Press Release 18/07/2013


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More than six out of ten residents of the Basque Country have some knowledge of Basque

The number of Basque speakers grew by 15,000 between 2006 and 2011

62.8% of the population of the Basque Country aged 2 years and over had some knowledge of Basque in 2011, up by 3.3 percentage points with respect to 2006, according to Eustat data. This population group is differentiated according to its level of knowledge: 790,000 Basque speakers - who understand and speak Basque well - and 542,000 Quasi-Basque speakers, with an average or good level of understanding but with difficulty speaking. Basque-speakers increased with respect to 2006 by more than 14,000 people, whilst Quasi-Basque speakers rose by nearly 82,600.

When an analysis of Basque-speakers is carried out by province, Gipuzkoa remained the province with the highest Basque-speaking population in 2011, with 53.3%, followed by Bizkaia, with 31.2% and Álava, with 23.9%. Moreover, if Quasi-Basque speakers are included, three out of four people in Gipuzkoa had knowledge of Basque, three out of five in Bizkaia and one out of two in Álava.

Graph 1. Population aged 2 and over by province and level of Basque (%). 2011
Source: EUSTAT. Population and Housing Census 2011

With respect to 2006, Bizkaia is the province with the greatest growth of Basque-speakers and Quasi-Basque speakers, 3.9 percentage points, followed by Gipuzkoa with 2.6 and Álava with 2.3 percentage points.

Births, deaths, geographical mobility and the introduction of Basque in education have homogenised and spatially disseminated knowledge of Basque

Data on overall Basque level by province confirm that Basque has been spatially disseminated and homogenised. The natural movement of the population, with its births and deaths, tends to reduce the percentage of Basque-speakers in certain regions and municipalities, as the linguistic competence of those dying is higher.

And above all, geographical movements of the population registered in this period, both through external immigration and through changes of residence between municipalities of the Basque Country, allowed the knowledge of Basque to be homogenised throughout the region. They favoured an increase in the municipalities with fewer Basque-speakers, while numbers occasionally fell in the municipalities with a higher level of Basque.

On the other hand, linguistic mobility, due to learning Basque in formal education or the specific teaching of Basque, increased people's linguistic competence. Some of these people began virtually from scratch while others had a low beginner's level.

The regions with the greatest presence of Basque-speakers were in this order: Gran Bilbao (205,000), Donostia-San Sebastián (139,000), Llanada Alavesa (57,000) and Urola Costa (55,000), although the first three have the largest population. Differences in trends between regions can also be observed, as half of the 20 regions of the Basque Country have increased their percentage of Basque-speakers since 2006: in Álava, Montaña Alavesa (3.1 percentage points), Cantábrica Alavesa (2.1) and Estribaciones del Gorbea (1.8); in Bizkaia, Encartaciones (2.6), Duranguesado (0.5) and Plentzia-Mungia (0.3) and, in Gipuzkoa, Donostialdea and Tolosaldea (0.8 percentage points each). In this sense, the trend observed in previous censuses has been maintained, as the greatest increase in Basque-speakers took place in the regions of Álava with a lower presence of Basque.

In turn, the percentage drop of the Basque-speaking population was particularly noteworthy in Markina-Ondarroa (2.1 percentage points) and Llanada Alavesa (1.8), while in the remaining regions it fell by less than one percentage point.

Donostia/San Sebastián is the only capital that increased the percentage of its Basque-speaking population

Donostia/San Sebastián to the only capital to have increased its percentage of Basque-speakers (0.2 points) as well as Quasi-Basque speakers (2 points). The percentage of Basque-speakers fell in Vitoria-Gasteiz (2.2 points), although that of Quasi-Basque speakers increased (3.4 points). While in 2006, 24.6% of the Vitoria population were Basque-speakers and 22.7% Quasi-Basque speakers, in 2011 Basque-speakers made up 22.5% of the population and Quasi-Basque-speakers, 26.1%. Bilbao was in an intermediate position with a 1.3 point drop in Basque-speakers and a 4.3 point increase in Quasi-Basque-speakers. These disparate trends are largely due to the unequal influx of immigrants during the period, many of whom were foreigners without knowledge of Basque.

Of the 251 municipalities of the Basque Country, 115 saw their percentage of Basque-speakers fall in relation to 2006 (between 0.1 and 7.6 percentage points) and in 136 of them the percentage rose (between 0.1 and 7.1 points). In Gipuzkoa there are 38 municipalities with a percentage of Basque-speakers over 80%, above all in Baliarrain (95.8%) and Orexa (95.3%). In Álava only Aramaio stands out, with a Basque-speaking population of 83.1%; and of the 23 municipalities in Bizkaia above 80%, it is worth mentioning Amoroto (93.4%) and Aulesti (91.6%).

Of the 51 municipalities that make up the province of Álava, the proportion of Basque-speakers rose in 36 and fell in 15. The municipalities with the greatest increase in Basque-speakers with respect to their population include, most notably, Barrundia (7.1 points higher), Okondo (4.7), Arraia-Maeztu (4.5), Kripan (4.4), San Millán/Donemiliaga (4.4), Urkabustaiz(4.2) and Lanciego/Lantziego (4.2). In turn, a noteworthy example of a municipality losing Basque-speakers in relation to 2006 is Oyón-Oion, which dropped 6 percentage points.

Of the 88 municipalities in Gipuzkoa, 43 of them saw an increase in their proportion of Basque-speakers, most notably Leintz-Gatzaga (6.5 points), Gaztelu (4.4), Aduna (4.2), Urnieta (4.2) and Zizurkil (4.1). On the contrary, Ikaztegieta (4.6) and Alegia (4) stood out among the 45 municipalities where the percentage of Basque-speakers fell.

The trends in the municipalities of Bizkaia were similar to those of Gipuzkoa, as the proportion of Basque-speakers rose in 57 municipalities and dropped in another 55. Noteworthy examples of municipalities with an increased percentage of Basque-speakers are Ubide (4.5 points), Murueta (4.5) and Gautegiz Arteaga (4), while the most representative of those with falling proportion were Mañaria (7.6 puntos), Izurtza (7.5), Lanestosa (5.7) and Arantzazu (5.5).

One out of seven inhabitants of the Basque Country speak Basque only at home, while Gipuzkoa stands out with a proportion of one in four

One in three residents of Gipuzkoa have Basque as a mother tongue and one in four speak Basque only at home. This percentage rises to 43% if it includes those who speak both Spanish and Basque. Basque is the mother tongue of 13% in Bizkaia and of 4% in Álava. Regarding the language spoken at home, Basque accounts for 9% in Bizkaia and 3% in Álava, but these figures rise to 15% and 7% respectively if they include those who use both Basque and Spanish interchangeably.

For further information:

Eustat - Euskal Estatistika Erakundea / Instituto Vasco de Estadística C/ Donostia-San Sebastián, 1 01010 Vitoria-Gasteiz Press Service: Tlf: 945 01 75 62 Further press releases on the CPV2011 of the Basque Country Databank on the CPV2011 of the Basque Country

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More than six out of ten residents of the Basque Country have some knowledge of Basque

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Population and housing census
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DE 2011
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