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Two official languages co-exist in the Basque Country: Spanish and Basque, the oldest language in Europe, which has nothing to do with any other language in the world.
Spanish is not a complicated language. Although it is an extremely rich language, nourished with an extensive vocabulary and the use of masculine and feminine, it is not too difficult to become fluent enough to communicate in it. As for Basque, although the fear is much greater, as many people believe that it is an extremely difficult language, it is time to clarify that this is just an imaginary obstacle. Becoming familiar with it is as easy, or as difficult, as doing so with any other language and the public institutions offer many facilities to learn and/or improve it.
Both languages can be learnt in private academies or at the Official Language Schools, which are public centres. There, you can start studying from scratch or improve on a previous level. The Official Schools also offer the possibility of obtaining an official certificate. There are nine Official Language Schools in the Basque Autonomous Community. The registration fees are extremely affordable and are set each year in accordance with the Order by the Basque Government’s Minister for Education, Universities and Research.
You can obtain the official diplomas for Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) awarded by the Cervantes Institute which certify the level of knowledge and command of the Spanish language from the International Spanish Centre (CIDE) at Deusto University.
Nowadays, there are many ways of easily learning both languages via internet. You can study at your own convenience from home and at your own pace. On-line courses, self-learning, didactic tools, tutorials, telephone or Skype conversations, videos, songs, texts, youtube… To learn Spanish, you can visit sites like lengalia, on-line Spanish at auladiez, videoele, on-line Spanish courses from the Cervantes Institute, or any of the links from the lenguaviva blog.
Basque, the language that characterises us
As for Basque, which is the language that sets us apart in the world, it can be learnt through:
– mintzalagun.com, a platform aimed at any person who does not know Basque but wants to learn it in a fun way.
– ikasten net, a free, enjoyable and informal method which is encompassed within the initiatives of the hiru.com website, reporting to the Lifelong Learning Directorate of the Basque Government’s Minister for Education, Universities and Research.
– The on-line euskaltegi (school to learn Basque) that kaixo.com and Habe have set up and which offers teacher support.
– Through the Boga multimedia learning system, tutored by teachers at the euskaltegis and Basque Centres-Euskal Etxeak
– Using the websites of some approved centres or euskaltegis, such as Bai & By, Mondragon-Lingua, Santurtziko Udal Euskaltegia, Urumea Euskaltegia or the rest of the Euskaltegis in the Basque Country which offer a self-learning service.
As for didactic material: videos, texts, audios, magazines, pastimes, songs, jokes, recipes, stories… can be found on Ikasbil, the website for Basque students. For foreign visitors who want to start learning our language before coming here, they can study Basque courses in such diverse places as Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Valencia, Valladolid, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Italy, USA, United Kingdom, France, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela… ; find out more through the self-learning service at the centres located outside the Basque Autonomous Community or use Mintzanet, a tool which brings together students from all over the world via Skype and enables them to speak and share experiences and knowledge with students from any country.
Many foreigners have fallen in love with our language, thanks to its history, its beautiful sound and its difference. That’s why they have come to love it and speak it from their own country, such as María, a young Greek girl who speaks Basque fluently or Jose Miguel a self-taught Colombian new Basque speaker (euskaldun-berri), who has learnt to speak it perfectly on his own, without ever leaving his country.
On the other hand, if you want to learn Basque in situ, attending classes and sharing the experience with other students, the best option is to go to an euskaltegi, a centre which offers all kinds of different courses and has a wide range of timetables, duration, frequencies… You can opt for an academic year course, which is of a longer duration but with less hours each day, an intensive course, in which the daily hours are increased but the duration of the course is less days, or a summer course, which takes place between July and September.
The euskaltegis may be public or private. The public euskaltegis, Udal Euskaltegiak, report to the Town Halls so there is one in 44 municipalities of the Basque Autonomous Community, and they encompass all of the regions of the Basque Country. The private ones report to private entities. Some of the better known ones are: AEK which has centres in the Historical Basque Regions of Alava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Navarra and Iparralde, Udaberria and Hegoalde in Vitoria-Gasteiz and Elkarlan which includes the euskaltegis of Bilbao Gabriel Aresti, Bilbo Zaharra and Juan Mateo Zabala.
HABE-Ikasbil offers a search engine which provides us with a list of all the Euskaltegis (public and private), EuskalEtxeak and the approved self-learning centres throughout the Basque Autonomous Community, Navarra and Iparralde.
Finally, you can learn Basque intensively, immersed in a Basque-speaking atmosphere 24 hours a day, at a barnetegi, a kind of boarding school, where you go to class as well and living and sleeping there, spending the whole day speaking Basque. These are some examples of bernategis: Zornotzako barnetegia, Maizpide barnetegia, Foruko barnetegia, Bakaiku and Euskal Girotze barnetegiak.
In addition to the aforementioned facilities, economic grants to learn Basque can be obtained from HABE, and subsidies from the Basque Government and Town Halls, like Bilbao City Council or Barakaldo Town Hall.