BASQUE, THE OLDEST LANGUAGE IN EUROPE

A LANGUAGE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN

The Basque language is spoken on both sides of the Western Pyrenees, covering regions both in Spain and France, and it is the oldest language in Europe. Even now, its origins are still a mystery. According to linguists, it is a genetically isolated language, i.e. it does not belong to any known language family. 

 When you visit Donostia/San Sebastian, take a good look at the signs. Which of the two languages is Basque? Would you like to know what it sounds like? Here is a little dictionary that we have prepared so that you can get around like a true "donostiarra" (the Basque name for people from San Sebastian).  

 Donostia is the Basque capital city where the most Basque is spoken. 40% of its inhabitants speak Basque and another 30% understand it. If you want to learn Basque, you can enrol at a “euskaltegi”: Basque literacy academies for adults. “Barnetegis” (Basque intensive language courses) are held throughout the year, and in the summer there are even “ibiltaris” (where people go on walks as they practice the language), which combine sport and the Basque language. 

Basque Dictionary

  • Ongi etorri

    Ongi etorri

    Welcome. ‘Ongi’ means well and ‘etorri’ to come. A tradition that we still preserve is to welcome people with a traditional dance.

  • Kaixo

    Kaixo

    Hello. We also use "Epa!" "Aupa!" and "Iepa!"

  • Agur

    Agur

    Bye. We also say ‘Aio’, although we prefer a see you later (laster arte)!

  • Mesedez

    Mesedez

    Please. Much better with a smile.

  • Eskerrikasko

    Eskerrikasko

    Thanks. We also use ‘Mila esker’ (a thousand thanks).

  • Etxea

    Etxea

    House. Donostia feels like home

  • Zorionak

    Zorionak

    Happy Birthday!

  • Gosaria

    Gosaria

    Breakfast. The most important meal of the day.

  • Bazkaria

    Bazkaria

    Lunch. Daily menu, pintxos, cider menu… which one do you prefer?

  • Afaria

    Afaria

    Dinner. A light super like a salad and… a ‘txuleta’! (delicious T-bone steak!)

  • On egin

    On egin

    Enjoy your meal!

  • Pintxo

    Pintxo

    Miniature Culinary Art. On egin!

  • Goxoa

    Goxoa

    Delicious. We like to say ‘goxo-goxoa’. It also works for “sweet”.

  • Azoka

    Azoka

    Traditional market. Fresh and seasonal products. You will find them in La Bretxa or San Martin markets for example.

  • Xirimiri

    Xirimiri

    Light rain. Although you think it is not raining, open the umbrella, if you do not want to finish completely drenched.

  • Hondartza

    Hondartza

    Beach. Which of our 4 beaches do you prefer?

  • Zenbakia

    Zenbakia

    Bat (un), bi (deux), hiru (trois), lau (quatre)... Trouvez la chanson et apprendre ces chiffres! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3Ra_GJUzBg

  • Maite zaitut

    Maite zaitut

    I love you.

  • Muxu

    Muxu

    Kiss.

  • Polita

    Polita

    Jolie. Essayez de répéter cette phrase : Zu oso polita zara !

  • Donostia

    Donostia

    You should say Donostia, if you want to act like a local.

  • Euskara

    Euskara

    Basque language.

  • Txuri-urdin

    Txuri-urdin

    White-blue. These are the colors of the city and also of La Real Sociedad soccer team.

  • Bai, Ez

    Bai, Ez

    Yes, no.

  • Zenbat da?

    Zenbat da?

    How much is it?

  • Mendia

    Mendia

    Mountain. From the mountains of Igeldo, Ulia and Urgull, the views are amazing!

  • Txotx

    Txotx

    If you hear this word you are in a cider house and you have to stand up and fill your glass!

  • Besarkada

    Besarkada

    Hug. There is a Chillida’s sculpture with that very same name, find it! It looks at the sea…

 

A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CULTURE

RURAL SPORT (HERRI KIROLAK)

Basque rural sport, or herri kirolak is the term used to describe the sports traditionally practiced in the rural areas of the Basque Country. Most of these sports take their origin from work in these rural areas. Neighbours or the inhabitants of a village would compete to see who was best at their jobs, and the competitions eventually turned into sports. Thus, for example, the chopping of tree trunks for firewood led to the aizkolaris or wood-choppers; while the moving of huge rocks for use in construction led to stone-lifting (the people who practice the sport are called harrijasotzailes in Basque) and the pulling of enormous stones by oxen (idi probak), etc.

 

BASQUE DANCES (EUSKAL DANTZAK)

Like in many other cultures, dance has always played a hugely important part in Basque social and religious life. Many of the dances still performed at popular festivities have been in continuous existence for over 400 years. There are endless individual and group dances, and every popular celebration and festivity usually has its own typical version.

 

BERTSOLARIS (IMPROVISERS OF BASQUE VERSE)

Bertsolarismo, the improvisation of Basque verse, is one of the most peculiar disciplines in the Basque culture. A bertso involves improvising verse, in song, to a set rhyme and melody. It requires bertsolaris to have large amounts of imagination, oral skill and mental agility. Bertsolari competitions are still organised today throughout the Basque Country, mainly in popular festivities, cider houses, etc. There are even bertsolari schools that have produced a new generation of improvisers who achieve tremendous standards of quality and popularity.