After two years, I have finally decided to sign up for...Basque! Called Euskera by the Basque-speakers, I will start Monday morning and have class this year 3 days a week for 2 hours each day. I am hoping with that amount of Euskera, I will leave the class in June being able to say atleast something similar to a sentence.
With an unknown history, this language isn't similar to any other language in Europe. Some theories state that Euskera is part of the Dene-Caucasic family - which includes languages like Turkish, Siberian and some languages from Eastern Asia. Other theories presume that since Basques are mentioned and Euskera words are written in the Roman texts found in Aquitaine that this language existed way before the Middle Ages. More of a spoken language than a written one, the first book on file written in Euskera only dates back to 1545. The language has remained alive due to talking...and let me tell you - the Basques can talk your ear off.
While passing down the language is how it has survived, only a mere 750,000 Basque speakers in Basque Country - from a total of 2.5 million inhabitants. Maybe by the end of year, the number will be 750,001! haha. The county where I live, Guipuzcoa, has the highest percentage of bilingual (Spanish and Basque) speakers with 53%.
The challenge I forsee in trying to be trilingual is the fact that since Euskera existed before any of this Indo-European languages, is that it is completely unrelated. I mean, with Spanish if I wrote Mi nombre es Amanda you would basically understand that I am saying my name - due the similarity in the Latin roots of both languages. In Euskera however, My name is Amanda comes out like this Amanda dut izena. Don't even ask me to pronounce it yet! But while Latin languages usually have a similar word order, the Basque language is opposite - so that sentence would be Amanda I have name. Quite difficult, and that's just introducing myself!
To complicate matters more, the Euskera I will learn is called Euskera Batua (meaning United Basque) - which is what is taught in the Basque language schools and is a general teaching of the language because each town and province speaks Euskera a little differently. For example, the Basque I will learn is very proper and clean, whereas the Basque Joseba speaks is more 'worn in' and is spoken the same by everyone in Orio and the surrouding area. A quick example - to say goodnight, I will learn ondo lo egin in class. But I have already learned this phrase from Joseba, who taught me how they say it there - ondoloin. So you can see, they cut out letters, don't pronounce everything, etc. I have already warned him, that when I am practicing he MUST practice the one I am learning, otherwise I will screw it up even more! He is tickled pink that I am even attempting to learn and promises to practice the Euskera Batua with me.
Funny thing is that I will learn this clean, proper Basque and a lot of native Basque speakers, who grew up speaking Euskera, can't speak the Euskera I will learn. Bahhhhh! How will I survive?! For example, my roommate, Nerea, has been speaking Euskera since she could speak (she told me learning Spanish was a big struggle for her). However, although she has tried, she hasn't been able to pass the Euskera Batua Exam that is given in Basque Country for the language certificate that states you speak proper Euskera. If someone speaking Euskera for 23 years can't pass, I imagine I will have to study a lot to be able to pass it someday. The Batua was only created in 1968, when the Basques realized they needed to somehow standardize thier dialects. Before this time, if you bought a book in my county, a person from a neighboring county probably couldn't even read it because the Basque would have been so different. Now, books published in Basque are printed in Euskera Batua. Same with the Basque news channels, radio, etc.
I already know it is a long road ahead of me, to learn what is considered to be one of the four most difficult languages in the world (I think that list also includes Finnish, Gaelic and Hungarian), but I am very excited to start. I plan to stay here for a long time, and while everyone speaks Spanish fine, I would like to show some respect to the Basque Country by attempting to speak thier historic language.
But, while I'm looking forward to learning, I'm also quite nervous! It's a completely foreign idea to me and I have my fingers crossed that I get a class with nice people - because not only am I learning Basque, but still perfecting my Spanish! I think the maximum number of students per class is 8 at the euskaltegi where I signed up - so I assume it will be quite an intimate learning haven. Euskaltegi means Basque language center. The name of mine is called Hitzez - which I recently found out means 'For words'. Hitz means word and ez and the end of a word means for. Similar to German in a sense, to make a sentence more complex or a verb more descriptive, they add letters to the end. For example house is exte. If you want to say 'the house' you have to add and 'a' so it comes out as extea. Please, send me your best wishes for this, because I think I will need quite a bit of positive thinking to weather this language!
Anyways, wanted to update everyone on what's new in my life recently. School has started, and this year I actually have a private adult student starting English from scratch and a group of middle-age ladies starting English from scratch too. Since I will be starting a new language from zero also, I think it will not only be a good experience for learning but also hopefully help me see how to teach an old dog new tricks.
Just so you can maybe have an idea, here are some words/phrases that I will probably learn the first week in Basque. Give them a try and see how you like them!
I'm Amanda - Ni Amanda naiz (pronounced knee amanda nice)
Yes - Bai (pronounced bye) and No - Ez (pronounced 'S')
Please - mesedez (kind of like Mercedes) and Thank You - Eskerrik asko (sound it out)
1- bat 2- bi 3 - hiru 4- lau 5- bost 6-sei 7- zazpi 8- zortzi 9- bederatzi 10- hamar
January - Urtarrila June - Ekaina
Monday - Astelehena Wednesdsay - Asteazkena
Yea...a little preview of my mornings to come! Well, at least by the end of the week, I can truly say Euskera ikasten dut, which means I'm studying Euskera! I will keep you posted on the progress. If I attend 85% of the classes (which of course I will - if I am paying for something you better bet I'm going!) and pass the final exam for level 1, get this...the Basque government will actually GIVE me money for learning! Along with wanting to learn it anyways, its quite a good incentive.
Muxu! (this is kiss in Basque, which I have known for a long time...what an expert I am!)