Category: basque education (page 1 of 4)

The Basque Country might be benefited from economic opportunities following the Brexit

                 The hysteria and hype of Brexit (The British Exit from the E.U.) might not be over yet. Every region in the world from Tokyo to Brussels has expressed their concerns regarding the doomsday scenarios of such an epic divorce between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, like anything else in the world, a bleak situation might offer a glimmer of light that brings the unthinkable opportunity into reality. Following the aftermath of a financial crisis in 2008, many Basque scientists left their homes to find work in the UK. Close to a decade later, these capable scientists have produced major patents and have contributed to the advancement of technology in a foreign land far from home. With Brexit, the pendulum swings back again and this time around it swings to the Basque side. Many of the Basque scientists will find the UK less favorable for the progression of their careers following Brexit, as Theresa May’s Government declines to secure the working permits of highly-skilled migrants once the UK leaves the EU. Such a momentum is a great opportunity for the Basque country to lure their capable scientist home after Brexit.

The regional government of the Basque Country has dispatched Ivan Jimenez, the head of Bizkaia Talent to win over Basque engineers and scientists and bring them home by alluring them with comfortable salaries and generous research funding.  Several headhunter apps have been established to recruit Basque scientists in the UK and arrange job interviews with tech firms in the Basque Country. These experienced scientists will bring their patents and technological advancements to  Basque firms. Thus, it will cement and potentially enhance the Basque Country’s position as a leading-edge producer of science and technology-related products and services. This strategy will also help ease some of the brain drain challenges that the region’s financial hub, Bilbao, has endured due to a dire shortage of high-skilled laborers. The decision to attract Basque scientists to come back home is actually perceived as a good opportunity by the many talented Basque men and women in the UK. The UK based companies where they currently work might soon lose their privileged access to the European market which affects companies’ ability to pay workers high salaries and provide them with bright career paths. Therefore, fulfilling their civic duty at home is not a bad choice after all.

For further reading please visit:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/06/basque-country-bid-lure-spanish-scientists-home-brexit/\

 

An Interview with Estibaliz Ramos Diaz, USAC Visiting Scholar

Continuing with our interview series with this summer’s USAC visiting scholars, it’s my pleasure to introduce Estibaliz Ramos Diaz, assistant professor at the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Faculty of Education and Sport (Teacher Training) of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). She is from the Basque capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz (donde se hace la ley). At the same time, she works as a professor-tutor at the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatments at the Faculty of Psychology of the National Distance Education University (UNED).

Estibaliz received her Ph.D. in Psychology with her dissertation “Resilience and psychosocial adjustment in adolescence” at the UPV-EHU. One of her master´s degree is in Psychodidactics: Psychology of Education and Specific Didactics, also from the University of the Basque Country. She also has a master´s  in Teacher Training for Compulsory Secondary Education, Upper Secondary Education, Vocational Training and Foreign Language Teaching with a specialty in educational Guidance from the UNED. As if that wasn’t enough, she also has a master´s degree in Clinical and Health Psychology from the Higher Institute of Psychological Studies (ISEP) and another in International Migration (Specialty: Research and Social intervention) from the Comillas Pontificial University, Madrid (Spain).

Before starting her academic career at the University, she worked as a psychologist in several areas of psychological intervention, such as substance abuse prevention, prison population, and child maltreatment. Estibaliz is currently teaching undergraduate courses in the area of developmental and educational psychology at UPV/EHU, as well in the area of personality, evaluation and psychological treatments at the National Distance Education University (UNED). She has been visiting researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and has collaborated with researchers from the College of Education and the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC). Her research interests focus on subjective well-being and school engagement associated with resilience and emotional intelligence, as well as with contextual variables.

What brought you to the Center for Basque Studies and UNR? How long were you here? 

I visited the UNR and the Center for the Basque Studies for two months in the summer of 2017. I was awarded a scholarship for a research stay by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) to develop a research programme about resilience at the UNR.

What was the goal of your project/research?

The negative image of adolescence which prevailed in the field of education throughout the last century resulted in greater interest being shown in problematic behaviors and limitations than in research into and the fostering of adaptive, healthy behaviors (Oliva et al., 2010). Nevertheless, over recent years, those working in the field of educational psychology have increasingly preferred to study the positive qualities of adolescent students, rather than focus on their deficits (Froh, Huebner, Youssef, & Conte, 2011; Kristjánsson, 2012). In accordance with the belief that every adolescent has the potential to become a well-adjusted individual, this new approach highlights the need to foster psychosocial human development in educational contexts by promoting competences that enable young people to cope successfully with their personal lives and make a positive contribution to society (Madariaga & Goñi, 2009).

Many factors are involved in an individual’s successful adaptation, but during adolescence, as Lerner et al. (2013) indicate, one particularly significant indicator of psychological adjustment is resilience, a concept which has attracted a considerable amount of attention in the school field due to the key role played by these institutions as promoters of well-being (Toland & Carrigan, 2011). Many interpretations have been offered regarding this construct, which has sometimes been understood not only as a variable that facilitates adaptation, but also as an indicator of adolescent development (Masten & Tellegen, 2012). Despite the lack of consensus regarding its definition (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013), researchers increasingly agree in defining resilience as the ability to cope adequately with the developmental tasks inherent to a specific development stage, despite the risks that same stage poses (Masten, 2014). During adolescence, young people develop a set of individual and contextual characteristics that help them cope positively with stressful life events (Wright, Masten & Narayan, 2013).

Taking into account the relevance of resilience in the psychological adjustment and school engagement of adolescents and youth, the overall objectives of my research plan are listed below:

– To carry out a bibliographic research about the efficacy of resilience training programs in a school context in order to evaluate whether they are effective in promoting personal and school skills in adolescents and youth.

– To adopt an assessment instrument to measure adolescent resilience into Basque.

– To design a psycho-educational programme to promote resilience in school-aged youth, and assess its effects on various variables: psychological well-being, school engagement, and academic outcomes.

– To get in touch with other professionals in the field of adolescent resilience promoting international contacts and enabling future investigations.

– To establish future possible collaborations between the two universities implying new research, transcultural studies, publications, international networks…

What did you accomplish?

In collaboration with USAC, I got a sample of more than 400 American undergraduate students from UNR for a pioneering cross-cultural study to compare a structural model of adolescence adjustment with a matched group from UPV/EHU. In this sense, I expect to publish scientific manuscripts, as well as present my research results in several congresses. I also got in touch with other professionals in the field of adolescent/youth resilience and arranged several meetings in order to promote international contacts and to enable future research.

I wrote a scientific manuscript in collaboration with the international researcher Margaret Ferrara to promote cross-cultural studies from the University of the Basque Country. In this sense, we hope to publish the results in a journal in the field of Educational Psychology.

I had the opportunity to spread the knowledge in the field of resilience and education and learn from experienced researchers of the UNR in the field. Lastly, I took part in the seminar entitled “The role of resilience and emotional intelligence in adolescent life satisfaction” in the Fall 2017 Basque Studies Multidisciplinary Seminar Series at the Center for Basque Studies, in collaboration with Iratxe Antonio-Agirre.

Did the Center for Basque Studies help you in any way?

The Center for Basque Center Studies has been my place of reference at UNR. There I found advice for the use of databases and various resources such as the Writing Center and contacted with interdisciplinary researchers. At a personal level, I met the most significant people of my stay at UNR, and I felt supported at all times.

Did you enjoy U.S.? What about Reno!?

I visited Boise, Seattle, Portland, Virginia City, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake. I loved touring the U.S, but most of all enjoying a good time with great traveling companions from the Center for Basque Studies and USAC.  Regarding Reno, the first impact of the city was negative, but the positive experience I had there changed my feelings. Now, I remember Reno as a charming city that deserves to know in depth!!

What did you miss the most?

Nothing at all!

 

We are so glad to have met you. Good luck with your publications, and see you soon, whether in the Basque Country or in Reno!

Interviews with Naiara and Virigina, USAC Visiting Scholars

This summer, we had quite a few visiting scholars at the CBS, thanks to USAC stipends for professors to research abroad. First up, I’d like to introduce Naiara Ozamiz and Virginia Guillén Cañas, professors at the University of the Basque Country.

Naiara Ozamiz is a Doctor in Psychology and Professor of Medical Psychology at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the Basque Country. She has worked as a psychotherapist in different day units with patients with personality disorders and psychosis. She has mainly specialized in group psychotherapy, although she has also performed individual and family psychotherapies. In 2013, she defended her dissertation on Personality Disorders in the DSM-5. She has published several articles on attitudes towards treatments, personality disorders, psychiatric emergencies, and the elderly.

Virginia Guillén Cañas has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and has researched eating disorders. Although she studied Psychology, she is not a therapist, although she is versed in Gestalt Therapy. She is a Professor of Psychology and Communication Skills to medical students, as well as dentistry and physiotherapy students, in the Faculty of Medicine and Nursing, Department of Neuroscience, in the area of Psychiatry. Spending most of her time in the Basque Country working on research and other scholarly projects, she researches health improvement and enjoys teaching healthy habits about addictions and gender empowerment, working with children and women.

We took a minute to catch up with them, giving them a chance to reflect on their experience at UNR and Reno more generally.

What brought you to the Center for Basque Studies and UNR?

Naiara: The University the Basque Country offers USAC scholarships every year to be able to go to universities in the United States. I was interested in learning about the University of Nevada and requested the scholarship. Before going, Iker Saitua, (Ph.D. who carried out his doctoral dissertation at the Center for Basque Studies) recommended me to approach the Center. I was also interested in UNR’s Medical School and the Psychology Faculty.

Virginia: I stayed in Reno and UNR for a month thanks to a USAC grant. I chose Reno because of the existence of the Center for Basque Studies.

 

What was the goal of your research?

Naiara: One of the objectives of getting to know the different faculties at the University of Nevada has been to learn about the way they teach, their investigations and their clinical work in different areas.

Virginia: My objective was to search for  opportunities to meet with other colleagues, and I knew that the Center for Basque Studies could assist me in planning my research abroad. I wanted to acquire and refine my medical and scientific knowledge and then apply it through medical education and evidence-based treatments for people, especially those with mental illnesses.

 

What did you accomplish?

Naiara: In the area of teaching, I have been able to see the teaching curriculum of the Medical School, and their teaching methodology. I have been fortunate to be able to attend medical classes. With the methodology and material that the faculty has shown me, I will be able to apply it in the classes of psychology that I give in the Faculty of Medicine.

Virginia: We have worked in the translation of the three questionnaires for measuring communication skills:  a Cognitive and Affective Empathy Test and one on Social Abilities. It was a good chance to adapt and publish these scales into English, since they are only validated in Spanish and Basque. We hope to carry out this research at UNR and University of the Basque Country.

Naiara: As far as research is concerned, the Medical School has given me several ideas to investigate, and maybe, in the future, we will do joint research. Furthermore, the Writing Center has helped me to write scientific articles. As far as the clinical area is concerned, the University of Nevada, Reno has a psychology service for teachers and students, and I found its operation very interesting. At the University of the Basque Country, there is a similar service but in Nevada, they have many more resources, and I would love to take that magnitude to our university.

Virginia: We will go deeper in optimizing the clinical cases given to students after analyzing UNR’s organization of medical curriculum.  Also, their website has additional information about the curricular structure, http://med.unr.edu/ome/curriculum/structure, and about the cases of the week, http://med.unr.edu/ocf/involvement-opportunities/case-of-the-week. Melissa Piasecki has a very interesting book that we will try to translate into Spanish, so we will keep in touch. We will look into congresses about suicide in Europe, where she will attend and collaborate with other groups in preventing suicide.

I have revised three publications at the Writing Center. One publication is about Communication Skills, another one about eating disorders, and last one about Diabetes. I hope to publish them in the next months. The Writing Center is very helpful for Spanish speaking people like myself to write correctly in English.

Did the Center for Basque Studies help you in any way?

Naiara: Above all, I have been helped by the workers at the center. They informed me of different resources that the University has, and of Nevada in general. I have learned about Basque and American culture, and I took several excursions with them. There is nothing like getting to know the country and its history, especially with historians! I am very grateful and they are excellent people.

I have felt more comfortable at the Center for Basque Studies since it has been like being at home. They have taught me about the Basque studies that are being done at the Center and I have learned a lot about Basque history in the Basque diaspora. At the moment, I’m dedicating myself to translating psychology questionnaires into Euskera and I’m trying to write the maximum possible articles in Euskera. The workers at the Center have inspired me to continue doing this work, since their great knowledge in history gives meaning to the work being done in favor of Basque.

Virginia: Visiting the Center for Basque Studies has been very useful because of resources such as the Writing Center, Savitt Medical Library, Summer sessions and the Nevada Historical Society. Also, it was a place where I could share research projects where Basque-speaking people are compared to Spanish and English speaking ones.

I would not have gone to Reno without the help of the Center for Basque Studies. I felt at home, and Edurne and Iñaki explained to us political and social aspects about the way of living and we had conversations comparing American and Basque people. This is very important for adapting there.

I will keep in contact and inform the Center if any research fulfills the objectives of the Center and the University of the Basque Country.  There are three possible projects to collaborate on: Sport in the Environment of National Minorities, Communication Skills in Medical students: Bilingualism and Gender Differences (Third sex), and Adapting a test for measuring eating disorders in Basque, Spanish and English males with eating disorders.

 

Did you enjoy U.S.? What about Reno!?

Naiara: I had a great time in Reno. I have learned a lot and I have loved meeting the people there. The USAC workers have treated me very well. It is an excellent organization. I did not miss anything.
Although the Reno casinos are a bit scary, Reno has some fabulous places. The whole walk along the river with its atmosphere, Louis’ Basque Corner, the Basque monument … and the surroundings are wonderful: Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake, and all the trekking that can be done around Reno…
It has been wonderful, just remembering it gives me much joy and I feel like coming back. I feel very grateful for all the people I have met there, they could not have treated me better.

Virginia: Reno and the surrounding areas provide unlimited indoor and outdoor recreational activities. The most impactful aspect is that Reno has a great area full of casinos Downtown but the rest of the city is like any another one. Anyway, the distances are big so USAC offered us bikes and the bus timetables. I would recommend anyone to use them and also Uber, Taxis and UNR’s Campus Escort. The weather has been spectacular.

I liked Lake Tahoe a lot, and next time I would like to share a car or a van to visit the deep countryside of Nevada…for biking, camping, and mountain climbing. I also went to Colorado so I visited the mountains, and I would recommend that trip to everyone!

 

What did you miss the most?

Naiara: Nothing, I did not want to go back to the Basque Country. The only thing that made me go back was to meet my newborn nephew.

Virginia: Nowadays I miss my friends there. My stay was perfect!

 

We do hope you come back and visit!

Thousands gather for Herri Urrats 2017

This past Sunday thousands of people gathered together in the sun to celebrate the annual Herri Urrats (A People’s Step) festival in the Senpere lake area in Lapurdi. This is a fundraising event for Basque-language education initiatives in the Northern Basque Country. And this year, specifically, all the money raised will go toward the expansion of the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa (high school), in Baiona, to incorporate a vocational or trade school, thereby offering full technical and vocational training in Basque for the first time in Iparralde. That’s not all, though, as part of an ambitious wider plan, the new site will also incorporate a barnetegi (that is, boarding facilities for adult learners of Basque) and major new sports installations. Exciting times ahead for the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa!

So that’s the serious side to all this, but Herri Urats is really a fun day out for all the family, a meeting place for old friends, and an opportunity to celebrate the Basque language. And when the sun shines, which is does occasionally, there are few better places to be! See some great pictures from the day here.

“Europe, Barandiaran and Values” series

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the notable Basque anthropologist, ethnographer, archeologist, and priest José Miguel de Barandiaran’s death. The Barandiaran Foundation has organized a series of five roundtable discussions in his honor entitled “Europe, Barandiaran and Values,” being held in various Basque capitals from October 20 to December 15.

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Last Thursday, November 17, our professor and colleague Xabier Irujo participated in the event that took place in Donostia-San Sebastián at the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea. Professor Irujo spoke about Barandiaran and exile via Skype, and members of the CBS and UNR attended, making it an international affair. He was joined by a panel composed of Asier Barandiaran, Argitxu Camus Etchecopar, Gaspar Martinez, and Ixone Fernandez de Labastida, who spoke about various topics including Barandiaran and Europe; Barandiaran’s values in contemporary society; Barandiaran, science, and faith; and lastly Barandiaran and Basque society. This group of scholars have participated in all of the events and are at the heart of this discussion series, traveling from city to city to present to and answer questions from the wider community.

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The following are a series of quotes by the participants on what Barandiaran as a researcher represents in various fields:

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ASIER BARANDIARAN- Barandiaran’s values in contemporary society

“Barandiaran was rooted in Christian values. However, on the other hand, he offered different visions by being in touch with diverse cultures and was always committed to people. He would often say ‘I hope I will be remembered as a person who has loved love’. Kindness, sharpness, honesty, solidarity, truth, justice, work well done, and a long chain of values are what define Barandiaran.”

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ARGITXU CAMUS- Barandiaran and Europe

“José Miguel de Barandiaran was a convinced European. He learned French, German, and English on his own. When he was very young, he opened himself up to European science. He studied the most famous anthropologists, ethnologists, and linguists of the time. He went to the very sources of science in order to compare them to his own ideas. And since then, the Ataundarra took part in numerous courses in diverse universities throughout Europe, as a student and professor. The work of Barandiaran has contributed a great deal to European ethnology.”

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GASPAR MARTINEZ- Barandiaran: Science and faith

“Barandiaran was primarily a priest. In addition, he was also an archaeologist, anthropologist, ethnologist, historian…that is, a man of science. Even so, he was able to reconcile religion and science. A difficult exercise, considering the strict postulates of the Catholic Church of the time. Even though the studies carried out to clarify his doubts were based on research by people of faith, Barandiaran, in order to achieve absolute tranquility, wanted to place his ideas at the same level as other researchers of different beliefs.”

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IXONE FERNANDEZ DE LABASTIDA-Barandiaran and Basque society

“One of the most studied facets of José Miguel de Barandiaran is that of him as an anthropologist. However, with the passage of time and in light of the historical context in which he developed his work, Barandiaran could also be considered a social activist. Thanks to his particular methodology and its object of study, this anthropologist contributed not only to mitigation of the discourse on the race coming from Europe but also to the reconstruction of social ties and the feeling of shared cultural identity in Euskal Herria.”

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XABIER IRUJO- Barandiaran and Exile

“Joxe Migel Barandiaran lived for 17 years in exile in Iparralde, in Miarritze first and later in Sara. During these years, he collaborated and at times led the group of vascologos and euskaltzales who met in these early years of exile, and most fundamentally after the liberation, who then received the name ‘Los caballeritos de San Juan de Luz’. Among the most outstanding works of Barandiaran in exile are the creation of Ikuska, Eusko Jakintza and the ‘Jakin Bilerak’, which helped to consolidate the network of Basque scholars of the diaspora in America.”screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-2-57-52-pm

Overall, the event was a fantastic way to learn more about Barandiaran and his work, making it a fitting homage to the prolific and wide-ranging scholar who did so much for Basque culture and history.

 

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To learn more about the series, visit the Barandiaran Foundation’s website: http://www.barandiaranfundazioa.eus/index.php/es/

See, too, the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, edited by Jesus Altuna.  This is a marvelous introduction, in English, to Barandiaran’s published work and the various fields in which he researched, from Basque prehistory and mythology to essays on the importance of the household and hunting in Basque culture.

Nafarroa Oinez 2016 video: Check it out!

A few weeks ago we posted the video for the ikastola fundraiser day in Gipuzkoa (click here to see that). This weekend, October 16, it’s the turn of Nafarroa to host its own fundraiser; this year, Nafarroa Oinez will be held in Viana and will be raising funds for the ikastolas of Viana and Lodosa.

The slogan for this year’s event is “Hartu, tenka, tira!” (Pick up the rope, take the strain, pull!) and refers to the referee’s commands in a tug-of-war contest. It was chosen to represent all the effort and commitment required in disseminating Basque-language education. So come on everyone, let’s all pull in favor of Basque! Check out the video!

 

 

UPV/EHU Museum of Education – a step into the past

The University of the Basque Country, at its Donostia-San Sebastián campus, houses the Museum of Education, which won the Manuel Bartolomé Cossío prize in 2015 for its work in maintaining educational heritage. The museum’s objective is to “recover, safeguard, and make the historical memory of education in the Basque Country public.” Walking through its 7 halls, one steps into the past, traveling through the different phases of education and Basque language teaching in the Basque Country.

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The museum has two recreations of classrooms, one from the 1950s-60s and the other from the 1970s. They are detailed to perfection, not only including furniture but also notebooks, backpacks, and other personal effects. The contrast is stark between the two and it helps to show the evolution of classrooms and education in general. Special attention is brought to the use of Basque in education, and much of the museum is dedicated to this. Educational materials are also on display and visitors are encouraged to visit the library, which is full of research on the subject of the history of education.

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Unless you’re living in the Basque Country, you might have a hard time trying to visit. However, you can check out the following article, which includes a video (in Spanish) of the museum: http://www.ehu.eus/es/web/guest/preview-campusa/-/asset_publisher/1O7v/content/n_20160916-museo-educacion

Also visit their website for more information:  http://www.ehu.eus/es/web/museoeducacion

If you’re interested in learning more about education in the Basque Country, check out Equality, Equity, and Diversity, published by the CBS and free to download here: https://basque.unr.edu/docs/CR1.pdf

Ran roberran

During the 1960s, when the first ikastolak (Basque language schools) subsequent to the Spanish Civil War were created after a long ban by the Francoist regime, some key people were essential to their success.

Imanol Urbieta was one of these pioneers. Ikastolak were in need of almost everything: a proper legal framework, economic support, and pedagogical materials in the Basque language. Parents navigated the legal system to make ikastolak legal, or at least to avoid being prosecuted; all kinds of organizations provided premises in which children would be comfortable; and teachers created materials to teach Basque and other topics.

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol, one of the first teachers at the Salbatore Mitxelena Ikastola in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, did some wonderful work in renewing the pedagogy and in the use of an innovative teaching tool: music and songs. Imanol’s songs (Ran Roberran, John Brown, Txiki txiki txikia, and so on) are part of the soundtrack of our generation’s lives. And of our children’s lives too, not only because we as parents sing them to our sons and daughters, but also because Pirritx, Porrotx eta Marimotots, the most renowned Basque clowns, sing them prolifically.

Imanol Urbieta died in Zarautz on September 28th, 2016 at age 83.

 

Great new video to accompany this weekend’s Kilometroak fundraiser in Bergara

Every year, throughout the Basque Country, a special day is set aside to raise funds for a particular ikastola (a school in which instruction takes place predominantly in Basque) on which the main goal is to complete a walk (often sponsored) around a set circuit, with refreshment stands along the way and other associated activities, including concerts and the like, all in aid of raising money for Basque-language education: in Araba this is known as Araba Euskaraz (meaning “Araba in Basque”); in Bizkaia, Ibilialdia (the trek, hike, walk, etc.); in Iparralde, Herri Urats (“a people’s step”); in Nafarroa, Nafarroa Oinez (Nafarroa on foot); and in Gipuzkoa, Kilometroak (kilometers).

This year’s Kilometroak, which takes place on October 2, is being organized by the Aranzadi Ikastola in Bergara and its theme is demasa (tremendous, humongous), linked to the notion of aniztasuna (diversity). A great part of all these events in recent years has been the introduction of a specially composed song for the day with an accompanying video, and we’d like to share this year’s song with you. Enjoy!

 

August 20, 1915: Basque scholar Koldo Mitxelena born

On August 20, 1915, Koldo Mitxelena (Luis Michelena) was born in Errenteria, Gipuzkoa. His work is still unquestionably the central reference point for anyone interested in all aspects of the Basque language and his intellectual influence survives down to this day. Yet his own personal story is not that of the archetypal ivory-towered academic; throughout his fascinating life he knew war, imprisonment, and repression first-hand.

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Reproduction of a portrait of Koldo Mitxelena (an oil painting by A. Valverde). By Juan San Martib, derivative work by Xabier Armendaritz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mitxelena was born into a humble artisan family in the small Gipuzkoan town on the cusp of experiencing a dramatic social, economic and demographic change with the coming of industrialization in the early twentieth century. The young Mitxelena was raised in a Basque-speaking and Basque nationalist household. As a child he was bedridden for three years due to a tumor in his leg, and this forced confinement sparked an early interest in reading. On leaving school, he joined in the family artisan work, while at the same time taking an active interest in both the flowering of Basque literary movements and Basque nationalist politics in the 1930s; but when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 he immediately volunteered to fight Franco’s military rebels.

He was subsequently captured and sentenced to death in 1937, although the sentence was overturned and commuted to a thirty-year prison sentence instead. In Burgos prison he met several incarcerated Spanish intellectuals, professors, and students, and this contact led him to coming across his true vocation for the study of language. He was eventually released in 1943. He returned to Errenteria at the age of twenty-seven and in poor health. He accepted the offer of an accounting job in Madrid, from where he began engaging in clandestine activities against the Franco dictatorship. Yet this resulted in his arrest once more in 1946, for which he served a two-year sentence and was released in 1948.

Now thirty-two years old, he enrolled as part-time student of humanities at the University of Madrid, living modestly and funding his studies as best he could in the circumstances. In 1949, moreover, he married Matilde Martínez de Ilarduya and they would go on to have two children. Mitxelena carried on with his studies through the 1950s at the University of Salamanca, teaching courses in Basque language and literature, and eventually achieving a doctorate in 1959 with a dissertation on the topic of Basque historical phonetics (a text that is still relevant to this day).

Thereafter Mitxelena, perhaps making up for lost time, embarked on a prodigious research and publishing academic career. He continued in Salamanca, although was prevented from applying for many positions because of his prison record, but through much lobbying on the part of friends and colleagues,  a chair of Indo-European Linguistics was eventually created for him in the late 1960s. During this time, as well as attracting a number of Basque students around him who would ultimately go on to lead the study of Basque langue and linguistics, he also gained more international renown, teaching at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris for example.

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Mitxelena, back row, far left, at the 1968 Arantzazu Congress. Photo by Juan San Martin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If that was all not enough, Mitxelena was one of the driving forces behind the move toward designing and implementing Euskara Batua, Unified or Standard Basque. He played a prominent role in the key Arantzazu Congress, held in 1968, which first set down the principles by which this unified version of the language–now the standard used in education, the media, and a variety of other fields–was first agreed on by Euskaltzaindia, the Royal Academy of the Basque Language.

Following Franco’s death in 1975 and the restructuring of the Spanish university system, Mitxelena was asked to come back to the Basque Country in the late 1970s and help in the design and implementation of a Basque language program at the nascent University of the Basque Country. And there he continued to teach for a few more years until his retirement. Shortly afterward, he died in 1987.

Today there is a chair named in his honor at the University of Chicago and the main library and cultural center in Donostia bears the name Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea.

In the words of Pello Salaburu, who compiled the the work Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar cited below:

Thanks to Koldo Mitxelena, to his total dedication and vast intellectual contributions, Basque language studies eventually took a giant step forward and moved into their rightful place as a professional field of academic research. Mitxelena’s proposals were also crucial for the development of euskara batua, or unified literary Basque, which was to become the much-needed standard for this ancient language. These two contributions—his rigorous analysis and intellectual authorship of the standardization of the language—were vital not only for our knowledge and understanding of Basque, but also for bringing it to the forefront in education and the mass media in the Basque Country today . . . The debt that Basque linguistics owes him is unpayable. It is not just the fact that he was able to turn Basque philology into a science. That would have been merit enough. But on top of that, Koldo Mitxelena was graced with tremendous common sense, and this is what made it possible, following his death, for the Basque language to prosper. Thanks to him, it had the minimum resources necessary to survive and flourish in a modern, changing society. Koldo Mitxelena showed us all the road to knowledge, erudition, and critical thinking.

Check out the Center’s publication of some of Mitxelena’s key texts in Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, with chapters on (among many other things), the history and antiquity of Basque, its contact with Romanization, and Basque literature as well as his thoughts on the structure, phonetics, and orthography of the language.

See, too, Pello Salaburu’s survey of the how Basque came to be standardized, a process in which Mitxelena was front and center, in Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque.

 

 

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