Published December 28, 2017
This video was recorded by Richard Benton in Getxo, Basque Country, Spain, where he was visiting at the time. Basque, known natively as Euskara or Euskera, is spoken by as many as 1.2 million people, primarily in the historic Basque region of Europe, which includes the Spanish territories of Euskadi (País Vasco) and Navarra, where it is co-official alongside Spanish, as well as the Iparralde region of France. It is the only surviving language spoken by indigenous Iberians prior to the Roman conquest of Western Europe, and is therefore unrelated to other languages spoken today. Originally an oral culture, Basque speakers developed a literary tradition in the 16th century CE, which seems to have begun with the works of Bernard Etxepare, who published a compendium of Basque poetry in 1545. By the mid-20th century, however, the language had fallen into decline, thanks in part to significant persecution of Basque communities by successive French and Spanish governments. Though Basque remains unrecognized in France, a lively revitalization movement has taken hold in Spain since the country’s transition to democracy in 1978. Today, there is a prevalence of Basque media, including online — the ‘.eus’ top-level domain is reserved or Basque-language websites.