LangFocus and the Zany Basque Language

It’s a great time for bite-size learning. Our collective attention span is waning. We have little appetite for paying close attention to one thing for long periods of time. This observation isn’t novel, but most observers forget to mention something else: there’s never been a better time to be a impatient learner. My 13-year-old daughter watches almost no television, but she watches plenty of YouTube videos. She watches the goofy ones and the cat videos, but a lot of what she watches (and a lot of what I watch) are remarkably well made informative videos created by passionate individuals. Here are a few, just off the top of my head.

If you sat down and watched all the videos made by just these four people, I promise you would learn a lot.

Here’s one that just caught my eye: LangFocus. I noticed it because I have a fascination with languages, and Basque is well-known as a bizarro language. So I landed here:

Basque – A Language of Mystery

As I watched it, I asked myself this question: is watching this video any more informative or any faster than reading a Wikipedia article on the same topic? The script for a video like this is actually quite short. Wikipedia will deliver more data, and more quickly too if you read it top to bottom in one go. But that’s just the problem. We won’t read the article from top to bottom. We’ll read the first paragraph and then skim down the headings and look at a few pictures. The video, on the other hand, has the ability to stick us in place. It’s a better babysitter for your pathetic attention than a book. A well-crafted video can lead us through the material in such a way as to be inspirational, or at least arresting. It’s a “point of entry” for learning. If you get engaged, then you may become willing to do more strenuous forms of research. It’s a vector for learning. The mosquito that delivered the knowledge disease.

Beyond all this is the presenter’s voice and personality. Once you get to know someone like C.G.P. Grey, you appreciate more and more his odd take on the world, and you’re happy to follow him to unusual topics that you wouldn’t ordinarily seek out.

So what about Basque? Nobody has any idea where Basque came from. LangFocus auteur Paul Jorgensen steps us through the basics, but what I really like is when he carefully breaks down the grammar for us word by word.


I get to hear it pronounced and then explained. That’s good stuff!

Now I’m a fan of LangFocus, and I plan to watch a lot more of them. Time to get busy. Those YouTube videos aren’t going to watch themselves.

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