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!

6 thoughts on “Music is essential to language-learning

  1. Pingback: Basques around the world » Boise’s Patty Miller Awarded, learning Basque with Ken Zazpi and Egunkaria

  2. Isabel Zialcita Post author

    Thanks! I was torn between “Noizbait” and “Ilargia” because those are my two fave Ken Zazpi songs but in the end, the first song I heard was the one that won. 🙂

  3. Kún

    If you know any other good bands who sing in Euskera, I really want to know. because most of the Basque music I heard, well let say that I did not like it too much 🙁

    But for now, I’m gonna check Ken Zazpi out!

    1. Isabel Zialcita Post author

      Hi Kún!

      I’ve actually been sampling a lot of music in Euskara, so I can recommend a few to you. I’ve noticed that most of the music that’s easier to find usually fall into two genres: ska or folk and I like both but I have to be in a certain mood. It’s not like Ken Zazpi’s pop-rock that is easier to get into.

      Anyway, here are a few sounds you can listen to:

      – Fermin Muguruza “Euskal Herria Jamaika Clash” It’s pretty cool and I love the juxtaposition of euskara and reggae, it totally works, I think.

      – Hertzainak “Aitormena” That Youtube video I linked to is videoke-style so you can, you know, sing along… 🙂

      – Sorotan Bele “Marinelaren zai” This is one of my favourite songs in Euskara.

      – Mikel Erentxun eta Amaia Montero “Lau teilatu” The original version by Itoiz is also nice.

      – Kerobia “Rose” I actually just discovered this today and it’s pretty cool.

      So, I hope you find something new to listen to! Enjoy!

  4. Paul Kirk

    Making contact in 2013 is a little late but as an English fan of the Basque Country and Athletic I wante to say I found Argiak this year and play it over and over. Understanding Basque would be nice but at the moment the sound is enough. I also recommend Ken Zaspi to friends so let’s hope we casn get them a bigger following in the UK. Itxaropena is a personal fave.If you know of a lyric translation site please let me know. if you can recommend any Basque/folk/rock bands that would also get a big thank you. I promise not to take 3 years to reply!


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