Learning Euskara Remotely

I spent the 1991-92 school year in Donostia, with the goal of learning Euskara. I took a semester of intense Euskara classes, essentially completing two years of coursework in that one semester. My teacher, Nekane, was ever-so patient with all of my questions, my delving into the minutia of why this word went there, questions I never asked about my native English. I wanted to know why Euskara was structured the way it was, why those words meant what they did. It was a wonderful experience.

It was also a squandered opportunity. I didn’t learn nearly as much as I wish I had. Instead of practicing my newly earned language skills with native speakers, I hung out in bars with fellow Americans drinking kalimotxo and playing foosball. I spent nearly every weekend with my dad’s family in Bizkaia and, while you might think that would have been a great chance to practice my budding language skills, their Bizkairaz was so different from the Batua I was learning in class that I couldn’t really communicate with them effectively. It was so much easier to just break into Spanish, even though my Spanish was at a rudimentary high-school level.

My one big regret from that trip is that I didn’t master the language. And life since then has seen me master the language of math and physics in pursuit of my career with no time to revisit Euskara.

For some of us, COVID-19 brings an opportunity to fill in some of those gaps that we’ve always wished we had time to fill. I can’t say I’m one of them, as I’m lucky enough to still be able to do my job full time. But, for those of you who might have some extra time on your hands, maybe learning a little bit of Basque is in the cards.

I was recently asked about what resources there were for learning Basque online or remotely (thank you Vicki for asking the question!). If you are lucky enough to live near one of the larger Basque clubs, they may have resources available. For example, Txoko Ona, the Basque Club in my hometown of Homedale, has offered Basque language classes. But, if you are more isolated than even Homedale, far from any Euskaldunak that you can learn and practice the language with, there are a few resources online that might help.

First, in nice bit of serendipity, Hella Basque! has begun her own trek into improving her Euskara skills. She is sharing her adventures on her YouTube channel. As she explores learning Euskara, she is sharing some of the resources she has come across.

Unfortunately, there is no Duolingo for Euskara yet. There is a petition and multi-year effort, with volunteers at the ready, to try to make this happen. The more upvotes they get for this petition, the greater the chance a course might be made. If so inclined, check it out. As part of that effort, they have compiled their own list of Euskara-learning resources that may prove valuable for new learners.

Memrise has a course teaching some very basic vocabulary. As a starting point, this might hit the spot. Another Memrise course, Nire hitzak, adds even more vocabulary. And one more, Basic Basque, goes into grammar a bit more.

Ikasten.net has an online course for English speakers (as well as others) to learn Euskara. I haven’t tried it, so can’t comment on how good it might be, but I’m thinking of checking it out. Some of the online comments say that people who have completed this course come away with a very good mastery of the language.

Gorka Ioseba has a PDF course that you can download for free.

Bagoaz has an app from GooglePlay to teach aspects of Euskara.

There are also a few YouTube videos to help teach basics. For example, Zuhaitz has a series of videos teaching fundamentals of Euskara while Easy Basque has a series that goes into the grammar. And, keeping with online videos, Euskaragara has a series that go into some detail about some Basque words.

There are some great online dictionaries. My favorite, for English-Basque, is by Mikel Morris. I have his pocket dictionary at home, but his online Morris Student Plus is certainly convenient and, seemingly to me, very complete. Elhuyar also has an online dictionary, with translation between Euskara and Spanish, English, and French. Together, these two dictionaries should have you covered.

Sorgina Txirulina has stories in Euskara aimed for younger readers. The goal is to have simpler stories but completely in Euskara to both practice reading and comprehension. At least for some stories, they have audio files so you can hear the pronunciation.

If what you really need is practice, there are a few online places you can go. Mintzanet connects Basque speakers all over the world, of different skill levels, so that you can practice real time with actual speakers. There is also a Discord channel bringing together Basque speakers. I’ve never used Discord so don’t have a clue about how effective this is. But, if what you really need is to hear the language, these two resources might be perfect.

I hope these help. If anyone knows of other online resources, please share!

3 thoughts on “Learning Euskara Remotely”

  1. I use a program called “italki” and language learning app based out of England I believe. I Skype with my instructor, who is excellent btw. She offers three levels of instruction from a more informal conversational type approach with corrections as you go for 12.00/hr to more intensive grammar which is more expensive. Currently there are 3 instructors teaching Euskara and the lowest price was 4.00/hr. The app for italki is available for iOS or android. I love it.

    I also go to classes at Txoko Ona in Homedale ID. Gloria is the instructor there and she is wonderful! Very fun and encouraging. Check the NABO website for Euskal Extxeas near your area that may offer Classes in Euskara.

    Thanks for the other resources. Morris and Elhuyar are both excellent helps!

    1. Thanks Mary! Not sure I’m dedicated enough yet for something like that, but it does stemlike a good route to really learn the language remotely.

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