If you’re new to the Basque language (Euskara) or are travelling to the Basque Country, this Basque travel phrase guide uncovers all the essential facts about this fascinating language and teaches you some useful Basque phrases that will enrich your travels.
Just like all my other phrase guides, this Basque travel phrase guide gives you a well-rounded set of practical phrases and vocabulary which will help you have meaningful conversations and interactions with the locals.
For ease of use, I’ve included the transliteration for each phrase which means you can read as if you were reading English, but you’ll be magically speaking Basque!
Let’s take a closer look at the Basque language. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Table of Contents
- Where is Basque spoken?
- A Quick History of the Basque Country
- What is the Basque language called?
- What does ‘Basque’ mean?
- How many people speak Basque?
- Basque Alphabet
- Basque Pronunciation
- 99 Basic Basque Phrases for Travellers with Audio
- Useful Basque Phrases for Travellers [Infographic]
Where is Basque spoken?
The Basque language is spoken along the Spanish-French border near the Bay of Biscay. The Basque Country consists of seven different historical regions, which simply put, means the land where the Basque language is spoken – not to be confused with being a sovereign state.
Three of the seven regions are located in France; Labourd (Lapurdi), Basse-Navarre (Nafarroa Beherea), and Soule (Zuberoa) and the other four are in Spain; Vizcaya (Bizkaia), Álava (Araba), Guipúzcoa (Gipuzkoa), and Navarra (Nafarroa).
A Quick History of the Basque Country
The Basque language is a rare and special language that is worth learning about. Firstly, it doesn’t have a home in the political sense of the word. What is known as the Basque Country is actually a term used to describe the geographical location where Basque is spoken.
What’s so fascinating about the Basque language is how little we know about where we came and how it evolved. In fact, it’s a mystery! No one knows where it came from. Linguistically speaking, the Basque language is totally unrelated to any other languages found in Europe and is a language isolate to any other known living language.
The Basque language is full of totally unique characteristics not found in the Indo-European languages it’s surrounded by which means it’s origins have to have been completely different and separate. Some have even tried linking Basque to Celtic languages, Finnish, languages in northern Africa and even native American languages, but nothing quite fits the bill.
Even though the Basque language has been spoken for more than 2,000 years it never gained official language status. Since it was never properly protected or promoted its development as a literary language was slow compared to other languages. The first printed book in Basque wasn’t published until 1545.
At one point in its history, speaking the Basque language or mentioning its culture was almost entirely forbidden during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) with thanks to the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The language was suppressed so much and suffered a severe blow that it wasn’t until after Franco’s death and when Spain became a democracy that the language was given a chance to slowly bounce back.
Today, the Basque language is protected by the Basque Language Academy (pictured above) which was founded in 1919 under the name of Euskaltzaindia, which literally means ‘The society of guardians of Basque’. It wasn’t until 1956 that their first public meeting was held but by 1968 great strides has been made in creating a unified Basque language or Euskara Batua. Thanks to their hard work, Basque is now taught in schools and since 1982 now have official language status in Basque-speaking areas of the autonomous province of Navarre.
What is the Basque language called?
You might be in northern Spain or south-west France, but when visiting places like Bilbao or Donostia-San Sebastián, you’re in Basque Country (País Vasco in Spanish, Pays Basque in French, Euskal Herria in Basque).
The name “Basque” is what it’s called in Spanish whilst it’s called “Euskara” in the Basque language. You’ll hear Euskara spoken throughout the Basque Country and see the language used everywhere from train schedules, to newspapers, and restaurant menus so it’s worth brushing on on some basic Basque phrases to enrich your travels.
What does ‘Basque’ mean? The Etymology of ‘Basque’
The name of the Basque region in Euskara is called Euskal Herria. The word herri can be translated in many different ways including nation; country, land; people, population and town, village, settlement. Paired with Euskal, an adjective, it literally means the”country/nation/people/settlement of the Basque language”.
How many people speak Basque?
Almost 2.9 million people live in the Basque Country, yet the Basque language is spoken by 537,860 people, with 464,000 of those living in Spain.
For centuries, the Basque language didn’t have its own orthography so the Latin alphabet and its spelling conventions were adopted. For certain sounds that didn’t exist in the Latin alphabet, these were supplemented by using additional devices to recreate and emulate them.
Because the Latin alphabet was used, the Basque alphabet uses the same letters as the English alphabet with the addition of the letter ñ which is used after the letter n and before the letter o.
Some letters are only used in loan words and not in genuine Basque words and are only used to preserve the spelling of foreign words. These letters are c, q, v, w, and y.
Basque words always pronounce their vowels just like in Spanish or Italian (crisp and open, even if unstressed)
In the phonetic transcription ‘dd’ is an intervocalic consonant as pronpunced in quick American English.
Useful Basque Phrases and Words for Travellers with Audio
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P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the pronunciation column, turn it to landscape mode. For some reason, tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!
|Hello (greet someone)||Kaixo||kyshoh|
|Hello (in response to a greeting)||Aupa ||oupah|
|Good morning||Egun on ||egoon on|
|Good night||Gabon ||gabbon|
|Goodbye (to someone leaving)||Agur ||aggoor|
|Goodbye (when you leave)||Agur ||aggoor|
|How are you?||Zer moduz? ||ser moddoos?|
|I’m am very well, thank you||Primeran nago, milesker ||primmeran naggoh, mijesker|
|Good, thank you||Ondo, eskerrik asko ||ondoh, eskerrik askoh|
|What is your name?||Nola duzu izena? / Zer izen duzu? ||nolla doosoo isena? / ser isen doosso?|
|My name is…||… dut izena / …deitzen naiz||…doot isena/ …daytzen nice|
|It’s nice to meet you||Urte askotarako ||oortay askottaddakoh|
|Thank you||Eskerrik asko ||eskerrik askoh|
|You’re welcome||Ez horregatik ||es orregatteek|
|Excuse me||Barkatu ||barkatoo|
|I’m sorry||Sentitzen dut ||senteetzen doot|
|I don’t understand||Ez dut ulertzen ||es doot oolertzen|
|I only speak a little bit of Basque||Euskara pixka bat besterik ez dakit ||ay’ooskadda pishkabbat besteddeek es takeet|
|Can you please repeat that slowly||Hori berriz eta mantsoago esaterik bai? ||oddi berris ettah mant’shohaggoh essatereek bye?|
|Where is/are…?||Non dago/daude…? ||non daggoh/dowday…?|
|Who?||Nor? / Nork? ||no?/nork?|
|How much is this?||Zenbat ote da? ||senbat ottay da?|
|How much does that cost?||Zenbat balio du? ||senbat balee’oh doo?|
|Where is the toilet?||Komuna non dago? ||komoona non daggo?|
|Can I have…||…. jarriko didazu? ||…yarriko deedasoo?|
|I would like…||… nahi dut mesedez ||…nye doot messedes?|
Food and Drink
|The menu, please||Platerren zerrenda ekarriko didazu, mesedez?||plattterren serrenda eckarrikoh deedasoo, messedes?|
|Two beers, please||Bi garagardo, faborez||bee garagardoh, fabboddes?|
|A bottle of house red wine, please||Botila bat etxeko ardo, mesedez||bottiyah bat etcheko ardoh, messedes|
|Some water, please||Ur pixka bat, mesedez||oor pishkah bat, messedes|
|I’m allergic to…||…. -(r)i alergia diot||…-(dd)y allerghee’ah dee’ot|
|I’m a vegetarian||Barazki-jalea naiz ||baddaski-yalay’ah nice|
|Can we have the bill, please?||Kobratuko diguzu, mesedez? ||kobbratookoh deegoosoo, messeddes?|
|What do you recommend?||Zer gomendatzen duzu? ||ser gomendatzen doosoo?|
|The meal was excellent||Jatordu ederra izan da ||yattordoo edderrah isan dah|
|Keep going straight ahead||Zuzen-zuzen jarrai’zazu ||soosen-soosen yarrye-sassoo|
|Turn left||Ezkerrera jo||eskerreddah yoh|
|Turn right||Eskuinera jo||eskoonyaiddah yoh|
|I’m lost||Galdurik naiz||galdooreek nice|
|0||huts / zero||hootch / seddoh|
|70||hirurogeita hamar||eeddooddoggay tammar|
|90||laurogeita hamar||la’ooddoggay tammar|
|What time is it?||Zer ordu da?||ser ordoo da|
|It’s …||…dira / da||…deedda / da|
|I need a doctor||Sendagile bat behar dut||sendaggeeyay bat bay’ar doot|
|I don’t feel well||Ez naiz ondo sentitzen||ennice ondo senteetzen|
|Call the police!||Poliziari deitu!||poleesee’addy daytoo!|
|There is a fire||Sute bat dago||soottay bat daggoh|
Useful Basque Phrases and Words for Travellers [Infographic]
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Sources / A big thanks to Jose Miguel Ramirez Giraldo from Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira (Technological University of Pereira in Colombia) for the translations / Beginner’s Basque
Going to the Basque Country? Check out my travel guides
Want to know more about learning languages? Start here!
- How to Learn Your First Foreign Language in 8 Simple Steps: A Beginner’s Guide
- Language learning tips: 11 Polyglots Reveal The Secrets of Their Success
- Top Language Learning Resources You Should Use
- 11 Life-Changing Reasons Why You Should Learn a Language
- 42 beautiful Inspirational Quotes for Language Learners
- Top 10 Best Ways to Learn a Language Better and Faster
Over to you!
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