor. In Arabic is the word anta which resembles the Japanese anata (same meaning), but that's the only similarity I've found, so it's clearly just down to chance, but possible connections between Basque and Japanese keep jumping out at me. I don't know if anyone has looked into the possibility of a link between these two languages before, though I would imagine that someone Basque must have learned Japanese before now and picked up on the similarities. Clearly the people aren't closely related genetically, but languages can jump from race to race in a way that genes don't. We also know that Japanese only arrived in Japan in relatively recent times (the original inhabitants presumably speaking Ainu which appears to be an Eskimo-like language), and I've no idea where Japanese moved in from.

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Hi David,

This is the original version of Izarren Hautsa, composed by the well known singer Xabier Lete

And this the newer one, and the most famous between young people, the reason is pretty obvious :)

And here a some Basque famous songs:

Pantxoa ta Peio → Itziarren Semea

Gontzal Medibil →  Bagare(the song is not his, it is a popular song)

Xabier Lete →Xalbadorren heriotzean

Oskorri → Gaztelugatxe

Anje Duhalde → Ama Euskal Herria

Mikel Laboa → Herria eta Hizkuntza (a song based on a bertso made by Xalbador)

Mikel Laboa & Oreka Tx → Martxa baten lehen notak 

Urko →  Guk Euskaraz!

Antton Valverde →  Norteko Ferrokarrila

Imanol Urbieta → Kalera borrokalari

Popular song →Ikusi Mendizaleak

Next time I'll bring some more actual music ;)

Hugo, I will reply to your post tomorrow since it will take me a while to talk about this subject; I'll have to put you on the context, hence talk a little about history and the development of the situation of politics and Basque. Hopefully the waiting won't be too long. Good night everyone! ^_^

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Hi Sugoi,

Thanks for another concert. Martxa baten lehen notak's my favourite of the new ones, despite being spoken rather than sung (I've put a link to the Spanish translation here in case it's of use to anyone else). By the way, I've found and solved a problem on my machine, so I've got Youtube to work properly again without the delays - much easier to work with now!

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Hey guys, how are you doing?

I'm sorry for the delay but, I've had a couple of busy hard days... anyway, here I am again, we'll see if  can answer to your question properly, Hugo.

I have to point out, first of all, that the main politic subject in Basque Country is about the issue of identity and independence. Yes, we have a crisis. Much unemployment. And the whole world is so fucked up, but, we don't seem to really care (this is something I hate about us, we're too Basque-centrics :( ). Well, so that's the thing. That said, I must warn you that I cannot make a good explanation about the topic, just let you understand the context and put some examples. 

During the history of the Hispanic empire, Basques, after being annexed, had some rights other peoples didn't have: we kept fueros from the past which still exist. The thing is we had more automonomy, and at the beginning Hispanic kings kept respecting that; however, with the time the kings of the empire tried to slowly take those fueros away from the Basques. Note that Basques were a very conservative people till few years ago and, in the XIX. century, almost every Basque defend that who they wanted to be the the next king, Carlos V. Well, I know almost nothing about history, so this is just a way to address to the history of our identity and our will to distinction as for the Spanish people. With the industrial revolution, and carbon mines in Bizkaia, Basque Country became a very important area, where there was money, and lots of work. Here there's always been lots of rich people (new bourgeoises that had previously been hidalgos), so they invested and create a lot of jobs → the main consequence of this, regarding politics, was that big amounts of people came from all over Spain to get a job in one of the richest area of the peninsula (industrial revolution came first to Basque Country). This people lived badly: I guess, as every proletarian of that period. But the most important thing is that, most of them, never learned Basque, nor showed any interest in Basque culture. In this context, the carlist bourgeois thinker Sabino Arana founds EAJ-PNV (Basque nationalist party, catholic and foralist). He creates our actual flag, called ikurriña, invents plenty of theoretically Basque words to avoid being contaminated by Spanish loans and starts in my opinion, a xenophobic campaign against all that Spanish people living and working in Basque country, and puts them the name of "maketos". Maketos (immigrants) and liberals were for him the cancer of the Basque Country. I'd say this is first connection between Basque and politics, so, it is Sabino Arana who in first place gave it this status. Yet he was a xenophobic person, I should argue that all that immigration caused a big damage to our language and I guess his was the reaction you can expect in an area that is being changed so radically (from land to industry, and from Basque speaking to Spanish speaking). You may wonder how can it be that, if Basque Country was a wholly Basque speaking area, immigrants didn't feel the need to learn the language: well, that was because the merchants of our Country learned Spanish, arguing that Basque wasn't useful for doing business, and under the same premise, they used Spanish for all their business. This were Basque native, so the biggest responsibility lays on them. In 1919 Euskaltzaidia, the academy of Basque language was created, but it was going to be soon dissolved.

Later in history, specifically after the uprising of Franco (who was helped by Hitler and massacred lost of town - not only Basque, of course - such as the most famous due to Picasso, Gernika), the Basque language was completely banned (not only in the public life but also in private sphere), due to its connection to Basque identity, I guess, specially after Sabino Arana. Some people kept speaking Basque at their places, but many others we to frightened to be busted or killed to do so. As you can imagine, the situation of the language had never been worse, and remember that this was done to protect the unity of Spain. In 50's ETA was born, at the beginning as a cultural-political activist group (which was a lot, a great risk, given the context). They defended, and still do, that they were a marxist-leninist organization, so they rejected the concept of race that Arana had, and put in the center of Basque identity just the language (together with other cultural manifestations), for them, Basque was whoever living and working in the Basque Country (and not only, as for Sabino, the descendants of the Basque ancestors). At this time some people was trying to secretly learn Basque (even many immigrants and descendants of immigrants), they made little groups and they used to learn at night, in this sense, and facing the hierarchy, town churches were a huge help (in its early beginning it even helped ETA members to hide from police). In the 60's ETA made its first violent act taking a train full of franquists who were celebrating the beginning of the civil war out of the railway. In late 60's, members of Euskaltzaindia, which had kept functioning secretly and mostly abroad, decide to create Euskara Batua, which means unified Basque, a standard of the languages to unify the dialect of all the territories. During the whole dictatorship the division was pretty clear, left-wing parties, even Spanish ones were in favor of autonomy, of identity, of our culture; right-wing parties were those in the side of Franco. This was clearly related to language: socialist people definitely supported Basque language. And the most conservationist Basque people did so too (the church and PNV). Those Basque liberals who had left aside our language in the past, were mostly not very honest people, money was their major concern, so they supported Franco not to loose that. Until some time after Carrero Blanco's death (you know how he was going to be the successor of Franco and ETA made him flew inside his car to the top of a building...) many people supported ETA, even that PNV had expressed its disengagement and disagreement with the group, that had already some different working fronts, cultural, political, and military one. There were some problems inside the organization in the late 70's, and two branches are born as separated, military ETA and political-military ETA. I think this splitting up with the decisive in the whole sociopolitical situation of the Basque Country. More and more people started rejecting ETA, and linking it with Batasuna (now illegal party) which is part of a bigger social movement, I guess quite similar to the Sinn Féin (but I'm not sure). This this sector of the society, this social movement linked to the Ezker Abertzalea (patriotic left) has plenty of fronts, not just political but any type: aek (coordinator that alphabetizes people in Basque - it started in academies where teachers were voluntaries, now they're paid); ikasle abertzaleak (students union); jarrai (young movement - now illegal); egin (a newspaper of this editorial line - closed 12 year ago); gestoras (platform defending the rights of the prisoners - now illegal); KAS (social agitation coordinator - now illegal)... All these have been directly related to ETA and that the argument for they illegalization. This is an interesting topic, but what we are more concerned about in this topic is AEK and something I forgot to tell you about, Ikastolas. 

Ikastola is a kind of school that functions as a cooperative and where everything is taught in Basque (except for other languages). This were created in small and secret locals with very few students while Franco was still alive. Now, in the north of Basque Country the situation is very different, I myself studied in one and it had like 600 students: it involved the whole educational process till the Uni (from 2 to 18 years) - however not every Ikastolas are like that, it depends much in the amount of students they have, because this is were the money comes from, together with some subventions by the government. Ikastolas of each province, make every year a kind of party to earn money for the Ikastolas, and is a party that is thought to promote the usage of our language (they're all kind of excursions in a limited area with different point for people of all ages - see: Ibilaldia, Kilometroak, Nafarroa oinez, Araba euskaraz or Herri urrats). This Ikastolas were created on the basis of the Basque identity and the will for independence, so, it has much to do with politics - yet, this is not very big influence in the education given nowadays. 

On the other hand, AEK each too years makes a kind of marathon all over the Basque country also to collect money to improve the academies and to be able to pay the Basque teachers. Here the baton is the key: the marathon doesn't end until the Korrika - this is how it is called - goes through every single town in Basque Country, night and day people keeps running. And some bars, locals, institutions etc. can buy km., thus, you carry the baton in your km, this is how they earn the money. Then, when Korrika goes through my own town, I just join, and when I'm tired or bored or whatever I leave. They also earn money selling numbers to take part, but it's not necessary at all to buy one. Almost every known Basque collective buys a km. Ikastolas, the movements I mentioned before, some bars etc. 

Basque is a minority language and initiatives like these are completely needed to encourage people to learn it and use it. The Basque government was ruled till now by PNV so they made some linguistic politics to make the situation of the language as better as possible: every person working for the Basque government must be bilingual and we're trying to make disappear from the public educational system Spanish and Bilingual linguistic models. Know and PSE (Basque PSOE) is in the Basque government (after illegalizing Batasuna, so the counting of votes was different) and they're trying to change all this politics slowly - but not so slowly... They say everyone should be free to chose the language in which they want to raise their children, and that the qualification of someone shouldn't be dismissed because of not knowing Basque (the main argument for this is usually: if I have to be operated I want the best surgeon, even if he only speaks Chinese). This are my argument for arguing both, the only way linguistic freedom to be possible is everyone to know both language so that anyone could speak or be understood however she decided to talk. And, as for the surgeon, yes, ok, but as you don't hire a non Spanish speaker Chinese surgeon in Madrid, I don't hire a non Basque speaker in Bilbao: what's the difference?

Soooo... this post was a little bit messy, I'm so sorry, but it was a difficult subject and I am not an expert... I just hope you understood or at least got the idea. Good night!!!

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Hi Sugoi,

Do you think the violence might be coming to an end? I can see why it started up, but there doesn't seem to be any purpose or justification for it any more. Far better to go on the attack with culture: make Basque (language, music, etc.) cool so that people feel that they're missing out if they aren't involved in it. Bomb-makers might think they're cool, but they just come across as morons and put people off their cause rather than attracting people to it.

It seems to me that the boundaries between nations are becoming less important over time, and people are moving more and more to other countries, so the whole issue of nationality is going to become increasingly confused and irrelevant. If minority languages and cultures are going to survive, they're going to have to make themselves look dynamic and exciting, and they have to be tied to territory, but it doesn't matter where the official boundaries are between territories or whether a nation is officially a nation or not: in the future, all nations will be under the same law and the differences between them will be purely cultural, so the only powers that matter are the ones relating to that.

In Scotland we have three cultures, though Scots generally are becoming more and more English, so there will soon only be two. The Gaels are still trying to hang onto their culture, so it may have a chance, and it certainly helps that Gaelic is radically different from English in a way that the Scots language isn't, but the problem I see with what they're doing is that they spend too much time discussing the survival of Gaelic rather than using it to do interesting, innovative things. I'm fed up with TV programmes about Gaelic: I want to see stuff in Gaelic that's actually worth watching, but there simply isn't anything worthwhile being made. I wonder if the same mistake's being made with Basque, or if there's an attempt there to lead the way in media rather than just to mimic what everyone else is doing and to do it worse? I obviously don't know because I'm too far away to see what's happening there, but there's going to be a hell of a struggle ahead to keep minority cultures going if they don't make themselves modern and cutting-edge. Even with a Scottish parliament, the Scots language is disappearing fast and hardly anyone seems to care. We all used to laugh at the English for singing Old Lang Zyne instead of Auld Lang Syne, but now most Scots sing Zyne instead, totally unaware that there's no such word, and they look at you as if you're mad if you point out their error! The language has just disappeared in a generation. You have to make sure that kind of apathy never gets hold in your culture.

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Posted (edited)

Hi Sugoi,

Do you think the violence might be coming to an end?

I really don't think it will. As far as I know the situation is not now the better negotiations to be possible. And for the moment, ETA won't stop acting and existing if they don't have anything in exchange. They have more than 50 years old history, and they won't give up the fight if they can't rich at least their most basic aims; it just doesn't make any sense, that some people died and others were put in jail for nothing, does it? It won't happen that way, at least not for now. 

I think you're absolutely right when you say that "they just put people off their cause rather than attracting people". I am of that thinking too. Yet, I don't think it hasn't any purpose or justification any more. It's complicated. I mean, I don't like violence and I don't like people dying; in fact, what normal person does? Contrary to what people think, militants of ETA don't like violence either (I mean by definition, it might be people inside who does, probably), it goes beyond a simple ethical maxim like "killing is wrong" or "every human life is sacred", even if you appreciate human life, sometimes, you put other things before. This is not just a matter of nationality, from my point of view. It is kind of a hidden war in which there's a constant fight about power. And I'm not talking about political power, it's more like resistance, a "who can more" (who can cause a bigger general damage), it is an arm-wrestling. Well, you know, like in war. I won't compare myself to someone living in a country in war, that would be stupid and even offensive. But I can't even compare this to a country without this kind of struggle. Ethical rules change. They're put on a second stage, and history and context are what really minds. They create a short of inertia that keeps all going the same way, always, while less involved people result being more damaged. The thing is, from the outside, Spanish democracy may seem good, there may seem to be justice here. But it isn't. It never was. There wasn't even a judgment for all those war criminals; some of actual politicians, where supporters of Franco and and they were part of his dictatorship (as ministers, for example). However, ETA wasn't born to fight Franco, it was indeed a reaction to Franco's will of making disappear everything that had to do with Basque identity, but from the beginning, ETA's aim was a Basque socialist state. The combination of ETA existing and being ruled by a non-democratic state, whose government makes harder and harder to live in this piece of land, creates a vicious circle that seems impossible to stop. Repression - military response - harder repression - bigger military response... What was first? I wouldn't really know to answer that. But what I meant is: yeah. Maybe to be fighting for a nation right now is not a very realistic idea. Right. But this is not just about nationalism or independence. It is mostly about not being able to stop, about inertia. I'm sure we've lost 'this war', but some think we didn't and we won't, because we can't. 

As for what you said about Gaelic, well, I think our whole situation in this sense is quite better. I'd say that, since 60s till now, a really great labor has been done: a whole new culture apart from folklore has born thanks to the effort of many. Now, we don't just have that insistence in using and knowing the language (we still have it though), but we do have many areas where our language and its use are real, where they are appreciated and valued. However it's also true that this new culture is giving its first steps, and many things have to be fixed and learned. For example, I do think that in order to promote Basque literature, Basque editorial are publishing any work written in Basque by young people; this is my perception, and I'm sure it is a big mistake, cause if your aim is to normalize the language, you can't let pounds of shit go into the libraries. Their best criteria for alowwing this is the good use of the language, but, the thing is, what kind of art are you expecting to be created if you put so many limits to style. Well, anyway, this is just an example, but it's kind of our bigger problem, giving more importance to the form of culture, than to its content. And if you want to promote your culture, you need to make sure it is worth it. 

Edited by Sugoi

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Thank you for taking the time and effort into putting this together :) Greatly appreciated.

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