Developing bilingualism in the private sector and championing bilingualism with one voice
Day #4: findings of the delegation from Wales’ further education sector which is visiting the Basque Country in order to share good practice on bilingualism in the post-16 education and training sector.
The weather wasn’t quite as nice in Donostia this morning as we set off for the Martin Ugalde Cultural Centre – Kultur Park. This mountainous and beautiful region is unique in housing so many social enterprises and societies that promote the use of the Basque language in all public spheres. They co-exist and collaborate in one place, sharing ideas, hopes and aspirations for the type of society they wish to see in their country.
Our first visit of the day was to EMUS co-operative, which assists public and private organisations to develop and implement Basque language plans. Although the Basque language has been afforded official status for a number of years and all Basque speakers have basic legal rights, the statutory regulations on private businesses are implemented only infrequently. EMUN promotes the value of the Basque language in the world of work to companies, and works with them on the link between language plans and business success.
It was interesting to hear that changing the attitude of business remains a challenge in the Basque Country. Nonetheless, EMUN has supported 237 private companies in adopting a language plan. The range of operations in the Basque language include for example: that the language forms part of the company’s general ethos; that the company’s internal administration is conducted in Basque; or that the company uses the language in the selling of its products and provision of its services to the public.
The sun was shining as we left EMUN to visit one of the cornerstones of Basque civic society, Berria newspaper. The newspaper has a long history and is the only daily Basque-medium newspaper. But its offices, where numerous journalists type out their stories each day, are notably modern.
It was a great shock to us to hear that the paper had been closed in 2003 following a siege by the Spanish army. The Spanish government had claimed that the paper had connections with paramilitary organisations in the country. Members of the editorial board were jailed, some for months. After seven years, the European High Court ruled that there wasn’t any evidence to link the paper with paramilitary groups. The paper reopened and now continues to report on Basque and global matters in the Basque language. Its going from strength to strength and plays a central role in the national movement and Basque civic society.
On we went then to the offices of the umbrella organisation, Kontseilua. The organisation’s main purpose is to speak with one voice in representing over 40 social enterprises and organisations that work to promote the Basque language in the world of education, in society, the community and in politics. Maybe Wales has something to learn from this organisation, to speak more clearly on language matters, and on language rights more generally.
That brings us to the end of our journey in the Basque Country. We are tired, but we have been inspired with all the ideas gathered over the last week. We return to Wales tomorrow, and so begins the work to consider the next steps on our journey of improving bilingualism in post-16 education and training in Wales.
Diolch o galon i bawb sydd wedi bod yn gysylltiedig â’r prosiect Erasmus+ hwn, am y cyfle yn y man cychwyn, ac yn arbennig am holl waith diflino pennaeth Sgiliaith, Angharad Mai Roberts wrth drefnu’r ymweliad; ac i Jon a Pablo o TKNIKA am ofalu amdanom drwy’r wythnos.
A heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s been involved with this Erasmus+ funded project, for the opportunity in the first instance, and in particular to Angharad Mai Roberts, head of Sgiliaith, for the endless work in preparing the visit, and to Jon and Pablo from TKNIKA for looking after us throughout the week.
Thank you to the team #CymruBasg for jointly contributing to the blog, namely: Angharad Mai Roberts, Claire Roberts, Bryn Hughes Parry, Anna Fflur Davies, Branwen Thomas, Caren Efans, Osian Jones, Fflur Rees Jones, Helen Humphreys, Lowri Morgans. Additional editing by Sylvia Davies.