There have never been so many bilingual speakers in the Basque country. This is one of the key findings of the latest 6th Sociolinguistic Survey [VI Encuesta Sociolingüistica] published recently by the Government of the Basque country. According to the latest figures presented (2016), 33,9% of the population in the Basque Country over 16 y.o claim to be Basque speakers (631,000 people), 19,1% (356,000) claim to be passive speakers, that is, they understand it but they do not speak it fluently, and the remaining 47% (877,000) do not speak or understand Basque. “These are remarkable figures if we consider that today, there are 212,000 more fluent speakers of Basque than in 1991” – stated Patxi Baztarrika, Vice-minister for Language Policy at the Basque Country and Chair of NPLD, referring to the data presented.
One of the most interesting changes in the vitality of the Basque language is the increasing number of young speakers. Back in 1991, only 25% of speakers between 16 and 24 years of age claimed to be Basque speakers. Today, that figure has skyrocketed to 71,4%. “There is no doubt that we see these figures with enthusiasm. This is a merit of the Basque society as a whole” – stated Baztarrika – “but we must continue working at least as good as we have done so far”.
Baztarrika presented these figures along with Mr. Mikel Arregi, Director of Euskarabidea, the Institute for the Basque language in Navarre, and Mr. Mathieu Bergé, President of the Public Office for the Basque Language in Iparralde (the French Basque territory).
The full survey will be published in 2017.