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Last Saturday, December 3, was the International Day of the Basque Language, and it was celebrated around the world through a variety of different events. Here in the United States, the UC Santa Barbara’s Basque Studies department held a day-long event with traditional dances, a book presentation, and food. They also inaugurated their Basque Club, zorionak!

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UCSB Poster

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UCSB Basque Studies Students

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Meanwhile in Boise, the Ikastola, or Basque-language school, and students at the Basque Museum put together a video inviting us all to speak in Basque: “Guk euskaraz, zuk zergatik ez?” or we speak in Basque, why don’t you?  The music is by Jose Antonio Larrañaga Etxabe, better known as Urko, but the song is based on a text by Gabriel Aresti.

This day was officially put in place in 1995 by the Basque Autonomous Government and the Royal Academy of the Basque Language (Euskaltzaindia), and is celebrated by many associations and public enterprises through conferences, exhibits, and festivals, among other activities. Eusko Ikaskuntza originally set the day in 1949, which was the first official celebration, even though the organization has always done so much to protect and promote the language. According to the Basque Parliament’s 2010 institutional declaration:

“Basque is the heritage of Basque society, an essential component in its history and culture. But like the rest of the world’s languages, it is the patrimony of all those who have it as a sign multilingualism. If you want to protect the diversity of languages, it is necessary to care for and promote Basque.”

“Euskera has a very long history, but we know very little about its beginnings. It is a modern and up-to-date language that society wants to continue to use and which is gaining increasing recognition in all fields. From the fundamental agreement for Euskera, embodied in the Standardization Law of 1982, until the current attempts for a renewed agreement, some time has passed, perhaps not a very extensive period of time, but a period in which the knowledge and the use of Euskera in the Basque Autonomous Community has advanced in a firm and spectacular way ”

“With the celebration of the International Day of Euskera we want to open a window to the present and future of Euskera, convinced that multilingualism can exert a favorable influence on our democratic coexistence and social cohesion.”

For a complete version of the declaration visit: http://www.euskara.euskadi.eus/contenidos/noticia/euskararen_eguna_2012/es_berria/adjuntos/Euskararen%20eguna.%20Adierazpena.pdf

For a list of the activities around the world, please visit Euskal Kultura’s website, which lays out the many events carried out in partnership with the Etxepare Basque Institute: http://www.euskalkultura.com/espanol/noticias/los-lectorados-del-instituto-etxepare-difunden-el-dia-del-euskera-por-las-universidades-del-mundo

The EITB also has a webpage dedicated to many different aspects of the Day of the Basque Language and Basque-related questions: http://www.eitb.eus/es/tag/dia-internacional-del-euskera/

Lastly, don’t forget to visit the Basque Government’s page dedicated to Basque, complete with dictionaries and translation software. It’s a great source for Basque learning, so what’s stopping you? Poliki poliki, you could be speaking and living in Basque too! http://www.euskara.euskadi.eus/r59-734/es/

Fun fact: The Day of the Basque Language is celebrated on the 3rd of December to coincide with the feast day of Saint Francis Xavier, the Navarrese Jesuit, who is said to have spoken his last words in Basque, his mother-tongue.

For more on Basque in general, check out some of the Center’s publications, like This Strange and Powerful Language by Iban Zaldua, an engaging essay that traces the development of Basque-language literature while contemplating along the way the reasons why bilingual people choose to write in smaller languages.

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See, too, Writing Words, Pello Salaburu’s compelling account of how a standard form of Basque was established, amid much heated debate, and how this served as a springboard for the revival of the language, through education, the media, and various cultural initiatives, all within a remarkably short space of time.

Other works that may be of interest include The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo; Basque Sociolinguistics by Estibaliz Amorrortu (free to download here); The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi; and Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi.