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Asier Barandiaran, Chair de language y Cultura Vasca, University of Navarra

Mother's home

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 08:48:23 +0000 Published in Newspaper (Navarra)

A university professor spoke of the father's house, contrasting it with the mother's fire, the warmth of the home created by her. The father's house, to which Gabriel Aresti's mythical poem Nire aitaren etxea makes reference letter , could represent the political construction that sometimes is wanted to be done starting from some cultural values; but that house is very difficult to sustain, to defend or to create. On the other hand, we have the home of the mother, the fire and the loving warmth of the amatxo, which symbolizes the linguistic community that is transmitted from generation to generation, in the close family and social environment. What we really are.

Last February 21st was celebrated the International Day of the language Maternal. It is illustrative that we talk this way about the first language we learn, because there is nothing like the affection that impregnates the first words of the mother to her baby and that will always remain in her report.

Sticking to our immediate reality, a millenary language such as the Basque language has for a long time had no other value than that of being the mother tongue language , used in the private sphere of certain people and groups of what has been called Euskal Herria (cultural and linguistic) and which has only recently been made official.

One of the characteristics of a culturally advanced society (with all its buts and problems) is the recognition of the cultural and linguistic rights and needs of minorities. However, on the occasion of the day dedicated to the mother tongue language , we should remember that in the Europe of democracy and the Welfare State there are still cultures and languages that do not have all their rights guaranteed and that even have serious obstacles to develop their potential in a normal way and in the service of our global village. 

In Navarre, although it does not only represent that, Euskera continues to be a mother tongue language for many Navarrese. For others, it is the language of the amatxi or the berramatxi. And there are those who have no known ancestors who spoke it, but who consider it very much their own, as a cultural and identity value, etc., in spite of not mastering its use. And the Foral Law of Basque should endorse this, even if it only allows officiality in the Basque-speaking area.

But, over and above laws, it has been the popular initiative that has "pulled the cart" many times, in spite of obstacles and reticence due to misunderstandings that come from ignorance or manipulation. As these misunderstandings are overcome and a difference is made between political options and the defense of culture as a good for all, the people of Navarre have shown greater support for the promotion of Basque in Navarre, as sociolinguistic surveys show.

It is up to the Administration and the Government of Navarre to promote access to this language through the teaching, cultural policy and the media. This has been recalled by the commissioners of the committee of Europe in charge of drafting the second report on the fulfillment of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, which entails a series of measures and policies in favor of Basque in the Autonomous Community of Navarre.

In 2011 it will be 25 years since the Foral Law of the Basque language, a law that intended to "promote and promote" a language proper of Navarre. Without denying or hiding the good that has been done so far, it seems obvious that there is still much to be done. In the field of teaching, for example, it cannot be ignored that there is already a deep-rooted bilingualism and that is what must be used to take the step to plurilingualism, as the experts affirm. In this case, "bridging" is not good either for social coexistence or for achieving good objectives. English is now a lingua franca. Let us take advantage of this so that, without diminishing the already real bilingualism in our community, we make the leap to multilingualism with English and other languages.

Returning to the image of that university professor, who is also a bertsolari, we are in time to give air to the fire of the mother or that of the amatxi.