AndyMeg wrote:I think your husband may have a point when he says that "the people there don't really speak his language." According to a Google search: "Basque Country (Euskadi) is an autonomous community in northern Spain with strong cultural traditions, a celebrated cuisine and a distinct language that pre-dates the Romance languages." Nowdays they are using spanish a lot more, but I think they still have a strong influence from "euskera" language and culture.
He means specifically the way they speak Spanish here. Basque and Spanish are very very different languages, and if you hear Basque spoken it isn't quite like any other language. Closest thing to an alien language I've ever encountered! Usually there is some overlap, some way in, but that one is just ... weird. Interestingly, there isn't much code-switching going on when the people here speak Spanish - meaning they don't switch to Basque mid sentence, apart from a few words that are in common everyday usage. They do switch a lot to Spanish when they're speaking Basque though, sometimes every second sentence. After speaking with many people about it, it seems to me that Basque is only now coming back into common usage. It was forbidden during Franco's time and since democracy is back Basque has been taught in the schools, but it isn't used everywhere or in all situations. One guy told me that he wouldn't know how to pick up a girl in Basque, because that's a language he only spoke in school during class. This differs from city to city.
Little children speak Basque all the time though and a lot of parents speak Basque with them but Spanish with each other. Also, anything political will be entirely in Basque. As a photographer I was struggling a bit while covering some protests, because I constantly had to ask people to translate for me. Even the schedule was only handed out in Basque! That's especially counterintuitive when the protests are about something relating to the rest of Spain or European issues, because nobody outside the Basque community would have a chance of even knowing what's going on. I had several moments during public events where I just felt like I was on some alien planet and could simply not figure out what was happening. Not very inclusive in that respect. It affects the spoken Spanish on the street very little though because the languages are as different as it can get. The only shifting where Basque comes into Spanish is about 2 or 3 single words. It's common to say "Agur" instead of Adios, but one would only say Kaixo - Basque hola in a shop if one wants to speak Basque. The extremely complicated phrase for thanks is also in common use, no idea how to spell that. One other word I constantly hear is Aita, which means father I believe. Other than that there is no Basque coming into the Spanish used here. However, I have been told by Spanish speakers from other places in Spain that the people here speak as if they learned the language on the street. For them it sounds somewhat "low brow" and rough too. But I guess they were referring mostly to how teenagers and young people speak, and they speak horrifically everywhere.
My husband feels similarly alienated by Spanish in other places. We've been to Madrid and Barcelona - the latter is a place where all the street signs are in Catalan and the language seems to be more commonly spoken than Spanish. Very unlike here where the spoken language on the street is Spanish. The good thing about Catalan is that I understand pretty much 70% of it just hearing it spoken, so it isn't quite such a barrier as Basque, and the people are always super friendly. The Spanish is similarly harsh and as you say with lots of swearing and really silly swearwords too though, in Madrid too. It's always a bit rough on the ears for me! Argentinian is much more pleasant to hear.