Best practice: Re-domesticate Basque, in the hands of parents

Many of the minority languages, over time, lose their areas of use and their number of speakers; this is why we have seen their survival run great danger. The languages which have ceased to be spoken in the home-family-neighbourhood circles and find it difficult to take root again in those circles, as a consequence, new generations do not acquire the adequate conditions to socialize in a normal manner in these languages.

Although they have policies and resources in their favour, those languages which have seen their generational continuity interrupted do not find it easy to return to their domestication, being the language of use between family members. According to the Study of World Languages, 43% of the languages analyzed have transmission problems, both in the number of speakers and the natural manner in which they are spoken, which is to say that their long term conservation is not guaranteed.

Basque is in this critical situation. In fact, the recovery process of our language, the work The Basque experience. Some key to language and identity recovery, which offers some keys to recovering minority languages, underlines the importance of strengthening the transmission of the language through family. Which is to say, it is fundamental for the language to become a bridge between generations, that is where the conduct of fathers and mothers take on a crucial role: «The bridge between generations is built on the space which unites parents and children (in a family), the linguistic conduct of parents establish the deep emotional sense of the children's linguistic conduct».

Nevertheless, not all the attempts made in favour of the social recovery of Basque have such a clear concept in the last three-four decades. The linguist,Koldo Zuazo, says the following in the book Euskararen sendabelarrak (The Medicinal Herbs of Basque): «In the era in which the Revolution of 1960 began, the following was often forecasted: When Basque is introduced in schools and television it will be saved forever. The years have passed, Basque has been introduced in schools and television and it has not been saved, far from it. We have now realised that, although school and television is important, other components exist. We have now realised that the family and the circle of friends are examples of fundamental axes. We have now realised that it is necessary to "transmit" the language, strengthen and straighten the linguistic union between generations. We have finally opened our eyes!».

Once we have realised the importance of domesticating Basque, in the last few years we have directed the priorities to mothers and fathers since, to a great measure, the relationship their children have, from very young, with the languages in their environment is in their hands. That is why several attempts and efforts have been made to transmit the adequate information and to make parents aware, both by public institutions as well as with social initiatives. Parents currently have direct access to the information, opinions and resources thanks to the Internet. For example, the Basque services of the municipalities ofBuruntzaldea of Gipuzkoa have spent a decade offering activities and resources to Basque-ize families. Its objective is to raise awareness on the importance of the languageprovide advice so that children may grow in Basque or help change the linguistic habits of Basque speaking parents who co... and so on. Also in Bizkaia, several town halls have provided parents the testimonies, aids and tools to transmit Basque through the family. Fortunately, there are currently many information options and resources offered to families to domesticate Basque.

Nevertheless, we must not think that the only people responsible for domesticating Basque and creating a bridge between generations are Basque speaking parents. Our reality demands another type of approach. In fact, some mother and fathers in the Basque Country have taken the decision to educate their children in Basque although they have little or no knowledge of Basque. In these cases parents cannot teach their children Basque but they take on a crucial role in the process to convert them into bilingual individuals, whether by transmitting the values and attitudes related with language, or transmitting motivation during the Basque learning process. In other words, parents who have not had the opportunity to teach Basque at home can help their children in the Basque learning process and can take the right decisions so that their children can grow up in Basque. This is left in the hands of the parents, all of us.


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