Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bits of Basque

As you know, I signed up this year to learn Basque - one of the so-called most difficult languages in the world to learn.  It's coming along and I feel I am picking it up quite well.  I can feasibly read some things and recognize vocabulary all over town, but am still of course embarassed to speak! 

I go to class with my roommate and we study together from time to time, but I have also bought an extra book of activities that I do on my own and when I see Joseba he corrects them and we go over them together.  Two weeks ago, when I was learning how to say things like 'This is a pencil.  That's a door.  That's not a window, that's a table.' we did some oral practicie - him asking me about things and me having to answer.  The best was when he asked me 'Is this a language school?' and my answer should have been 'No, this isn't a language school, its a house' but in the end, it was both haha!  It makes me laugh, because they are such elemental things, yet I get so excited when I learn a new vocabulary word or can say a more complicated phrase.  I guess that makes me a geek huh?

I am so into it that I have even made myself some flashcards for the vocabulary words.  Seeing as I have a 45-minute bus ride both to and from work, I try to use the time wisely and quiz myself on the bus.  It makes the journey go a bit quicker!

I was passing over my notes today on the bus and realized that for only a month and a few days, I have learned quite a lot.  Not only vocab and grammar, but also some things of the language that I found interesting that I thought you guys might like to learn about.  So here goes...

Days of the Week (aste):
M - Astelehena (translation = first of the week)
T - Asteartea (translation = middle of the week)
W - Asteazkena (translation = last of the week)
Th - Osteguna  F - Ostirala  S - Larunbata  Su - Igandea
So, as you see the first three days of the Basque week follow a pattern.  We learned that this is because before Romans tooks over the area, Basques believed in a 3-day week.  The 4 other days were merely added to keep up with the Joneses. 

Basque numbers go in quite different way than our numbers.  Until 29, the numbers go regularly.  However when you get to 30, instead of having a specific number for 30, you say 20 and 10.  For 31 it would be 20 with 11.  Making sense?  I think its quite difficult.  Here, I'll attempt to show you a little of what I mean.
1 - bat, 2 - bi, 3- hiru, 4 - lau..............10 - hamar
11 - hamaika, 12 - hamabi, 13 - hamahiru, 14 - hamalau
20 - hogei, 21 - hogeitabat, 22 - hogeitabi, 23 - hogeitahiru
30 - hogeita hamar,  31 - hogeita hamaika, 32 - hogeita hamabi
40 - here it changes for the next 20 numbers - berrogei, 41 - berrogeita bat, 42 - berrogeita bi

Kind of see a pattern?  I totally underSTAND it but let me tell you, I find it quite hard and always do a little stuttering when someone asks me to say 76 or 92 or some big number! 

Word Formation:
aberatsa = rich -- loosely translated to mean the one who has the animal.  Because this is quite an old language, the people who used to have the animals were the wealthy ones.  Now spoken in the 21st century, some words still show how old language really is.

idaz = word -- from this we get two jobs.  The first is idazlea which translates to mean a fan of words (like being a fan of baseball...but instead, words).  If you're a big fan of words, that makes you a writer!  The other job with this word is idazkaria which means someone who works with words - which becomes a secretary!  As you can see, the suffix changes the word - which is something I am slowly learning to accept.

Basque is just like English
One of the very few things that I can relate from English to Basque is the possessive.  In Spanish, they don't have this 's function like we do.  Steve's book, Laura's car, etc.  Instead, in Spanish you must say the book of Steve or the car of Laura, which gets lengthy.  To my surprise, Basque works like English in this sense.  At the end of someone's name, you put the suffix -ren and it means the same as 's.  For example:
Liburua Steveren da.   or    Kotxe Lauraren da.  or   Hazel Amandaren amona da. 
Granted, the word order is much different, but hooooray something that me, the one English speaker in class can relate to! 

Well, after my flashcards on the bus, my homework when I got back and now this blog, I am Basque-ed out.  In 8 1/2 hours I have class, so I think I will close out this blog and rest up for more Euskera!  But, before I go, I will leave you with a little saying we learned in class:  'Eroriz ikasten da oinez' which means 'you can only learn to walk by falling down'.  One month in, I am still falling down of course - more like tripping all over the place - but am happily in the process of learning this language!

Muxu bat! (A kiss)

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