angle-left Euskera, speaking the mind of Basque people

Euskera is a dynamic, ever-changing language. It is extraordinary indeed, its features changing according to the region where it is spoken. These characteristics make it richer.

In 1964, all the varieties of Euskera were conflated to produce a standard variety, known as Euskera batua. The existence of a standard language made it easier for Euskera to be recognised as an official language of the Spanish State. Euskera batua was introduced in the educational system and the administration.

Each variety of Euskera (they should not be called dialects) is a Euskalki. Like any modern language, Basque can be adapted to a local usage in its phonetics, grammar and lexicon. The varieties spoken in Zuberoa and Bizkaia are the ones that stand farthest apart.

Euskalkis were studied by scholars like Arnauld de Oihenart, Manuel de Larramendi and Julio Caro Baroja. In Notitia Utriusque Vasconiae, Oihenart mentions four Euskalkis: Akitianarra, Baskoia, Barduliarra and Autrioia. In his Three-Language Dictionary. Larramendi includes Euskera and the Euskalkis in Babel. Caro Baroja compares the linguistic boundaries of Euskalkis to those of an old lineage or early parishes.

Routes

Vizcaínos speak the Euskalki of the western area, which is used in most communities in the Deba Valley, as well as in Aramaio (Álava), Urola and Goierri (Gipuzkoa) and La Burunda Valley (Navarra).

The western area Euskalki is characterised by its diversity. There are big differences between Busturialdea and Otxandio's varieties

Bizkaia’s Euskalki in turn comprises two varieties (east and west) and eight different ways of speaking. There are big differences between the Euskera spoken in coastal areas like Busturialdea and the varieties from the hinterland, as in Otxandio-Oleta-Ubide.

The Euskalki in the west is in turn divided into northern and southern varieties. Uribe Kosta, Mungialdea and Txorierri fall within the northern variety, while the Arratia Valley, Zeberio, Orozko, Arrankudiaga, Arakaldo and Galdakao speak the southern variety. In between, in the valley of the river Nervión (Bilbao, Etxebarri, Zaratamo, Basauri, Arrigorriaga and Ugao), people speak a variety of Euskera known as Azpieuskalki.

The east variety is spoken in Lea-Artibai and Durangaldea (two very similar varieties). The Euskera spoken in the coastal area has beautiful, strong sounds, especially in Lekeitio (Lekitto) and Ondarroa (Ondarru). In Debagoiena and the Deba Valley, you can hear a transition between the Euskalkis spoken in the central and western regions.

How To Get There

  • Here is a survival guide in Euskera: People say ‘Kaixo!’ (Hi!) for greetings and ‘Agur!’ (Bye!) for farewells. You might also hear ‘Aio!’. ‘Zer moduz?’ and ‘Zelan’ (How are you?) are ice-breakers in conversation. ‘Egun on’, ‘Arrasti on’ and ‘Gabon’ are the Basque equivalents of ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’ and ‘Good evening’.

    Never forget to add ‘Mesedez’ (Please) when you ask for something or to reply with ‘Eskerrik asko’ (Thank you) when someone says or does something nice to you. And if you do something wrong, use the magic phrase ‘Barkatu’ (I’m sorry).

    You are ready to survive in Bizkaia now. ‘Ongi etorri eta ondo pasa zure bidaian!’ (Welcome! Have a nice trip!)

    • Location

      Euskaltzaindia (Plaza Nueva, Bilbao) 

  • If Euskera is not your mother tongue – that is, if you are an Euskaldunberri –, you can improve your language skills in dynamic ways beyond the classroom. Many euskaltegis (Basque language schools) organise bar-crawling or poteo activities where you can practise your Euskera in an informal atmosphere.