Europe’s oldest language

Spain is such a complex nation, with so much natural beauty, historical significance, and a chequered history. It has been in the news in recent times as a result of the Catalonia region vying for independence from the rest of Spain. But, there is another region, high up in the north of the nation, that also has its own unique identity, language, and customs. We’re talking, of course, about Spain’s stunning Basque Country.

If you’ve never been to the Basque region of Spain, we would definitely recommend a weekend trip to Bilbao, the largest city in Basque Country, lying on the shores of the bay of Biscay. When we look at how Spain’s Basque region has evolved over the years, it’s great to see so much of the identity and culture here has been preserved, and this includes the Euskara language, the oldest in Europe.

What is Euskara?

Euskara is the de facto official language of Basque country, and is also called Basque, or Basque language. Of course, they speak Spanish here as well, but Euskara is actually pretty widely spoken as well. Over three-quarters of a million Basques speak Euskara as their daily language, and it’s a hugely important part of the region’s identity. It is spoken across the Basque region of northern Spain, as well as southwest France, but, also in the northern Spanish area of Navarre as well.

Language frowned upon

Francisco Franco was a Spanish dictatorial general who controversially ruled over Spain from 1939 until 1975. It was during Franco’s rule that the general decided to outlaw the use of the Basque language, citing it as a sign of separatism. The use of the language was frowned upon, especially in areas that hadn’t supported Franco’s rise to power. In fact, for much of the ‘60s and ‘70s there were secret classes in Bilbao, and all across Basque Country, where people could learn the language.

Oldest language in Europe

Nobody is entirely sure exactly where Basque comes from, and what led to it starting to be used. It is the last remaining pre-Indo-European language, and this makes it one of the most iconic in the world. There does seem to be at least a small link to Latin, and the Basque alphabet uses Latin script. There are other languages that people have postulated have hypothetical connections to Euskara. These include Iberian, Georgian, Dogon, and Indo-European. The language is a point of pride for those in the Basque region, and they have gone to great lengths to keep it alive.

If you ever get the chance to visit this northern region of Spain, we highly recommend you take the time to observe some of this ancient and important language. There are so many excellent things that play a part in the culture of Basque country, and the language is one of the key ones. It’s the way the Basque people maintain their identity and autonomy, while singularly being part of a united Spain. Europe’s oldest language is still going strong, and, there are estimated to be almost a quarter of a million more speakers than there were in 2012.