Today, we were quite surprised to hear the court ruling about the Basque language in a case involving an acting civil servant for the City of Laudio.  This worker, after eight courses of the language, and 1,295 hours of class outside work hours, had only managed to certify Level 1 (B1 on the CEFR), when Level 3 (C1 on the CEFR) was required for her post.  It just so happens that this worker, when accepting the post, signed an agreement that there existed the possibility of her being dismissed if she did not meet the language requirements for the post.

In the end, she was dismissed, and filed suit demanding to be recognized as a tenured employee for the city.

The court, which partially agreed with her in the sentencing, has rejected the worker’s demand to be recognized as a tenured employee, but did declare her dismissal null and ordered that she be reinstated to her or a similar post as an acting, if not full, civil servant.

The sentence was based on several arguments, some of them based on law, and others on evaluations that could be considered personal and subjective.  Among them was the one that most caught our attention: “The City seems to forget that the Basque language occupies the fifth post on the ranking of the most difficult languages in the world (and indeed, on some lists, it is the first).”

We are not qualified enough to assess whether the sentence’s legal aspects really fits in with what the law says.  But some of the statements seem to be very hard to back up, especially the one about how difficult the Basque language is.

Languages are not easy or difficult in and of themselves, as is proven by the fact that children all over the world learn their mother tongue at pretty much the same rate.  If some languages were “more difficult than others,” this would be reflected in children’s learning curves, and that just doesn’t happen.

The sentence, when we heard it, reminded us of a poem by Nicolás Fernández de Moratín

Admirose un portugués
de ver que en su tierna infancia
todos los niños en Francia
supiesen hablar francés.
«Arte diabólica es»,
dijo, torciendo el mostacho,
«que para hablar en gabacho
un fidalgo en Portugal
llega a viejo, y lo habla mal;
y aquí lo parla un muchacho».

A Portuguese man was amazed
to see in his childhood
that all the children in France
knew how to speak French.
“This is a diabolical art,”
he said, twisting his mustache,
“that by the time he can speak like a frog,
a nobleman in Portugal
will be old, and will speak it poorly;
and here, a child can speak it.”

Note: after referring to this poem, we think it’s worth noting that the average level of knowledge of languages is much higher in Portugal than it is in Spain.

There are many articles that cover the supposed difficulty of some languages when compared to other, based on very unscientific criteria.  This is because the difficulty of learning a second language depends not only on the individual’s skill at learning (which is absolutely necessary to master a language, or not), but also on the mother tongue the student is learning from.

About ten years ago, we blogged about an article in The Economist that spoke of this, and covered a study carried out by IDIBON, a company specializing in automatic translation (based on artificial intelligence), which ranked languages such as German, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, Spanish, and Mandarin as being more difficult than Basque.

We’d also like to share with you the amazing decalogue written in an article by the Real Sociedad Bascongada de amigos del País (RSBAP) listing the reasons why Basque was a language that was easy to learn for a Spanish speaker:

    1. In Basque, as in English, there is almost no gender distinction.
    2. Its pronunciation is almost identical to that of Spanish.
    3. The five vowels are the same.
    4. Word stress rules fallow the same pattern for all words — and there are no accent marks!
    5. There are very, very few irregular verbs.
    6. Spelling is almost problem-free.
    7. A trip to travel to experience language immersion is very short (unless you’re a Spanish speaker on another continents)
    8. Media in Basque is available to anyone who has internet, all over the world.
    9. The time and rates needed to learn are comparable to those of any other language.
    10. The motivation to start and continue making the effort to learn are rewarded by, among other things, the satisfaction of keeping a thousand-year-old language alive.

We’ll leave you, along with the surprising news from the court about this acting civil servant from Laudio, with the RSBAP article, as well as an article we wrote in September 2013 covering the article in The Economist.

Deia – 1/12/2022 – Euskadi

Una jueza dice que el euskera es difícil y ordena readmitir a una trabajadora

Una jueza de Gasteiz ha ordenado al Ayuntamiento de Laudio readmitir a una trabajadora interina que no logró alcanzar el nivel de euskera exigido para su puesto al argumentar que “la lengua vasca es el quinto idioma más difícil del mundo”.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Cultura Vasca en Madrid –

Euskera fácil en Madrid

La realidad confirma que el euskera es una lengua cuyo aprendizaje está al alcance de “cualquiera que sea capaz de aprender otro idioma además del propio”, dijo y reafirmó el profesor de Filología Vasca de la Complutense de Madrid, Carlos Cid Abasolo, en la cena conferencia celebrada el pasado 23 de mayo en Madrid sobre ‘El mito de la dificultad del euskera’.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

The Economist: Basque is easier to learn than English, German, Spanish…


Last Updated on Feb 2, 2022 by About Basque Country

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