Monthly Archives: February 2010

Music is essential to language-learning

ArgiakThere are many ways we can go about learning a new language. Some people choose total immersion, lessons focusing mainly on grammar, informal conversation workshops, a mix of grammar and conversation, and so on. My approach can best be described as: a little bit of everything. 

Of course, my main method of learning Euskara is through my online program: BOGA. However, I also make use of a self-study book in Spanish, I get lots of help from my friend Maite, and I also listen to a lot of music in Euskara.

To prepare for this post, I went through my catalogue of music in Euskara (some were lucky finds at Amoeba in LA and some were sent to me by my friends) and for starters, I’ve decided to talk about one of my favourite bands: Ken Zazpi.

Ken Zazpi, which means minus seven (ken = minus, zazpi = seven), is a Basque rock band formed in 1996 in Gernika. Of the 5 or so albums they have put out, I’m familiar with Bidean (2003) and my personal favourite: Argiak (2007).

One of the main reasons why I took a quick liking to Ken Zazpi, aside from the fantastic sound and touching lyrics, is that they sing their songs slow enough for me to be able to pick up certain words. Have a listen to this song called “Noizbait” (meaning: Someday) from Argiak.

Noizbait – Ken Zazpi

Here are the lyrics taken from Musikazblai – a very helpful resource for searching song lyrics in Euskara. Most come with translations into Spanish, and if you you’re very lucky, in English as well!

Isiltasunak non zauden galdetzen dit noiznahi
zure izena mila aldiz oihukatuz noiznahi
egutegiko orriak aurpegiratu dit
zenbat gau pasatu dudan itzarrik
zu ez zadenetik

Aska gaitezen malkoz esan zenidan noizbait
izango dugu gure aukera seguru noizbait
geroztik noraezean barneko ekaitzetan
arraunean ibiltzen naiz zure mezu baten zain

Bila nazazu izar bako gauetan
gida nazazu zure itsasertzera noizbait

Iritsiko naiz
argiak jarraituz
iritsiko naiz berriz saiatuz
itzuliko naiz
aurkituko zaitut
begiak itxiz gertu sentituz

Bila nazazu argiontziaz
gidatu nazazu itsasertzera

Iritsiko naiz
argiak jarraituz
iritsiko naiz berriz saiatuz
itzuliko naiz
aurkituko zaitut
begiak itxiz gertu sentituz

One of the things that “Noizbait” really helped me with early on in my journey was the pronunciation of zenbat (how much) wherein an N + B turns into an M, so you pronounce it as if it were sembat instead of zenbat. This song also helped me try and figure out how to pronounce the letter S in Euskara. It sounds almost as if it were halfway between an S and an SH and that’s something I would have really struggled with if I had not been able to hear it for myself.

Although music in Euskara can be hard to find outside of Euskal Herria, I’m happy to be able to say that Argiak can be purchased for $8.99 as a digital download on Amazon. With songs like “Gernikan”, “Olatuz olatu” and “Gaueko argiak” it’s well worth it. If Amazon is not your thing, you can also find great music in Euskara through: Elkar (they have a fantastic selection of books, CDs, DVDs, and games although the high cost of shipping and handling is such a turn-off) or Amoeba (I found a fantastic brand new copy of Jabier Muguruza’s Konplizeak for just $7.99)

That’s it for now! I sure hope this will inspire some of you guys to go out and discover some great Basque groups and musicians. Don’t forget to share your discoveries with me too as I’m always looking for more! Aio!

So you want to learn Euskara…

[Note: The following blog entry is a re-post, along with a few modifications, from EuskoCat. I will start this blog by transfering all old content first before uploading new entries, as I don’t want any new readers to miss out on earlier posts, especially this one, which will give you the resources to start learning Euskara!]

When I finally decided that I was serious about learning Euskara, I decided to search for a way to learn the language while at the same time not have to resort to eating ramen noodles for the rest of my life. I decided to do a little research into the methods people use to learn Euskara and here are some you can try out:

  • Euskara in the Basque Country – This could very well be the most expensive option for people living outside of the the Basque Country, however if you choose this route you will have the benefit of a total immersion in the language as well as the culture. There are many euskaltegiak (Basque Language Centers) all over the Basque Country and you can choose between public and private adult schools.
  • University courses – As far as I know, there are only two Universities in the United States that offer courses in Euskara. The first is Boise State University which offers a Basque Studies Minor and Certificate and the the second is the University of Nevada-Reno which offers a Basque Studies Minor both in-campus and online.
  • BOGA programBOGA is an online program designed to teach adults Euskara and to provide them with a knowledge base sufficient enough to pass the EGA (Euskararen Gaitasun Agiria)- which is a proficiency test and mandatory for anyone who wishes to work for the Basque Government. The BOGA program is, compared to the first two methods, quite affordable as the current tuition is $50 per semester and it comes with the support of a teacher whom you can email questions to as well as have Skype conferences with (to practise conversation and pronunciation).
  • Self-study books – There are a few books out there designed to help students learn Euskara and they range from the simple: Beginner’s Basque by Wim Jansen, to the more complex: The Basque Language: A Practical Introduction by Alan R. King. When I first started learning about Euskara, a number of people told me it would be sheer madness to try and learn it by myself, however I don’t think it would be wise to discredit all of the self-study books. I think that some could be used an introduction to the language, especially if you are not completely sure if you want to seriously pursue it or not and it can also be used to supplement your current program.

I am currently making use of the BOGA program as my main resource for learning Euskara. I chose it as the $50 per semester fee along with the online access was a great fit for me because it wouldn’t burn a big hole in my wallet and it wouldn’t require me to have to lose time for work.

The program itself is entertaining as it is filled with interesting sketches, exercises and tests. However, it also has its flaws, the major one being its propensity for crashing for a few hours. I also find that the explanations in English sound quite unnatural at times, as if it were translated into English by a non-native speaker and although that can easily be ignored, it can sometimes cause a bit of confusion. But I firmly believe that even with those flaws, it can be a very useful tool.

I am also studying Euskara through a book called Bakarka I: Método de aprendizaje individual del euskera by J.A. Letamendia. This teaches Euskara (or Euskera as it is called in Spanish) through the medium of the Spanish language. I find that whenever there is any concept or grammatical rule that I cannot quite understand when explained in English, I need only read it in Spanish and it suddenly becomes clear.

That’s it for now! On the next post, I’ll be talking about how music can very beneficial to any language learner. Aio!