Euskara (berriro)

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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Wed Aug 26, 2020 8:58 pm

As for actual language learning news. For Basque, I've finally made the step of learning a natural dialect. It's the dialect of Lekeitio, a town located on the Bizkaian coast, in the region of Lea-Artibai.

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Home to around 7300 permanent residents, although that number swells by three or four times in summer as people who own summer homes come for vacations, or from foreign tourists.

It is one of Bizkaia's most important fishing ports and like seemingly all Basque fishing towns (there must be a sociolinguistic reason that explains this), Basque is still vibrant and strong.

The variety of Basque spoken in Lekeitio is a Western variety of Basque, closely related but distinct to the Basque of the neighbouring town of Ondarroa. Western Basque is often called, as I've done it myself many times here, Bizkaian Basque because it's mostly spoken in that province, but strictly speaking it's also spoken in some parts of Gipuzkoa and Araba, which is why linguists prefer the term Western Basque.

According to 2013 survey data, 86% of Lekeitio's inhabitants are Basque speakers and regular Basque use in the town is 53.2%.

For comparison, in 2016 a survey showed Ondarroa, a town of nearly 9000 people, is comprised of 78.51% of Basque speakers, and 79.7% use Basque regularly.

According to the same data, among the youth that figure of regular use shoots up to a stunning 92.9%. A study released this year in 2020 showed that 85% of these youth used social media in Basque primarily, which is impressive when you take into consideration the barrage of Spanish and English they get.

So, this is a corner of Bizkaia with a high rate of Basque usage, in fact possibly the highest in all of the Basque Country. This was one reason why I chose to learn a dialect from this region. Put simply it's more motivating to be able to use Basque with practically everyone.

The most important reason why I chose Lekeitio in particular is because 1) I might have a chance to work there 2) I found an academic grammar of the dialect, written in 1994: The Basque Dialect of Lekeitio. Anyone can read it because surprisingly enough it was written from the start in English, even though the linguists were all Basques. This was for the benefit of foreign linguists interested in Basque dialectology.

The grammar has enough details to give someone who knows standard Basque an immediate point of entry into Lekeitio Basque. The problem is the lack of audiovisual material, I've found some things on YT but not much. But in this case it almost doesn't matter, because the audiovisual material are the native speakers. Lekeitio is like two and a half hours away via public transport (I don't have a car). I plan to go this weekend and practice.

Here's a segment from a TV series about the Basque language, kind of like the Catalan Caçador de Paraules show, asking about when people use the natural dialect (euskalki) and when they use the standard dialect (euskara batua).



There are three Basque speakers represented, one from Lekeitio (Bizkaia), one from Ezpeize (Zuberoa) and one from Gasteiz (Araba). The first speaker, the Zuberoan admits that Zuberoan lives a kind of internal diglossia, switching from Zuberoan to standard Basque depending on the presence of foreigners. The second speaker from Lekeitio says that his attitude is the contrary, he's a 'Taliban' about sticking to his natural dialect in ALL situations. He doesn't like it when a Lekeitio friend of his, speaks standard Basque to everyone, and he bags him out for it. And he says:

Nik uste dot, danok euskaldun guztijok, bakoitzak berba egin nahi izanez gero lasaitasunaz, ba ulertuko ginela elkarren artian.


I personally think that all of us Basque speakers, if each of us wants to speak calmly, well we'd understand each other.

The third person from Gasteiz says she doesn't think it's a either-or situation, she sees no conflict and her Basque is quite mixed between standard and natural dialect.

I'm a partisan of the Lekeitio guy's way of thinking. Yes the Basque dialects can be very different from each other, especially if you pick them from opposite ends of the Basque Country, but instead of always relying on the standard Basque to do interdialectical communication, or worse, using a foreign language like Spanish or French, what's needed is contact and lots of it between Basque speakers.

Luckily today more than ever Basque speakers are socially and literally mobile. No Basque speaker is ever more than a day's car ride from every single Basque dialect. You can cross an imaginary isoglossic line as easily as crossing a nation state border today.
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby Bilingual_monoglot » Thu Aug 27, 2020 2:26 am

Hello. I'd just like to say that's it's quite interesting to see your posts about language politics in Europe, especially when comparing it to my home in Asia. Like the Indian government could never get away with half of the nonsense the Spanish government does to its language minorities. Yet, at the same time, we have Singapore, which quite similar to France regarding language policy, even though we are supposedly a multilingual country.

There are no monolingual Basque speakers anymore, and haven't been since the last century, but that's a misleading fact. Just because you know a language doesn't mean that it's your language, the language that you most feel comfortable in, the one you think in, the one you default to in times of relaxation or times of stress.


Exactly this. Even here in multilingual Asia, people don't seem to understand this fact.

When I say useless, I mean redundant and extraneous. Everything that Spanish and French does today in the Basque Country, Basque can do the same job.

There's absolutely no reason why Basque can't be the language of all audiovisual production in the Basque Country for example - if not for the fact that Spanish and French are already there, taking up that space like an elephant and squeezing Basque out of air and room. These languages are squatters. Isn't it time to kick them out? My conviction is that it's possible and desirable to recreate a functionally monolingual Basque Country.


I think you might find the Dravidian movement in India to be quite an interesting case study. Because of it, public life in Tamil Nadu is entirely in Tamil, even with official pressure from Hindi and unofficial pressure from English. Not to mention that, in the land of Bollywood, there are still strong, competitive Tamil and Telugu film industries.
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Fri Aug 28, 2020 1:53 am

From a 2019 tweet:

Atzo nere 7 urteko alabarekin Beasaingo osasun zentrora joan eta itzultzaile lanak egin behar izan nituen, nere alabak ez zielako ezer ulertzen erderaz bakarrik zekiten sendagile eta erizainari


Yesterday me and my 7 year old daughter went to the health clinic in Beasain and I had to be a translator, because my daughter didn't understand anything that the Spanish only speaking doctor and nurse said.


The shocking thing isn't that there are Spanish people who can't speak Spanish. The 7 year old girl was born and raised in the Spanish state and has Basque as her first and only language (so far). Good.

No, the shocking thing is that in the officially bilingual Basque Country, doctors and nurses are still allowed to be monolingual Spanish speakers.

Here is an article from 2006 about a miniprotest that Basque speakers mounted in a health clinic in Azpeitia (a majority Basque speaking town) to denounce the fact that this clinic couldn't treat its townsfolk in Basque. The placard behind the figure reads: I'm forced to get medical treatment in Spanish!

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The Basque medical system favours Basque language skills in its hiring process. But as shown by the tweet, there is so much more that must be done to ensure all Basque speakers, if they want, can be treated in Basque.

My mother can do basic things in English but when it comes to her health, there's no question, she goes to her general practitioner and asks for an appointment with a Korean doctor, because when it comes to health and comfort, there's no fooling around. You want to be treated in your mother language.

Korean isn't even an official language in Australia and yet in communities with big Korean populations, you can pretty much be guaranteed to be find vital services offered in Korean, and I don't mean grocery stores. i mean lawyers, doctors, banks.

All the more reason for access to health services in Basque to be universal in the Basque Country, where it is an official language, the indigenous language, and community language in places like Azpeitia (83.6% of the population are Basque speakers). But the population of Basque speakers is irrelevant.

Whereever there is one Basque speaker, no matter how isolated in a sea of Spanish speakers, who wants to be spoken to in Basque, there should be a Basque speaking nurse or doctor or at worst, a translator at hand.
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Fri Aug 28, 2020 2:58 pm

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I read an interesting book called He jugat amb els llops (I played with the wolves) by Gabriel Janet Manila, a Mallorcan author.

It's based off a story that the author collected in 1975 from a man who is the protagonist of the story. He had been sold off by his father at the age of 6 to herd sheep in a remote part of Sierra Morena (in the south of Spain). He lived in the mountains for nearly 13 years, alone, and when they found him again at 19 years of age, he was almost feral.

As you can see from the sample I put up, great care is out into describing the nature, the animals and the life of this boy. Nothing much ever happens in the book, there's not much of a plot to speak of, so don't expect a brilliant adventure. I liked it more because of the luxuriant imagery, the loving way the author describes the wilderness. The book is written in a standard Mallorcan dialect, very similar to the Central dialect save for some vowel changes in the conjugations, but no articles salats.

Jo mateix els matava, els cérvols. Baixaven per una espitrelladura de la muntanya, des del punt més alt. Venien al riu a beure aigua. M'amagava, el ganivet a punt a l'aguait. Al que em passava més a prop li tallava el coll, així, un cop al ganyot. Saltava i es llançava al riu. Allà dintre l'acabava de matar. Només feia dos brams, abans de morir. Només dos. M'agradava sentir entre les mans la calentor de la sang que rajava del coll. De sobte el riu tornava vermell. La sang es diluïa en l'aigua corrent i feia remolins.


I killed the deer myself. They wandered down through the neck of the mountain, from the highest point. They came to drink from the river. I hid myself, knife at the ready, waiting. I cut the throat of the first one to pass me by. It jumped and leapt into the river. It was there that I finished the kill. It cried twice before dying. Only twice. I liked to feel in my hands the hot blood spurting from its neck. The river turned all red. The blood dissolved into the running water and formed eddies.

Espitrelladura is a near hapax legemenon. The only other use I've found is from the 1923 book Dida, written by also Mallorcan author Salvador Galmés i Sanxo. There, he uses it to refer to the slit in the shirt/dress through which one can see the breast. It's perhaps his own invention or his own idiolect, or an extremely local word... it's quite an interesting word to use here, maybe to emphasise the sensuality of the act of killing.

In this fragment from the Dida, the wetnurse is ordered to feed someone else's little girl, abandoning her own sick boy, yellow with anemia.

El crepuscle s’apagava tot descolorit. Un fanal de babor projectava sa llum vermella sobre la superfície demblejant, com una immensa ditada sanguinosa.
La diada es descordà. La nina s’estremí tots amb un somris inefable, batent manetes agitada de plaer. Per l’espitrelladura vessava un pit blanc i ubèrrim, font de consolacions. Però la beneurança de la petita posseïdora, revivà amb foguerada d’odi la mirada morta del nin de la dida, qui intentà agredir-la amb una estrebada convulsa.
I el rescloïment d’amor maternal esclatà amb violència d’explosiu. Amb el pit penjant, com una cascata de llet, la dida en follia rebutjà l’externa, que rodolà sobre les roques, i s’emparà del fill de ses entranyes.
-Mama, fió!


The dusk was bleaching out. A lamp cast its yellow light over the trembling surface, like a huge bloody fingerprint.

The wetnurse unbuttoned her shirt. The baby girl shivered all over with an ineffable smile, clapping her hands in pleasure. Through the slit spilled, a pale and plentiful breast, source of all comforts. But at the blissful happiness of the girl, the glassy expression of the boy suddenly lit up with hatred, and he tried to attack her in a spasm.

The mother's repressed love burst out violently. With her breast hanging out, like a waterfall of milk, the wetnurse threw away the girl who rolled down between the rocks, and took possession of the son of her flesh.

"Suck, my little one!"
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Fri Aug 28, 2020 4:54 pm

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In Mallorca, training a lamb to suckle from another sheep that isn't its mother is called xotinar. From the word xot, lamb. You may need to do this when an ewe dies and its young needs to be fed, or it will starve to death.

It is also used to refer to the action in this photo, where a mother for whatever reason cannot give milk to her child, and so uses an animal as a substitute. In these photos, goats. Many infants lived to see another day like this. The poverty was extreme and many women couldn't afford to hire a dida, a wetnurse.

Pictures come from a Mallorcan historian and ethnologist, called Rafel Perelló Bosch. He is a keen investigator of Mallorcan customs and has a vast knowledge of the pagesia, the peasant life that has been turned upside down by the immense socio-economic changes that took place in the 20th century. Check out his books!
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:18 am

I was in the north Basque Country this weekend. I decided to leave Lekeitio for when there was sun, as it was pouring wet. So I have quite a lot of stuff to say about Iparralde. First some news.

nooj wrote:
What to do? Starting with the legal option, tax the shit out of the secondary homes. If they're going to live there, at least get some money out of it to pump back into the region. And that's precisely what some communes have done, with secondary residences paying up to 60% of the housing tax, often in the face of opposition from powerful interest groups and land developers.

The Basque nationalists are the ones who have been fighting against property speculation from the very beginning.


After the recent regional elections in the north Basque Country, the two new Basque nationalist mayors, from the Basque nationalist coalition EH Bai, in the towns of Urruña and Ziburu, have raised the tax on secondary residences from 20% to 60%. Effective measures to fight back against the atomisation of Basque society. You can't make a Basque society out of houses that are inhabited for only two or three weeks in a year.


Urrugne : le nouveau maire surtaxe les résidences secondaires de 60%

Lors du conseil municipal d’Urrugne, qui s’est déroulé le 25 août 2020, la taxe d’habitation pour les résidences secondaires a été majorée de 20 à 60 %.

Le nouveau maire d’Urrugne, Philippe Aramendi (EH BAI), ne perd pas de temps. Lors du quatrième conseil municipal de son mandat, mardi 25 août 2020, il s’est attaqué directement à la fiscalité des résidences secondaires. Le maire abertzale leur a appliqué une majoration de la taxe d’habitation de 60 %, la surtaxe maximale prévue par la loi.

Le jeune maire abertzale de la commune voisine de Ciboure, Eneko Aldana, a également décidé de surtaxer de 60 % les résidences secondaires, lors du conseil municipal du 27 juillet 2020.

Read more here.

Second, this came up as a subject when I was in a pub with a group of Basques I met and they mentioned far right graffiti in the towns of Espeleta and Kanbo. In one photo you can see that they covered the graffiti supporting the recently jailed ETA member Mikel Barrios:

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The response has been immediate, note the use of nihun (in southern Basque dialects, inon). It reads, no to fascism, not here, not anywhere. The Basque Country has been thankfully spared of the recent rise in support for the far right nationalist party that you can see elsewhere, like in North Catalonia.

Far right French nationalists, the Front National or under its new name Rassemblement National, have only shown scorn and hatred towards 'regional' languages. In this sense they're very much in line with the mainstream French political scene.

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Last edited by nooj on Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby Saim » Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:52 am

It's awesome that you're studying vernacular Basque! Let us know if you ever figure out Biscayan pitch accent. :P
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:08 pm

I went to the towns of Senpere and Sara, both towns are in the province of Lapurdi in the North Basque Country. In Senpere there's nearly 7000 residents and in Sara, about 2600.

I met plenty of Basque speakers in and around this area, as well as plenty of non Basque speakers. I was there for walking. I visited the numerous kapelak (the otoiztegiak, the oratoires, the little saint shrines) around Sara. I followed this itinerary:

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My language praxis in the north Basque Country differs little or none from what I do in the south. I've thought about it quite a lot.

When I need to talk to someone, my words are usually first in Basque "barkatu, euskara ba al dakizu?". Basque speakers say "bai" and we continue in Basque.

French speakers generally freeze, until I repeat in French "est-ce que vous parlez le basque?". Generally if they freeze, or look at me in confusion, then it's probable that no, they don't speak Basque. So why do I still repeat the question of whether they speak Basque, this time in French? Because if I leave any impression, I want it to be this one: a stranger asked me if I speak Basque. I said no. But why don't I speak Basque? Is it really a strange question to be asking, or a perfectly normal question?

However, sometimes I vacillate and use French first, that is I ask them if they can speak Basque, in French. I've almost eliminated this habit which has no reason to exist. The worst thing that can happen, is the slight embarassement caused if the person doesn't know Basque, but that's literally just 1-2 seconds of discomfort for them. The idea that speaking Basque with someone who doesn't know Basque is rude, has infiltrated to such an extent that even the risk of that happening determines what language you start off with. If even I feel it sometimes, then imagine the brainwashing that native speakers feel that restricts their usage of Basque to only people they know speak Basque.

But there is no reason to address someone in French or Spanish first in the Basque Country. None. Speaking first in Basque hurts no one.

In Sara, there's an interesting memento mori inscription on the side of the church belltower:

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I put my translation into southern Basque underneath the original quote. Very similar no?

Oren guziek dute gizona kolpatzen
Azkenekoak du hobirat egortzen

Ordu guztiek dute gizona kolpatzen
Azkenekoak du hobira bidaltzen



Every hour strikes Man
The last hour sends him to the grave.
Last edited by nooj on Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby guyome » Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:27 pm

nooj wrote:Every hour strikes Man
The last hour sends him to the grave.
This motto is often found in Latin on sundials: Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat.
Here is an example on the spire of the St-Vincent church in Urrugne (to keep it Basque themed).
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Re: Euskara (berriro)

Postby nooj » Mon Aug 31, 2020 1:23 pm

The pouring rain slowed down my walking so I arrived at Senpere too late to get the last bus to Donibane Lohizune (Saint Jean de Luz). As usual in rural areas, especially on the weekend the service is not the same as in the cities. As it turned out, missing the bus was a stroke of luck because I met a bunch of Basque speakers.

I was stuck there in Senpere. I went to the bar, saw a group of people and asked if they knew where I could stay for the night. They were younger than me, in their mid twenties. "Euskaraz al dakizue?". They did. They were the ones who talked about the far right graffiti, and their response to that was 'fils de pute'. Basque speakers tend to use Spanish/French swear words even though there are Basque swear words, contrary to the myth that there aren't. It's just that Basque speakers tell me that they somehow lack 'force' or are sufficiently vulgar...

One of them was the nephew of the mayor in Senpere, and after a bit of asking around and prodding, they found me a place in the pilgrim's albergue, even though I wasn't there as a pilgrim, saving me nearly 70 euros in the hotel. Who says speaking Basque doesn't pay...

I had the albergue all to myself and when I checked the guestbook, the last entry from a pilgrim was from the 22th, a week earlier. The Camino still has pilgrims...just less. Judging by the entries, most pilgrims were French, German, Dutch.

After showering, I went and rejoined the group at the bar. They were a group of eight guys born and raised in Senpere. Seven were Basque speakers, only one did not speak Basque despite being Basque and his father being a Basque speaker. For some reason he was not raised in it. And he provided me a fascinating view into the power that one person can have in language dynamics. Because I told them that I live in the south Basque Country, they kind of took it for granted that I didn't speak French, which is also kind of true, and so they spoke Basque with me only. I didn't try to disabuse them of the notion that I didn't speak French.

But as their friend was a French speaker and did not understand Basque to a high level, the language of conversation slid slowly but inexorably to a mix of Basque and French, until I would speak and then by my presence I would pull the language back to Basque.

If only that one friend had learned Basque...! One person has the power to change the language habits of all of his friends. And the collective pull of all of his friends and family weren't enough to convince him to learn Basque, because in Senpere there are classes for adults. Instead he had travelled to South America and learned Spanish. Learning a foreign language before learning his own language...?

The Basque speakers were native speakers, having learned it from childhood. Indeed, one of them told me that he did not speak French until he was 8 years old, which is great. I can't think of many places in the French state where this is still possible.

His mother is from Bilbao, his father from Senpere. North-South marriages or indeed southerners coming to live in the North are not uncommon, I met several southern Basques in just those two days. One was a retiree who had been living in Sara for about 11 years, originally from Donostia. He was gardening and I said hello, g'day as I passed by, he said the same back (in Basque) so I turned right around. I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to speak Basque...

I try not to 'force' a conversation. I'm a quiet, timid person. But I do try to keep an open ear and I'm not afraid to talk to random people.

Another North-South mix was a couple. The husband was from Donostia, the wife from Sara, their three kids spoke northern Basque. I didn't hear a word of French from them during the whole day.

This was in Sara, because as it turned out on that day, there was a small market in the plaza and a marathon.

In the 20th century, smuggling products and even people through the mountains or across the river Bidasoa at night was a business in which a significant proportion of able bodied Basque men engaged in, on both sides, risking imprisonment and even death as the border guards were liable to shoot. Hence the mock up below with the guardia civil and his famous tricorn hat. To commemorate the smuggling trade, the marathon has this theme.

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Basque speakers from around the region came out in force, including a camera team from the north Basque Country media company Kanaldude. It was a safe space to be bathed in Basque.

There were mothers from the local ikastola, Olhain, who set up a tent and sold food and drinks to raise funds. Normally the Herri Urrats festival held in Senpere, would fund the ikastolak but it was cancelled this year so they're in a tight spot. I was happy to eat and drink as much as I could to help. They were making taloa, lomoa, txistorra ardoa, sagardoa, etc. Except that in the north, wine is called arnoa. Due to d~n being articulated in the same places it's easy for these consonants to vary according to dialect.

Better than Australian sausage sizzles that's for sure, Australians just limit themselves to sad sausages + white bread + onions + ketchup.

I talked with many of the mothers working in the tent, who were all either Basque speakers or learning Basque. I was really impressed with a mother who did not speak Basque perfectly but was learning Basque for the sake of her children, a kind of reverse transmission process, whereby the children teach the parents or the parents learn Basque to help their children in their schoolwork. Or to ensure a Basque speaking household.

A sign on a house, as I was leaving Senpere:

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Lagun onekin, orenak labur


With good friends, the hours (are) short

I haven't said anything about the dialects. In Sara and Senpere they speak a Nafar-lapurtera dialect, highly intelligible even for a learner like me who has not had much contact with other dialects from the north. What's different can be understood via context or just...by asking. For example when the guys were calling around to find me a place, they used the word atzeman which surprised me because where I live it means to capture, seize (physically) or to understand, seize upon (metaphorically). By context it must have meant to find, and I commented on it to them, "aizue, atzeman hitzak aurkitu esan nahi du ?" to which they said yes. That is to say, I asked them if atzeman meant aurkitu and they confirmed it for me.

There are southern words that they encountered before and recognise, but they themsleves don't use. It's probably because north Basques get exposed a lot more to south Basque than vice versa. When the nephew told me that he was related to the mayor (auzapeza or mera), he asked me how mayor was said in the south, fearing I didn't understand his word. I said it was alkatea. At that point he was like oh yeeeeah.

From my limited experience with Basque, the experience or sensation of interdialectical navigation between the central dialects spoken in Nafarroa (both upper and lower), Gipuzkoa and Lapurdi) is that of navigating between the different Spanish dialects. I say, experience or feeling because in linguistic terms I think that there's more dialectical difference between these Basque dialects than between the furthest apart Spanish dialects, BUT my personal ressenti is that the same strategies used by an Argentinian to talk to a Mexican, is the same as that used by Basques in these provinces. You don't have to study the other person's dialect, you can go by intuition, whereas I feel with Western Basque and Zuberoan, it requires more effort, maybe even conscious studying or prior knowledge of the differences.

I mean it's not anything different from what Norwegians do everyday. It's normal.
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