This article on the resilience of the indigenous language of the historic Basque nation in north-eastern Spain and neighbouring France is filled with the sort of optimism that one rarely hears in relation to the Irish language. From The Blue Review, a publication of Boise State University in the United States:
“Steve Mendive is a history/government teacher who spends his summer breaks in the Basque Country (Euskadi) and enjoys the literary challenge of reading Voltaire’s Candide in Euskara. He has informally studied the Basque language for many years, first speaking with his family and progressing to advanced language coursework in the Basque Country. For Mendive, learning Basque is personal. “I am an Euskaldun (Basque speaker). Before, I was just Basque. There is a big difference.””
A point of view that many an Irish-speaker in Ireland, be they native or learner, would identify with. The full piece is quite long but full of fascinating parallels (the emergence of linguistic orthodoxy from various dialects at the start of the 20th century, the recent importance of new technologies like Twitter, etc.) and I’d recommend a read.
Athbhlagáladh é seo ar Míle Gaiscíoch Caint:
Super interesting and personal, as I live a (relatively) short drive west from Boise. My mom went to Bend Senior Highschool (as did I) in the 60’s with Basque students who would bus all the way in from eastern Oregon every day. There was a lovely Basque flag on the ceiling of the Pub on Inis Oírr today, and the Basque flag has often flown next to the Cascadian flag (and others) at our local haunt in Bend, OR. So here I am looking out on Galway Bay, becoming a Gael….hoping to be reading ‘Cith is Dealán’ on the Oregon coast this summer and understand all I’m reading.
After meeting SO MANY people in Ireland who mention their families in Butte, Montana sending money home (often returning themselves after a generation) I am kicking myself for still never having made it to the largest St. Paddy’s day festival in the world that happens there every year. (some friends from Butte go every year) Butte, Boise, and Bend; all in the same watershed, all Cascadian….and Irish….and Basque. Can’t wait to visit Boise again when I get home!!
Some great local insight there. Yes, strange how frequently one encounters the Basque flag (or people) in Ireland. I was at an ISO training course last year and there were two Spanish girls there. Or rather one Spanish and one Basque, as she rightly pointed out. Made for some interesting tensions between the two but all the Irish were simply accepting of the difference. They got it! 😉
Just looking at the image you posted above this article reminds me of what I found a few months ago when for some reason I was wandering aimlessly around YouTube etc. looking at random Basque language related videos. The overall impression I got was one not of oppression of but of celebration. People many of them young, having a good time. Obviously events were organised but I didn’t get the feeling that they were ‘staged’. People seemed to be both able and happy to enjoy their language and associated culture. Well maybe I was just in a good mood that night. Still it did strike me as a marked contrast with the general “dying language” doom and gloom you so often encounter in connection with our Celtic tongues. Or people just using the langage to make a point or whatever. I know it’s a very complicated area, so many realted factors etc., still I think the Basques must be on to something 🙂
I agree. The Basques seem far more upbeat about the vitality of their language and culture. But then maybe they have reasons to be so?