Is Basque really that hard? – and why you should learn it

There is an old myth that says that since no Basques were going to hell, the devil decided to learn Basque so he could corrupt them and send them to hell.  But after 7 years of listening in on them, he couldn’t understand any of it.  The amount he learns depends on the retelling, from merely forgetting the vocabulary and grammar to only learning “Hello” and “good bye” or “yes” and “ma’am”.  Others in recent times have said that it is impossible to learn as a second language at all.  These are, of course, myths, but there is something to be said of the complexity of Basque – and why you should learn it anyway.

Some features of Basque that make it one of the “craziest” languages out there – it has 12 noun cases – morphological markers that show what function a noun performs in  a sentence – and follows an ergative-absolutive case system, which is different from the nominative-accusative system found in many Indo-European languages.

In ergative-absolutive languages, the subject and object are grouped together, while the transitive agent takes the ergative marker.

Basque is often regarded as the most consistently ergative language in the world.  Most verbs in Basque require an auxiliary that carries most of the information normally put on the main verb in other languages – tense, mood, and person.

Now you may be asking yourself – why would I want anything to do with this crazy language?  As a linguistics major, I was intrigued by the complexity of it, and since it is a language isolate, I know there is no other language on earth like it, so I had to give it a try.  For the non language buffs, there is pull from the culture, music, and food.  If you are intimidated, take some advice from Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months and think of all the reasons why the language is easy rather than hard.
For Basque:

    • No new alphabet to learn
    • No genders or noun classes
    • No weird sounds
    • If you know Spanish or another Latin-based language, lots of newer words are borrowed


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2 Responses to Is Basque really that hard? – and why you should learn it

  1. rodrig52 says:

    And how about your experience? 🙂

  2. hjbailey says:

    I was interested in the language and culture. So why not give it a go and learn the lingo. I spoke to a French language teacher and when I told him of my interest he replied,” Impossible” !!! No camparison tween French and Basque ! that sank my canoe !

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