Nor Naiz, Gu Gara: Linda White

Nor Naiz, Gu Gara (Who I Am, We Are) is a series aiming to explore the meaning of Basque Identity around the world, both within Euskal Herria as well as in the diaspora. For an introduction to the series, look here, and for a list of the previous entries, look here.

What a pleasure to appear on Buber’s Basque Pages! Throughout my career at the Center for Basque Studies, I have experienced the Basque community from the privileged position of “welcome guest.” Genetically, I am not Basque. I certainly do not look Basque. People meet me here and in the Basque country and ask, “Why have you studied the language? How did you come to spend your life studying the Basques, their language, and their culture?”

The role of Basque friends and professors in my life has been a huge motivator. In college, the late Professor Eloy Placer intrigued me by speaking Basque in the halls of the humanities building. He loved and encouraged his students, tolerating our faulty Spanish, laughing with us at his own silly jokes, and giving us second (and third) chances to understand the material he was trying to impart about Spanish literature. I find it amusing and ironic that my love of Spanish literature was instilled in me by a Basque professor. But he also inspired a curiosity about the Basque language.

My first Basque class was a night class with the late Jon Bilbao. We used the tiny pocketbook, Euskera, Nire Laguna, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Did we learn much Euskera? Not really. But as a language teacher, I know that one night a week does not bode well for progress in a language. What we did learn was that the attempt to learn Basque, in and of itself, imparts a special camaraderie to a group of people who had been strangers before coming together in that setting.

After joining the staff of Basque Studies in 1981, I studied on my own for six months. Dr. Gorka Aulestia noticed my interest and my dedication, and he offered me Basque lessons! I jumped at the chance. We met two mornings a week before work in our own private classes, while I went home every weekend and spent twenty hours preparing for the next week’s lessons.

“Oh, no,” I hear you groan. “Twenty hours a week to learn Basque?! I don’t have that much time!”

Of course not. Learning Basque was my passion, but it was also encouraged by my employers, and admired by my growing group of Basque friends. My college degrees were in foreign language and literature. My job title soon became “Lexicographer” as I assisted Dr. Aulestia with the Basque-English dictionary.

But as David Cox explained in his entry for this column, you don’t have to be fluent to warm the hearts of the generous Basque people. Nowhere have I seen greater rewards for one’s earliest steps toward learning a language. Communicating in Euskara at a very low level is like wielding a key to the kingdom of Basqueness. But even if you despair of ever producing a full coherent sentence in Euskara, studying the language provides an insight into the way Euskara shapes the thinking and world outlook of those who do speak Euskara.

As someone who has always felt warmly welcomed by the Basque-American community, I can report that any and every effort to respect Basque history and culture through learning something about the language is well worth while. It was in this spirit that I spent the last several years completing my textbooks for studying Basque, either at home or in a classroom. Dialogs and pronunciation guides are available on-line as MP3 files for downloading. Answers to exercises are provided in the books.

Those who might be interested can visit for more info on Dr. White’s two-volume textbook Aurrera! A Textbook for Studying Basque, along with vocabulary study tips.

7 thoughts on “Nor Naiz, Gu Gara: Linda White”

  1. Dr. White’s development of Aurrera! and the Center for Basque Studies internet based teaching of euskara is a true gift to those of us of Basque descent. Since finishing the series, I have had numerous epiphanies with other Basques in restaurants, airports and on the steets of the Western United States. Eskerrik Asko Linda! My life is much richer because of your efforts.


    1. Kaixo Linda! I also benefited greatly from Gorka Aulestia and Linda White at BSP during the 80s. (ps: a truly brilliant woman and scholar)
      Gretchen Osa Skivington **how do I contact Gorka Aulestia. Anyone?

  2. Tomas, I am so happy to hear that you have reaped such positive results from my books. Isn’t it amazing what our efforts to speak Basque can do?

    I will never forget the day that a friend and I wanted to visit the Biltzar Etxea in Gernika. It was closed! But it was our only day in Gernika, so we knocked on the door. I had only been studying Basque for a few years at that point, but I started to explain as best I could who I was and why I wanted to visit. The doorman was so gracious. His look of stern determination (Cerrado! Closed!) melted away and he gave us a huge smile. Then he opened the doors and gave us a private tour. I will never forget that visit. All because of a few halting sentences in Euskara!


    1. Egun on, Mrs. White!

      My name is Leire Zalakain, I’m 16, and a student in the Bernat Etxepare lizeoa in Bayonne. Me and 3 friends are making a long research report on the place of women in literature, focusing especially in basque literature. Looking at your work, it seems like you know a great deal about this, and we are very much in need of your help. I doubt you’ll ever see this but it’s as close to contacting you as we’ve managed. If you do see this and are willing to asnwer a couple of questions for us, please contact me at It would be very much appreciated!

      Milesker, Leire

  3. Linda,
    I’m from Ohio and have NO Basque ancestory at all,but I’ve become fascinated with the language and the culture over the past few years.Your article was wonderful to read and has inspired me to try “”Aurrera”.I have a friend who lives outside of Bilbo and she has been a wonderful help to me in trying to grasp the language.But in my eyes I should be futher ahead than I am.So I’m going to try your way in addition to keeping correspondence with her.Eskerrik asko eta aste ona izan!

  4. Great site. In the process of learning Basque. It’s a slow go but nothing good or worthwile comes easy! Eskerrik asko!

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