NABO's promotion Euskara
an endangered language. Generally, any language that is spoken by less
than a million people today is in danger of soon disappearing. Even
generous estimates of the number of Basque speakers leaves the number
well below this mark.
the last U.S. census, approximately 58,000 Americans self-defined as
Basques. We are undergoing a generational transition as our Basque
community no longer receives a substantial infusion of Basque
immigrants. Now their descendants will decide if and how Basque culture
will endure here in America. Specifically, the issue here is will the
Basque language survive in the U.S.? It is this issue that NABO has
recently actively engaged and resolved to answer affirmatively. First a
look back at where we are coming from in relation to Euskara, and then a
look at how we hope to continue on that road.
we use the word Basque to describe both a people and a language. This
is derived from the French variation (the Spanish is vasco) of “Eusk.”
In their own language—Euskara—Basques refer to themselves as
Euskaldunak. This is one of the rare instances of a people defining
themselves by their language. Euskotar, for example, means ethnic
Basque and can be applied to any Basque whereas Euskalduna is specific
to those who speak Basque.
is all about the language. Literally. In an Idaho Statesman article
during the Jaialdi celebration in July, Diana Lachiondo, 24, a native
Boisean who didn't learn the Basque language until after her first year
of college, stated that ‘Euskalduna,' the word that identifies you as a
Basque person, literally means 'He or she who holds the Basque
language,' " Lachiondo says. "It's this important element that sets us
apart." Lachiondo immersed herself in the language for several months
at an immersion program in the Basque country where students live, play
and learn completely in Basque. Last spring, Lachiondo put those skills
to use, teaching the language at Boise State University while the school
searched for a permanent Basque language teacher.
learned to speak Batua, or unified Basque, the version of the language
established about 20 years ago to preserve the language as an integral
part of Basque heritage. "Without the language, the culture is kind of
neutered," says Lachiondo.
Euskara come from? According to the late Larry Trask, an Euskara
specialist, it doesn't really "come from" anywhere -- it's just been
there for a very long time. The ancestral form of Basque was introduced
into western Europe long, long ago -- at least thousands of years ago,
and maybe even tens of thousands of years ago. Nobody knows. All the
other modern languages of western Europe arrived much later.
related to any other language? No responds Trask. The relatives that
Basque once had have died out without a trace. Basque absolutely cannot
be shown to be related to any other language at all. Trask declares
that some people will try to tell you differently, but they don't know
what they're talking about, and the great majority of them don't even
know anything about Basque.
book written in Euskara was by Bernard Etxepare in 1545. In it he
included this plea:
Euskara, euskara, jalgi hadi kanpora,
Euskara, euskara, jalgi hadi plazara,
Euskara, euskara, jalgi hadi dantzara,
Euskara, euskara, jalgi hadi mundu guztira!
“Let’s take Euskara out,
to the plaza, dancing,
and to the whole world.”
Etxepare’s 1545 book Linguae Vasconum Primi
Now that we
understand that NABO is an uztarri / yoke (see related story page 1),
the effort to maintain Euskara here in America will ultimately succeed
of fail based on what happens at the local level. NABO’s role then is
to provide support and resources. Therefore, NABO has formulated a
three-point program to keep Euskara alive here in the United States that
aim is to sustain and grow the visibility of Euskara. Current efforts
include the annual Kantari Eguna, Euskara masses, promotional materials,
dance instruction in Euskara, Euskara at Udaleku, etc. A new effort
includes establishing our first EUSKARAREN EGUNA or “Day of Basque.”
(celebrated in conjunction with San Francisco Basque Cultural Center’s
anniversary & NABO meeting, Friday, February 17, 2006)
second language is a challenge on various levels. Accordingly, we need
to develop/promote various learning options. Some of these include
existing college credit courses (some online) and study abroad programs
being offered at the University of Nevada, Reno and Boise State
University. Then for the self-motivated, there is plenty of material to
assist you. There are also options to learn the language while living
in the Basque country. NABO is primarily involved in the effort to
support local Basque clubs in their efforts to create their own
classes. They are receiving material support from NABO and the Basque
Government, primarily via the computer software program BOGA which is a
marvelous tool to assist in the learning of Euskara. This coupled with
periodic gatherings to practice together face-to-face we hope will be a
winning formula. These options are detailed on the website
vital to Basque identity. As we have seen, Euskaldun means one who has
Basque or speaker of Basque. That is the message we need to make
visible. This is why we need to make it viable to learn and keep
learning the language.
effort to promote Euskara (the Basque language) here in the United
States will require that we move on several fronts at the same time.
One thrust will be to introduce the language to young kids (pre-schoolers)
in weekly or so gatherings with games and activities in Basque. A
second aim is to more effectively reach teenagers; this ties into NABOs
Udaleku program. Then there are also the adult learners.
need a greater general awareness of the central role of the language in
our culture. To accomplish this, we need to develop a campaign to make
more people aware of the language and also the new opportunities to
learn it. This is what has been--and is being done--in the Basque
country with various campaigns and programs. I looked at some of those
but the phrases and concepts wouldn't work as well here. So we thought
we'd borrow from a local idea: "Got Basque?"
Clearly this isn't an original idea since it is patterned off the Got
Milk? ads, but that does us a service because most folks already grasp
the concept of the ad. Going with this phrase accomplishes several
things--first it's eye catching and already self-explanatory. Second,
it perfectly defines what "euskaldun" means which is one who has Euskara
or Basque. So "Got Basque" is actually a pretty accurate definition
although the grammar in English is a bit strained ("Do you have Basque?"
isn't quite as catchy). Finally, just like needing to have milk with
cookies, it conveys the concept of the desirability of having Euskara
with the culture.
design above makes prominent several things: the "Got Basque?" phrase;
NABO & HABE's partnership in this venture; the call to start learning;
the website to consult for more information and the meaning Euskaldun in
English along with the Basque phrase: "Don't you know that it is Euskara
that makes us Euskaldun?"