Unique Basque language thriving in Boise

Basque language thriving in Boise

BOISE -- Like in the northern provinces of Spain, the Basque language is alive and well in Boise, and has been for some time.

It's also connected to the curriculum at Boise State. Nere Lete has been teaching Basque for more than 20 years. The native of Donostia is proud to be keeping her language alive.

"Basque culture is very much connected to the fabric of Boise," said Lete, BSU associate professor of Basque studies. "It's actually the only non-Indo European language that is spoken today in Europe."

That means it has been difficult to link its origin with any other language spoken in Europe or Asia, but it started somewhere, right?

"There are different theories but none of them have proved to be true," said Lete.

One of those theories can be traced to mountains outside of Sestoa. Inside caves they found drawings that dated to about 13,000 years ago, and that predates anything that we know of as the start of modern languages.

There are replicas of the drawings in Ekain-Berri museum. The theory continues that the hands that drew these animals belonged to the first Basque men and women.

Over time the region was taken over by the romantic languages Latin, Spanish, and French.

So why not just adapt? "The language is connected to a culture, and they were feisty enough," said Lete.

However, over a 40-year period when Spain was under the rule of general Francisco Franco the language was banned.

A time Lete remembers well, "I am of a generation that actually attended an underground Basque school which is called Ekostola."

Since then it has made a kind of come back, with the adoption of a unified language, and the help of Lete and the Boise State exchange program, which sends students to the Basque Country to continue an immersion education.

"On one hand it is a very old language. On the other hand it is a very young language if we consider that 80 percent of the speakers of the Basque language are younger than 30 years old," said Lete.

As for the future of this ancient dialect, Lete believes it to be in good hands in Boise.

"I think it's because being Basque in Boise is cool," said Lete.


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