The use of Basque in public space continues to decline in northern Basque Country Euskal Herria

The members of the sociolinguistic cluster presented the results of the street survey on the use of languages ​​in Donostia. (Jon URBE | FOKU)

The sociolinguistic cluster presented the results of the street survey on language use. Olatz Altuna, research director, and Maialen Iñarra, field study leader, presented the main results of the study conducted between September and October 2021. The study was conducted through observation of more than 600,000 people and 200,000 interviews in the streets of Basque-speaking territory.

Across the Basque Country, the use of Basque in public space has been the same for six years, ie 12.6%. If you take the reference from 1989, this figure has increased by 1.8 points, but it should be noted that in 2006 it was 13.7%. The following graph shows the current percentages of language use in public space.

Varies by province

It is in the province of Gipuzkoa that the Basque language is spoken the most (31%). Next comes Bizkaia with 9% use, while the percentage is between 5 and 6% in Araba, Navarra and the North Basque Country.

On the other hand, the use of Basque in Labourd, Lower Navarre and Soule has been declining since 1997. While it was 8.3% that year, the use of Basque fell to 4.7% according to the 2021 survey (ie. 3.6 points less). , while French dominates with 86.1% and Spanish with 7.2%.

In terms of geographical areas, the comparison of measurements taken since 2011 reveals a worrying fact in northern Basque Country: the decline observed in the Lower Navarre and Soule. Usage was 14.6% six years ago, compared to 10.5% in 2021. Note that knowledge of Basque is around 50% in the two territories.

With almost the same result, the use of the Basque language in the Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz urban area, where Basque is poorly mastered, is 1.9%, an increase of 0.3 points since 2016. This small change has also taken place in Labord, with the latest measurement showing a rate of 5.7%.

Among the capitals, it is in Donostia that the use of Basque in public space is highest at 15.3%. In the others, the rate is between 2.5% and 4%. With 4.1%, Gasteiz ranks second, which is quite remarkable considering that the province of Araba is the one where Basque is used the least. In Bilbo the percentage is 3.5%, in Iruñea 2.7%. Finally, it is in Bayonne that the use of Basque in public space is lowest by 2.5%.

Especially in children

On the other hand, the use of Basque among children has increased over the last five years, if we take the whole Basque-speaking area into account. The proportion is 19.3% among 2-14-year-olds, 12.5% ​​among 15-24-year-olds, 11.5% among 25-64-year-olds and 8.1% among those over 64 years.

In the Northern Basque Country, 9.3% of children and young people speak Basque, 4.2% of adults and 2.9% of the elderly. Thus, over the past five years, the practice has increased among young people, while it has decreased among adults.

It is therefore children and young people who use the Basque language the most, and adults and the elderly the least. When children and adults are together, the use of Basque is higher than when they are apart. In some territories, the use of the Basque language by adults doubles or triples to have children as interlocutors.

Finally, the younger the Basque-speaking person, the more feminine the use of Basque in public space. Among the elderly, men use Basque more than women.

Conferences in June

The Basque Sociolinguistic Conference hosted on 22 June by the Sociolinguistic Cluster will be an opportunity to analyze the results of the latest street survey on the use of language. Researchers, technicians, students, politicians and active Basque speakers will use the meeting to share knowledge and thoughts. The event takes place in Bilbo, in the Bizkaia room at the University of the Basque Country UPV / EHU.

In addition, the results of the street survey on language use this summer will be presented on several international sites.

* Article published on and translated from Basque by the editors.

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