Basic Basque Phrases for Travelers to Basque Country

bilbao-rio-nervion In 2009, when I was preparing to move to Spain as an au pair, all I knew about the country were a few random facts stored away in my memory from a report I did in college, and maybe some bits and pieces from a high school Spanish class, like, they use vosotros there. I knew that they spoke more languages than just Spanish in certain parts of the country, but I didn’t know where exactly, or what the languages even were. 

guggenheim-puppy

At that point, I wasn’t anything near the Hispanophile I am now, and my lack of knowledge about Spain was probably embarrassing considering I had decided to move there. And Basque Country? I knew nothing about it, I had only heard of it a couple of months prior to my move – a friend of mine urged me to go as we pored over his photo albums of his jaunts in Bilbao and San Sebastián.

town-hall-bilbao

I knew nothing about Euskera, the language of the Basque people, or its fascinating history as a language isolate and one of the oldest languages still spoken in Europe. And I certainly didn’t know I’d end up living there and picking up (very small) bits of the language! While it’s not necessary to know Basque to travel in Basque Country, it’s helpful to know a few key phrases–any effort goes a long way and is very appreciated by the people here, especially in the small towns where Basque is spoken more than Spanish. Nobody ever really expects the guiri to say something in Basque, so let me help you charm over some locals with some basic Basque phrases…I promise it won’t be painful! 

Basic Basque Phrases for Travelers to Basque Country

basic-basque-phrases

KAIXO – HELLO
AUPA – HEY
ZER MODUZ? – HOW ARE YOU?
MESEDEZ – PLEASE
ESKERRIK ASKO – THANK YOU
ONDO – GOOD
ONGI ETORRI – WELCOME
BAI – YES
EZ- NO
BARKATU – EXCUSE ME/SORRY
ON EGIN – BON APPETIT
ONDO IBILI – BON VOYAGE
AGUR – GOODBYE
EGUN ON – GOOD MORNING
ARRATSALDE ON – GOOD AFTERNOON
GABON – GOOD NIGHT
EZ DAKIT EUSKARAZ HITZ EGITEN – I CAN’T SPEAK BASQUE
 
basque-alphabet
 
See, that wasn’t bad! Arm yourself with these phrases, and you’ll be ready to take on Basque Country. 
 
Need some help with the pronunciation? Check out this website that uses native language speakers to contribute soundbites for thousands of words in many languages, including Basque.
Ondo ibili!

Comments

  1. says

    Great blog! As a Spanish expat living in US myself (I’m from Barcelona) I loved to find your blog talking about your experience living in Spain!
    Keep the good work going, I’ll read you from now on 😀
    Cristina recently posted…Pictoplasma BookMy Profile

  2. says

    hola Christina! i studied spanish a while back in the hopes of traveling to Spain but opportunity never presented itself. Its great exploring the fascinating country through your blog, you have captured it simply in a manner its easy to understand. :)
    Shiko Nguithi recently posted…Stay Calm and Visit KenyaMy Profile

  3. Iñaki says

    Hi Christine,

    I like your way of life, I love your blog.
    I have seen your Guggenhim Museum’s picture and I find it just parfait.
    Vivo en Bilbao, si algún día te apetece encontrarnos, tomar algo juntos y charlar un rato a mi me encantaría.
    En todo caso que te vaya bien, seguiré tus experiencias y fotos por Internet.
    Buena suerte !!!

    • says

      Eskerrik asko por leer mi rinconcito del Internet, Iñaki! Bilbao y Euskadi es un autentico tesoro y estoy muy orgullosa de vivir aquí. Gracias por el apoyo y a ver si algún día nos coincidimos en el centro del mundo! 😀

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