Basque stands alone among the languages of Europe. Despite many efforts, no connection between Basque and any other language has ever been proven. Structural similarities with certain languages in Asia have been noted, but as yet it must be considered a completely isolated and independent language.
Basque is spoken on both sides of the Spanish-French border by about one million people. Of these, about 900,000 are in Spain, living mainly in the provinces of Guipúzcoa, Vizcaya, and Navarra. in France they live in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the southwestern corner of the country. Bilbao, the capital of Vizcaya, is the major city of the Basque region. Most Basques are bilingual, speaking Spanish or French (or both) in addition to their own language.
There are a number of widely divergent dialects of Basque. In some the language is known as Euskaro, in others Eskuara. The letter z is pronounced s (e.g., zazpiseven), while the unusual combination tx is pronounced ch (etxehouse). There is both a soft r and a hard r, the latter usually spelled r (cregeking). The definite article is merely the suffix -a (gizonman, gizonathe man), while the plural is formed with the suffix -k (gizonakthe men).
As the only non-Indo-European language of Western Europe, Basque would appear to be the sole survivor of those languages spoken there before the Indo-Europeans arrived. It was probably part of an extended group that included not only Basque but other languages of southern Europe as well.
The name of the game of jai alai comes from Basque. Jai means "festival" in Basque, while alai means "joyous."