Episode 15: Basque-ing in the European Sun Transcript

Carrie Gillon

Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries Podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.

 

Megan Figueroa

I’m Megan Figueroa.

 

Carrie Gillon

And I’m Carrie Gillon. And we have a little bit of housekeeping to do, so, once again, we have a Patreon now, and last month, our new patrons?

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah.

 

Carrie Gillon

We’d like to thank you individually, so I’m not sure if people want me to use their last names, but I think… so in December, when I first picked it up. I didn’t say originally that we were going to thank people individually and so I wasn’t sure, but this time I said it, so hopefully okay if I use full names. Please let me know if that’s not the case.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah,

 

Carrie Gillon

I apologize, but so Alyssa Crowley thank you. Talk the Talk another podcast about linguistics.

 

Megan Figueroa

Aw.

 

Carrie Gillon

I know. So if you guys are interested in lingpods, that’s what I like to call them. That’s another one that you should check out.

 

Megan Figueroa

Hashtag lingpod. Is that a hashtag?

 

Carrie Gillon

It should be. You know what? Let’s start it.

 

Megan Figueroa

Okay.

 

Carrie Gillon

I’m just assuming it doesn’t

 

Megan Figueroa

it seems like it would be some sort of creature that would be under the sea.

 

Carrie Gillon

then Ben Whedon Thank you also, and Chris Hengler, all the way from Hamburg

 

Megan Figueroa

Oh!

 

Carrie Gillon

Yes, and also, a former professor of mine from Toronto: Elizabeth Cowper. So thank you very much.

 

Megan Figueroa

Oh, that’s so nice. I don’t see any any professors of mine. I’m just kidding.

 

Carrie Gillon

Hmmm.

 

Megan Figueroa

That’s funny.

 

Carrie Gillon

Oh, and related to the Patreon we have a new bonus episode. Where Tito Rios, my former colleague read one of his poems. So you get an extra poem.

 

Megan Figueroa

from the poet laureate of Arizona. And it’s awesome because it’s a poem that is actually at the port of entry at Nogales Sonara and Nogales Arizona so it’s very cool. Y’all should really get on the Patreon if you want to hear all these cool bonus epis.

 

Carrie Gillon

Oh, dear. Think that makes you the Shoshana of this podcast. So before we really begin. I also want to apologize for my voice right now. I don’t know if you can tell. But I it sounds much deeper to me. Because yesterday we went to a housewarming party, which was lovely, but it was very loud. So to talk over the music, means I’m a little a little hoarse,

 

Megan Figueroa

a little introverted voice got a little tired

 

Carrie Gillon

I’m not as introverted as I used to be.

 

Megan Figueroa

Wait, did you see Hamilton yesterday?

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah, we saw that in the afternoon. By the way, it does live up to the hype. Yeah, I was a little worried because, I mean, there’s a lot of times where things don’t live up to the hype to me. So like Wonder Woman, I was like, eh. But this definitely I was like, no deserves every accolade it’s ever gotten.

 

Megan Figueroa

Well, another one that you actually agree lived up to the hype. was Black Panther.

 

Carrie Gillon

also amazing.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, I am still thinking about it. I love princess Shuri and I love everything that I’m seeing on Twitter. All the fan art and the STEM the science technology. And what is the STEM sound for?

 

Carrie Gillon

you’re almost there. Science, technology, engineering and math.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, that’s like I always say that I’m like really into STEM, but do I know what ie means? Yeah,.

 

Carrie Gillon

Well, now there’s also STEAM, which adds the arts, which.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yes, I love the arts. It should always be in there. Do we really have math without art? I don’t think so.

 

Carrie Gillon

I mean, there’s math that- Yeah, I guess it always is kind of art already at some level, but you don’t know until you see it visualized some way I guess. Or like unless you’re a really good mathematician. You can’t see but yeah, so I really and also Black Panther involves the arts as well. Like, oh my god, that costuming.

 

Megan Figueroa

Oh my god. I know.

 

Carrie Gillon

One of the outfits was like this onesie, sort of or a jumpsuit. And I was like, I wish I could wear that

 

Megan Figueroa

right?

 

Carrie Gillon

I’m too practical, though. You can’t pee in it.

 

Megan Figueroa

I mean, you you could.

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah, exactly.

 

Megan Figueroa

So also related to Black Panther. But it’s no fault of Black Panther, Nyle DiMarco, the very handsome deaf model that is an advocate for the deaf community. And for ASL I would say right, he was tweeting about how he went to see Black Panther. But the captioning was just so horrible. It was skipping lines, like he had to leave. So it’s one of those things where I realized that I have a privilege that I wasn’t thinking about.

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah, and I think to be clear, it was a technological issue. So it wasn’t on the main screen. He had like some kind of technical some piece of tech.

 

Megan Figueroa

Right.

 

Carrie Gillon

He’s stuck into the chair in front of him, I guess. I don’t know.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah.

 

Carrie Gillon

And that was not functioning very well. So I mean, the captioning still could have been missing lines if it had been on the screen. But it was the piece of technology was not working fully. I think that was part of the problem. But you’re right, we have of course, we have this privilege of being able to hear lines and I one of the times that I really noticed that actually it wasn’t about being deaf or hard of hearing, but something that’s related. So me having a privilege was watching movies with someone who was a second language learner of English. And he really strongly preferred having the captions on the subtitles on because he could get more of the English that way. And it hadn’t occurred to me that, of course, that would be helpful, for someone like that. So it was a similar kind of thing. So he’s advocating, I think, for, like, actual captions on the main screen. Yeah, and I think, you know, bare minimum Why don’t have just have some special screenings with that like once a day, at least? I don’t know.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, he wrote something for Teen Vogue. So let’s, let’s, let’s link to that when we have the link for this is episode.

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah. Gotta make sure we have that.

 

Megan Figueroa

So let’s, let’s all examine our privilege. And also go see Black Panther. And enjoy that. Everyone’s beautiful in it. Just, it’s eye candy, the entire movie. And I don’t mean if I just the people. I mean, like it’s such a beautiful movie.

 

Carrie Gillon

Mm hmm. It really is. Oh, yeah. And there’s also a one one language thing one language related thing to talk about with Black Panther and that’s the use of Xhosa, I dunno, that’s not how you pronounce it. But it’s a language that’s actually spoken in South Africa so some people some people don’t like that because it’s Wakanda is in the central part of Africa. And so people some people were complaining about that but I’m like, well, it’s a fictional country so they can have whatever language they want and it’s kind of nice to hear that language being spoken

 

Megan Figueroa

yeah alright so today we are talking to Itxaso RODRÍGUEZ-ORDÓÑEZ about Basque, which again, another week where Megan learns everything that she does not know. It’s getting kind of embarrassing Carrie.

 

Carrie Gillon

Well, I mean, you had a lot less to learn about Chicano English than I did.

 

Megan Figueroa

I really appreciate that bone you just threw me. Alright, should we get into it?

 

Carrie Gillon

Yes, let’s get into it.

 

Megan Figueroa

We’re very excited to welcome Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordonez. She is an assistant professor of Spanish and linguistics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She received her PhD in Hispanic linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2016. Her research focuses on context situations, she incorporates linguistic attitudes and ideologies to explain contact and language change. Most of her work pertains to the best Spanish context situation. Spain more recently, she has also focused on contact effects, and the linguistic landscapes of Spanish and English in Pilsen, Chicago. Welcome, Itxaso.

 

Itxaso

thank you so much. It’s so nice to be here.

 

Carrie Gillon

Hi. So I guess we’ll just begin with Basque because I’m assuming many of our listeners do not know what Basque even is.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah.

 

Itxaso

Yeah. So first of all, I would like to say that I’m very excited to be here, especially to talk about one of my mother tongues with which I identify very, very closely. So talking about Basque for me is always excitement and pleasure. So what is Basque? Well, bus is an isolate language, it is spoken in the north of Spain and south of France. And the reason why it’s considered an isolate is because we still don’t know whether it belong to any other families. Meaning that we don’t have evidence that there is any genetic relationship with other languages in the world. So they’ve done lots of research about, oh, why is Basque so different from other languages in Europe, is it actually connected to Hungarian, which is also different in many ways? And the answer is no. So for now, we actually doesn’t know necessarily where we come from. Well, that’s what people seem to say, others suggest were actually one of the first settlers of Europe, obviously, this kind of hypothesis has had a huge impact on how people identify as well, whether they claim themselves to be from there, how authentic we are, how old we are, how much we belong there, and stuff like that. So that’s what Basque is, and Basque is spoken by about 700,000 people. And this is spoken both on the Spanish side and on the French side, although there are more speakers on the Spanish side, because it’s, it’s a little bit bigger, the territory is a little bit bigger, but Basque was spoken a bigger territory that was spoken right now. So it has been shrinking and shrinking throughout the centuries. So one of the interesting characteristics about Basque that make it different, maybe per se, with other European languages has to do with the word order. So we tend to say, if I want to say that I saw somebody right when I say I, somebody saw, so we’ll put the verb at the very end. And this has been something that Basque people try to over-exoticize as something unique about languages. But then when we look at different languages in the world, we notice that this word order pattern is actually more common than we think, so the Basque people said, Oh, so we are not as unique as we thought. Okay,

 

Megan Figueroa

so I’m hearing that there’s like a lot of pride with speaking Basque.

 

Itxaso

Absolutely. So it’s actually so I grew up speaking Basque at home, and also Spanish. It’s actually a way of identifying yourself as an authentic member of the community. So and obviously, this is something that was going on, the fact that we need to maintain the language, one of the oldest languages in Europe, this is a big belief within the Basque community, that we have been able to maintain our language and our culture, even if we have been invaded by many, many people. And oftentimes, we talk about this invasion, that also speaks to the current political situation. And obviously, this is my side of the story. This is not the only side of the Basque story but there is a huge pride especially in terms of wanting to maintain the language, wanting to continue. This is a big part of our culture, this idea continuation, of generation to generation transmission is something that definitely takes a big load on on our identity as authentic members of the community and also wanting to maintain that history. We don’t want to be defied, we want to be there and one of the stereotypes and obviously it’s a stereotype that the Basque people are stubborn. So and this is something that in first works about descriptions that we have about Basque people, one of the main descriptions is that they are so stubborn that they’re not willing to give up their language. My question is Who, who would want to give up their language, right?

 

Megan Figueroa

Right.

 

Itxaso

So it’s not a matter of stubborn, it’s a matter of wanting to keep yourself alive. And Basque people do take pride in that aspect, in the fact that we’re still we’re still there, and we’re still wanting to be there.

 

Carrie Gillon

So what is the political background of let’s say, Spain, like how how is Basque situated within the Spanish speaking country of Spain.

 

Itxaso

Right. So the context between Basque and Spanish is as long as the Spanish ever existed because Basque was already there, even before the Latin Julius Caesar, his friends came into the Basque territory. So going back into a little bit of more recent political situation. So I will start a little bit with, I would say, ever since the border between Spain and France was created along the Pyrenees, that it is not necessarily the first diversification of the Basque country. But he was actually one of the most important ones, the fact that Spain and France became two different countries, the Basque became politically very divided in that respect, there was this the boundary in terms of nation states. So going look at looking at it more from a more recent perspective, so Basque has been spoken there for a long time. And obviously, the contact with French and Spanish has also influenced the way those varieties have evolved. Right? So we do have a lot of Spanish words we do makes a lot the sounds even the sound so if you are in the Spanish side of the Basque country, you know, that you’re in the Spanish size uh Spanish side, because some of the sounds of very similar to Spanish and when you’re in the French area it is the same, there is a lot of French sounding sounds. But there’s still some of the sounds are unique to the Basque language as well, so then we can just Spanish side so we had the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. And this had a huge impact on on the Basque population. Because the town of Guernica, the very famous town of Guernica, that was a cultural center for for Basque, the Basque parliament was there and was bombed in 1937. And then after the dictatorship, sorry, after the civil war, the dictatorship lasted for 40 years up to 1975 until the dictator Franco died. So the language was prohibited. So you couldn’t speak the language otherwise you could be taken to jail or you could be killed. And that’s what happened to many Basque poets writers that still wrote in Basque. Obviously there was a huge loss of Basque speakers during that time because just started to be not spoken or transmitted, although is in some areas of the Basque country right now, the dialects also died out before then but in this respect the dictatorship did have a huge impact on but on maintaining the language. And this is where I was born. And this is where my sister was born. And we spoke Basque at home. My parents would only speak to us in Basque. But they were to speak to us the standard variety. So supposedly, I am a native speaker of the standard Basque. But right now I have to admit that I don’t speak standard Basque fluidly. I can read and write in standard Basque, but I cannot fluently speak it. There is always some influence of my regional dialect, because Guernica did have a variety there before the standardization of Basque. So this is just a little bit of the background. I mean, I think I could go on or on, but yeah,

 

Megan Figueroa

That was perfect. Thank you. Is anyone here monolingual in Basque.

 

Itxaso

Actually not that we know of. So maybe there are a couple or a handful of speakers in very isolated areas. But it’s very, very, very hard to find a monolingual speaker of Basque. And even if they say that they’re monolingual, they probably understand some Spanish or French so I do have friends that have told me that Oh, my goodness, my grandma. She doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. This is in the Navarre mountains in a very isolated area. And I say, are you sure she doesn’t know any Spanish? I will. She doesn’t speak a word she would never respond to do the Spanish. And I asked her Do you think she understands? And she says, Well, I don’t know. Maybe she pretends to understand it, right. So it could be that there are a handful of speakers, but he would not be possible to navigate the area if you’ve done the other language as well. Although there are areas in which past is spoken almost by everybody. And he has a huge impact right there some zones in which are considered more my bilingual than others. And this has to do with the regions where boss was already spoken. Before this summarization those areas maintain quite high degree of bilingualism with the Spanish or with French, but in a more urban area, even if bad has the presence of us has increased compared to other regions is other regions is spoken by less less people. Absolutely. So I never met one only one speaker best I love to eat there any but I doubt that if there is any, there will be a remote area. I wonder if this hypothetical grandma who says she doesn’t speak any Spanish? Is it because of pride?

 

Megan Figueroa

Is there a tension between Basque and Spanish.

 

Itxaso

Yes? Oh, absolutely. There is there is tension between the Spanish and Basque or at least, historically, there has been some tension between the Spanish and the Basque. Also, there’s tension within different varieties of Basque or different types of speakers of Basque. So it could be that this hypothetical grandma is hostile for all the war that she probably had to endure the fact that she probably had family members killed, she probably had to fight for her survival. So this is also a way to show that she’s not ready to submit herself to such a horrendous cultural genocide, right? So it could be contributing to her pride. It could be contributing to who she is now because of the historical events in her life. Right? Yeah,

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah. Can I ask a question about so the situation of Basque in France versus the situation of Basque in Spain? Is there a difference? Is this the same?

 

Itxaso

Right. Yes, there’s some similarities and some differences. The major difference is that Basque is not official with French. So the French constitution only takes French as the official language of the state, French is the language of France, right. And that has had an impact because in the French Basque Country, language shift has been more has gone more rapidly, meaning that more and more speakers have shifted to the dominant language in French a lot faster than they did in the Spanish area. However, recently, or relatively recently at least in the last decade, France has allowed, or has given permission to be able to, to teach these regional languages. And not only the Basque country, but in other areas, as long as their French is not been affected meaning that they need to show that they’re also fluent French speakers. So there is also a consortium of ikastola. So ikastola is the Basque word for Basque school, it means the place of learning. And there are lots of ikastolas in the French Basque country as well as the Spanish Basque country in which kids these immersion programs in which kids can go and can speak and learn Basque if they don’t learn it at home, or to be able to be literate in Basque and then there is also something that they call Seaska, which is also a high school in the in the French Basque country. And this is located in the Baiona area, which is the capital of the French Basque country and the biggest city there is about 40,000 people, right. And there are lots of kids that go there and learn fast. But like in the United States, the immersion program, in which everything is being taught in Basque, and also they do have French as a subject so that they’re also literate in French is starts to die out. Meaning that later on French is more dominant, even in the studies, right. But today, they’re highly bilingual there are lots of people that are highly bilingual, but you can still see that French is the dominant language as well in the French Basque Country. Interestingly enough, I have, I have also done research on identity issues, language maintenance, language contact in both sides of the border. So one of the things that I noticed when I was there in the French Basque country in the Baiona area is that john people, there is a huge movement of young people wanting to maintain their language, right, they speak it, they celebrate it, there are lots of activism, there are radio stations, right, it’s a way to put consciousness to the speakers. And obviously, there’s also a mixture between French and Basque. And one of the things that I did notice there, as opposed to the Spanish side, is that everybody was able to speak Basque. Not everybody, but a large body of the speakers who can speak Basque fluently, or semi-fluently or whatever that means, they actually make a huge effort, right? This is different from other urban areas in the Spanish side of the Basque country, in the sense that in Bilbao young people, especially if you’re younger than 25, or even 30, it’s very likely that you learned Basque in school through immersion programs. But then that language is not been transmitted to the streets. So this is something that we call reversal language shift. Whereas before this standardization Basque was the language of the home, now for many urban areas in the Spanish Basque Country, Basque is the language of the schooling and then they would go home and there would speak Spanish, maybe because their parents don’t speak Spanish. So there is alternative change in how Basque can be used and how it’s been submitted. That has an impact on the transmission, and as I said, the vitality of the language. so I even interviewed a young Basque French speakers and who actually wanted to go study abroad in the Basque country. this is actually hilarious, because they’re, they’re going to study abroad in their own Basque-speaking territory. But it’s broad because the countries the borders divide us, right? And he was telling me how disappointed he was when he was studying in Bilbao for a year. That one of the reasons why he wanted to go there is because he wanted to have education in Basque, he studied engineering, and he wanted to be able to study engineering in Basque. And when he was there, he said, Yes, all classes were in Basque. But he was surprised to find out that there are lots of young people of his age that they actually use more Spanish in their daily life interactions. And he was very disappointed and sad to see that. So one of the questions is, why do we see these divergent patterns? Right. And I would say that one of the reasons that I have in mind is that I feel that in the French Basque country, they probably feel more oppressed because their language, the Basque language doesn’t have at least any it’s recognized as existing, but it’s not necessarily being guaranteed by the government, meaning that they have to work really hard to be able to have it in the schools. Whereas in the Spanish side of the Basque country is is given to us, the government has worked really hard for us to be able to have access, so we kind of assume that we’re going to have that access too, right. Obviously, there are other factors the country, but I would say that, that that is probably a big issue or a big potential explanation for that. Yeah.

 

Carrie Gillon

That’s fascinating.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah. And then the the French situation sounds very similar to the situation in Spanish in the US to me.

 

Itxaso

Yes. Yeah. So yeah, it has some similarities and some differences, too, right? So in terms of the similarities is that the French Basque country, so the government does not necessarily support the schools, right? So they have to work hard for it. It’s the same in the United States too, in the sense that these all these languages are not English, if they want to maintain them, then they have the families have to work really hard. The school system has to, there is a bottom up approach in the sense that this society gets involved with how they could provide these linguistic resources for the kids like literacy so that they can maintain the language. So in that respect, is very, very similar, right?

 

Megan Figueroa

Yes.

 

Itxaso

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

 

Carrie Gillon

So are Basque speakers discriminated against in either Spain or France?

 

Itxaso

oh, yeah, well, we can start even with the Constitution itself, right? And obviously, I don’t think everybody would agree with me with what I’m saying right now. But so one of the beliefs is that Oh, yes, Basque now, it’s been acknowledged by the Spanish government because Article 2 of the Constitution says that Basque is also co-official with Spanish, so Article 2 says that every Spaniard has the duty to know Spanish. But then Article 2.1 says that other is Spanish languages. So for instance, Galician in Galicia, Catalan in Catalonia, or Basque in the Basque country have the right to be able to use it, right. So in that respect, these these regional languages are considered lower in our state me that you also need to know Spanish, but not the other way around. So when you go to Madrid, and if I want to, I want to have kids and I moved to Madrid with my partner, I can’t ensure that my kids are going to maintain the language, right. So in that respect, the Spanish constitution does not protect me as a Basque speaker or as a citizen of Spain. So in that respect, I do feel that there is a huge gap there. Yes, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. So also in terms of nationalism. So there is there is some oftentimes a belief that they only nationalist regions are the ones that speak another language other than in Spanish, but there is also Spanish nationalism, right? And this also has to do with power issues in the sense that nobody questions that knowledge of Spanish, but everybody keeps asking us about why do you speak Basque? And they said, Well, why do you speak Spanish? Right? So then other types of discrimination also have to do with politics. So language and politics has been very entrenched in the Basque country and in Spain. So when terrorism in the Basque country and in Spain was at its peak by ETA terrorist group, or yeah, so oftentimes, when these people were being convicted, they had the right to have a hearing or a trial that was in Basque but that right was not given to them, right. So there is stuff we do have some issues of language discrimination. And obviously, acts of terrorism, one of the most punishable crimes in Spain. And language has had an impact in how those people are also being treated. There was also a law passed in the 90s, and this is when the peak of terrorism was there, in which Basque so some members of ETA would be taken to jail farther away from their families in the Basque country. And when families would go and visit them. Many were Spanish speakers only but many also were Basque speakers. And the language of the home was always Basque. So many Basque families would go and visit their relatives for prison. And the Spanish policeman would not allow them to speak Basque so that they could I know what they’re talking about. So I do have Yeah, it was. So my dad is a schoolteacher, and he’s about to retire in, actually, next week.

 

Carrie Gillon

Yay! Congratulations to your dad.

 

Itxaso

And so he taught Basque, even if he was not a native speaker of Basque he was a Basque teacher in a small school where Basque is spoken by 95% of the population there. And he had a student as a kid, because he taught primary school and he had a student that she was born in jail, because both of her parents were taken to jail prison for certain acts that they have they committed or whatever. And so she grew up with a grandma, and oftentimes she would go visit her parents. And there were moments in which she said, I’d rather go back home, than speak in Spanish to my parents.

 

Carrie Gillon

Wow.

 

Itxaso

So a sentence, they would go visit them to the other side of Spain in Andalusia and say, well, and that’s a 12 hour drive. So let’s go back because I can’t communicate in a language. It’s a foreign language to us, right? Doesn’t mean that we hated Spanish, but it’s the language of law, and we are being not allowed to use it. So there has been issues of discrimination at that level. Absolutely.

 

Carrie Gillon

That reminds me just very recently, there was a man who speaks Hawaiian and English because, of course, everyone else speaks English in Hawaii. But he spoke, he speaks both Hawaiian and English. And he is one of the official languages of Hawaii is Hawaiian, and he tried to use Hawaiian in the courtroom, and the judge just refused to, like, let him use this language. And anyway, the whole situation was very upsetting, because if it’s an official language, you should be able to have a trial in your own language. That’s how I feel it’s a Canadian, where that is the law.

 

Itxaso

Absolutely. The way I this Spanish law would respond to that would say, oh, but Basque is not an official languages of Madrid, and these, these acts were being convicted in Audiencia Nacional or with the Supreme Court in Madrid, right. But still, you do have the right to have a translator, right. If that is the case. Right. You should have the right to express yourself in any language that you feel comfortable with. Because you’re being convicted, right?

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah. Yeah. I mean,

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah, if there’s any time when you should have your right to your language is definitely in a trial because the heavy hammer of the of the law, right, you need to be protected.

 

Itxaso

Absolutely. And I have examples myself, I mean, oftentimes, I have to admit that I take a lot of pride in my Basque language. And as a sociolinguist, I also played with power dynamics a lot. So when I go to Madrid, maybe for you know, a layover, but I fly back to Chicago or something like that. Sometimes, they look at my passport, and they’re like, obviously, they look at my last name, I’m just like, Oh, Rodriguez. You know, she’s Spanish, Spanish passport. But then they look at my name. And my name is written with a ‘tx’ which is also very symbolic of the Basque language and they’re like, Oh, so do you are Basque, and then make comments and sometimes I’m like, yeah, that should not be a surprise, right? Why is it that I have to know more about you than you know about me. So now, every time I have a layover in Madrid, I speak in English to everybody and you know, they think I’m American because my accent they cannot notice my foreign right I speak more fluent English they they think that I am American and then when I show my password they say, “but you’re a Spaniard! Why do you speak to us in English?” And I said, “why not? I feel more comfortable in English than speaking in Spanish.” “But you’re a Spaniard!” I said, “I’m not a Spaniard right? I didn’t pick my citizenship.” And, you know, well, I use English because this is an international airport. So at the same time, I’m trying to give a lesson. And here I’m too idealistic of what it means to speak an imperial language. So yeah, I am using another imperial language to show what it feels like to be posed a language. I don’t think my sociolinguistic lessons in the airport work that well.

 

Carrie Gillon

Probably not. But it’s worth a shot.

 

Itxaso

But hopefully they go home and think about this weird girl. I mean, I don’t know, but it makes me feel better about myself, though.

 

Megan Figueroa

Would you actually say, is it true that your English is better you feel your English is better than your Spanish?

 

Itxaso

Absolutely not.

 

Megan Figueroa

No? Okay. Okay. That’s a lie. Alright alright.

 

Itxaso

Well, I would say I would say that I mean, in order to talk about certain topics I feel better speaking in English. So if I have to talk about linguistic issues, I think my English is the stronger in that respect. I had to think harder to find vocabulary, the Spanish and so it’s better in that respect, I do think.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah.

 

Itxaso

And I also have sometimes I forget words in Spanish as well. And then I’m thinking “Am I losing my Spanish” or but then it activates very quickly, but it is not uncommon to have to forget certain words.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, so that’s definitely something multilingual people worry about. Right? Is Am I losing x? Or am I losing? Yeah, it’s part of your identity, right?

 

Itxaso

Yes.

 

Megan Figueroa

It’s so I wonder how do you identify when you when you think of all the languages you speak.

 

I feel Basque. I feel very Basque. However, I feel very conflicted, because I don’t use Basque very often because I don’t have anybody around me to speak it with. So at the same time, I have to admit that I have developed an identity of an English speaker too, right. Also because my most immediate loving person is an English speaker right. So I speak English with my partner and but at the same time I feel very Basque and the more farther away and the longer I remain in this country in the United States I feel more Basque actually and I’m just starting to realize that I’m becoming part of our diaspora myself, which is something that it’s it’s very common after you leave home for a long time, right. Although I still have strong ties with my homeland, right, but and then those issues of discrimination also transcend into the host country. So interestingly enough so my father My father still feels very discriminated against in the hometown that I grew up in. For instance, he he is the result of big migration of monolingual Spanish speaker from Spain into the Basque country that happened in the 60s so my grandfather moved to the Basque country to Bilbao to the big city of Bilbao for work and my my my dad was 10 years old so when he moved there and then he learned Basque. He learned standard Basque and then he mored with my mom to this small town Guernica that has a large population of Spanish migrants but at the same time very very Basque-rooted culture and a regional dialect so oftentimes they will comment on his Basque that people would say “oh it’s interesting to see a Spaniard speak Basque, right, but at the same time your Basque is different for us, you didn’t learn at home you are not one of us” right

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah.

 

Megan Figueroa

So I remember interviewing my father and asking him “you lived in the Basque century for longer that you have lived in Spain or monolingual Spain” and say “do you feel bad?” and he would respond to me he said “it doesn’t matter how I feel because everybody has made me feel as an outsider.”

 

Carrie Gillon

Yeah

 

Itxaso

And that was very tough to hear because my parents did everything they could. First they have been big proponents of revitalization of the Basque language they have played a huge role people like them and there are lots of people that praise them for that and by my dad he still doesn’t feel like he belongs there mainly because of his ethnicity or because the variety he speaks and then I asked him “how do you how do you compensate for that or what have you done Have you hard Have you tried hard” and he said “oh absolutely” so for him being Basque is what we in sociolinguists call doing Basque because identity is a constant process of working forwardness. We are constantly practicing our identities, whether they’re conscious or unconscious, I my dad has had a huge has been very conscious about it he always wanted to construct his Basqueness through different practices. So for instance, he, he goes to lots of Basque ritualistic events, he engages, he volunteers for teaching Basque to immigrants, other immigrants he also engages in there is a cycling club and cycling also has a strong connection with the Basque entity. So he’s invested in capturing kids to sports, to the sports that are connected with the Basque country and mountains and those kinds of things.

 

Megan Figueroa

It’s It’s so hard to hear, just because I mean, it’s all the same, right? So linguistic discrimination across the world, I’m like, oh, what’s happening in the Basque country is what’s happening in the US for for people that don’t speak English. Or who want to keep their mother tongue?

 

Itxaso

Their mother? Yeah, absolutely. And we see that these patterns of discrimination, there’s a lot of similarities. And in fact, it has to do with issues of power. But how those power relations are being established, obviously, has the consequences come from the historical events as well. Right. So how is it that Basque speakers are being discriminated against within the Basque country? Because that also happens, right? So in my own research, I’m able to show so one of the questions that I seek to ask is, so the revitalization of the Basque language has been considered one of the most successful ones in Europe. Why, because we went from only speaking, only few speakers would speak it. But after the standardization of Basque and the co-officiality with Spanish and the implementation of Basque in school, would you say that young people 90% of the young population and by young with mean 30 or 35 years old or younger, can actually speak Basque. They’re competent speakers of Basque and Spanish. Obviously, there are varying degrees, but they have gone to school immersion programs in Basque and the government has done huge work on being able for Basque people to have those resources, but they use of Basque has remained quite stable, there has been some gains, meaning that maybe we had an increase of 5% or 10%. And obviously, these vary in terms of region. So one of the questions that I seek to ask in my research is that why is that the use of Basque remains low compared to the case so there are many bilinguals or all the gains in in bilingual speakers that we have been able to obtain. And one of the answers that we have, it has to do with identity. So many business, many speakers who learn Basque from early on they speak they learned the Basque the standard Basque variety in school, they start as early as three years old. So, but they don’t consider themselves native speakers of the language, even if they are very, very fluent they still consider themselves non-native speakers, and, because of the ideologies or the mother tongue ideology, they also believe that they’re not authentic enough, because they haven’t learned it at home. So that’s one of the issues that that is happening right now. And also, how is it that contact with Spanish and the contact features of grammatical aspects they incorporate in the Spanish contributes to their lack of authenticity, or actual authenticity, and here, it’s very interesting because we see a pattern in which if you spoke if you learned a regional variety of Basque, and you use Spanish words, it’s okay, because you are considered an authentic member of society of the Basque speaking community, because it’s implied that you have learned the language at home, although it’s not necessarily the case, right? But it implies that oftentimes, but what happens when somebody who speaks the standard Basque actually uses a Spanish word in it, or code-switches, meaning that they change, they say, a sentence in Spanish, and then another one in Basque, it actually contributes to their lack of authenticity. So many of the people that I interview they asked me, “Why is it that I’m not allowed to mix languages, when all those people who are very authentic are able to do it”, and they’re very aware that if they want to mix the language, which is common when you’re learning a language, you should do it with the regional variety. So actually, one of the things that it’s been suggested by other sociolinguists in the Basque country, is that, we should promote varieties in the classroom as well. So that these speakers have access to data authenticity. Yeah, so hopefully, that will pan out. But but we will see,

 

Carrie Gillon

I mean that makes total sense to me.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything that you want our listeners to take away from this about Basque? Let me tell you what I took away I am I just had no idea that people would refer to themselves as Basque like, I knew the Basque language existed, I didn’t think about it as an ethnicity I just didn’t think didn’t think!

 

Itxaso

Yes. And if they just did that, because one one last thing I would like to say is that we have different labels for different types of Basque. So for instance, we called euskalu zaharra, which means old speaker of Basque, but that has nothing to do with age. That means that you, you, you probably learned the language at home, you probably speak a variety, a regional variety, old speaker of Basque means pre-standardization, right whereas euskalu berriaren, which means, euskalu means Basque, berriaren means new, which means that you are a new Basque, right? And you probably speak the standard, right? So you are from a different era, and now we’re starting sociolinguists are starting to say, should we use this term? How racial is it, even if it’s about language, it also brings into question issues of ethnicity and linguistic properties, right? And authenticity. So that this also happens in in in the United States and everywhere, right? with Spanish, what does it mean to be Spanish? What does it mean to be Latino, what it means to be Chicano, what does it mean to be other/American, right, and these kinds of diversifications that are obviously socially constructed, we do have that in the Basque country too. Yeah, I do feel very Basque. And I have to admit that I I wouldn’t say that I take pride in it? Maybe some people will say, “Oh, my God, you’re so stubborn.” And I say “well, when your identity is being questioned all the time, you could be stubborn.”

 

Carrie Gillon

There’s the pull quote.

 

Megan Figueroa

Yeah, exactly. That’s true. I’m sure there are a lot of people I feel exactly as you do about that.

 

Itxaso

Yeah. Why do I have to explain myself ALL the time?

 

Megan Figueroa

Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming on and speaking with us. It was great.

 

Carrie Gillon

Thank you so much.

 

Itxaso

This was super exciting.

 

Carrie Gillon

And as we always say, don’t be an asshole.

 

Megan Figueroa

Don’t be an asshole. Bye!

 

Carrie Gillon

Bye!

 

Itxaso

Agur! Agur! That’s the word for goodbye in Basque: agur!

 

CARRIE: The Vocal Fries Podcast is produced by Chris Ayers for Halftone Audio. Music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @vocalfriespod. You can email us at vocalfriespod@gmail.com.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

Author: vocalfriespod

The podcast about linguistic discrimination. Carrie and Megan teach you how not to be an accidental asshole.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s