Lur goes to... Euskaltegia

23 May 2017 09:58 | Anonymous

Message from Euskaltegi professors

On Monday, May 8th, 2017, I had the chance accompany a Canadian friend to visit the local Basque Language Centre in Oñati (Euskaltegi) to take part in his first Basque language (Euskera) class.  As a student in the Master’s program in the Sociology of Law at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL), he had the knack of getting himself into the midst of discovering something new – this time, a new language, my mother language.

He entered the classroom wide-eyed, and unsure of how the next hour would turn out.  And, just as expected, we uncovered the unexpected. He was brought into a world of learning on the fly, as the course, and the students, who had been progressively learning throughout the last six months, took no breaks to ensure he caught up expediently.  Yet, I encountered this as a challenge rather than an obstacle. With the help of everyone in the classroom, he took on the courage to participate, and learn many new things.

Moreover, as the class taught to him, the language has a deeper connection than spoken word, but a historical tie to the political and cultural struggles of the Basque people.  Learning about the history of Euskera is just as interesting as learning the language itself.  Euskara is believed to be a ‘language isolate’ that is, it is not related to any Indo-European language (or even any other in the world).  Rather, it is unique unto itself.

My friend left the class with a mixture of confusion, excitement, and hope, as well as a new word “oso ondo” – meaning “very well” in English.  This is just the beginning of a discovery into the world of a new language.

After accompanying my friend to his house I came back to the Euskaltegi to talk with Roberto (my friends' teacher), he told me he has been teaching Euskera since he was 18 (I must admit I did not have the courage to ask him how old is he now).  Roberto told me that the Euskera teaching has been his calling in life, what makes him one with his people and his culture.  Roberto told me that since the 1970’s the people who he knew started teaching Euskera at night schools called Gau Eskola, later they establishing the Oñati Euskaltegi in 1984. Roberto joined and started working in Oñati Euskaltegi in 1995 – eleven years from its established date.

Initially, the Euskaltegi worked as a literacy center, where people from the town learned to read and write the language they already knew, now they help local people to get proficiency in the advanced use of the language. Furthermore, they help foreigners and visitors, like my friend, to learn basic skills that are useful in the process of integrating themselves with the local community and within the Basque Country. 

It seems, at least to me, that the best advice for people that want to learn Euskera is to go to the Euskaltegi, forgo embarrassment, and embrace the amazing experience of understanding the richness of Euskera as well as the beautiful town of Oñati.

Gero Arte!


Message from Euskaltegi professors

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