Monthly Archives: June 2010

ulertzen dut!!

Kaixo lagunak!

Today has been an absolute blast! I felt very alert and attentive today, and I learned so MUCH! Today, my brain was a sponge, and Euskera, the water that  saturated it! Literally, my understanding has increased exponentially. An example of this came today in class, when we actually argued about a topic in Basque. My classmates and I carried on for quite a while about our differing opinions and it was all in Euskera. (I couldn´t  have done that three weeks ago.) We also read from Berria, the Basque newspaper. And surprisingly, I was able to understand most of the article I read (with a little help from my hitztegia).  Even my confidence with speaking has increased. I am able to talk with an ease that I didn´t have before. Finally, I have ¨lasai-ed¨ and it feels great.

I had this moment in class today when I just sat back and took it all in. My thoughts progressed something like this:

¨I am in a barnetegi. I am listening to people around me speak Basque…and I understand them. I am speaking Basque. Wait a minute…me? Me?! I CAN SPEAK BASQUE!!!!¨

Its funny, I guess I just didn´t realize how much I have been learning every day, and how much it helps that I am around Euskera all the time. (I still haven´t dreamt in Basque yet…but hopefully I will soon.)

I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be here now. But it´s actually happening, and I am in the throes of it. When I first started studying Basque at the university, I remember my irakaslea Nere telling our class of the possibility of one day visiting the Basque Country. Four semesters later, here I am. And it is beautiful! wonderful (zoragarria)!

In one of my earlier posts, I complained about the fact that everyone around me spoke Spanish, and that they were able to explain it to eachother but I was unable to understand. In hindsight, I almost think it´s better that I don´t understand Spanish. Euskera is all I can rely on (with the occasional help of my hitztegia of course). Today in class, one of my classmates, Isabel explained a concept to me in Euskera by circumventing the word I was trying to learn. She gave me examples and I was able to understand. It is so comforting that my classmates have so much patience. They are all very kind, and try their hardest to explain when I miss something.  Being in such a safe environment helps. Everyone here understands eachother because we are all in the same boat. Though our classmates might have spent more time at Maizpide, they have been where we are. And they just get it. So my thought of the night is thank God for barnetegis. Thank God for my teachers, for Nere and my teachers at Maizpide, for my classmates, family, friends, and for the friendship of Cody and Megan, which has held me together on this trip. I couldn´t be luckier, or happier to be where I am right now.

Gaur, asko ikasten dut. Ulertzen dut ere bai! Duela bi urte, nik ez nuen ulertzen. Oso urduri nengoen. Euskera hitz egiten ez nuen nahi, beldurtuta nengoenelako. Orain, nire Euskera hobeto da eta posten naiz. Nire irakasleek esan didate, ¨Lasai, neska, pixkanaka, pixkanaka.¨ Egia da!

oraintxe, oso pozik nago! ondo pasa eta Gabon!

3rd week

This weekend we stayed in Bilbao in the old part of town, a labyrinth known as Zazpi Kaleak. On Sunday we went to Mungia, Bakio, Bermeo, Gernika, Muxika and Amorebieta. Thanks to a fortunate series of events, Megan Y. was able to find the house of her great grandfather who immigrated to the US around the turn of the century. We met the family now living there, her family. It was surprising for them to have a stranger from the USA show up like that claiming to be their relative. We talked for a long time about the geneology. We still have some research to do but all signs indicate that it is her family. It was an amazing experience. If you want the full story you´ll have to wait for the novel.

Bizkaia is a beautiful place, as is the whole Basque Country. You can´t imagine the forests, unless you´ve been to Idaho or Oregon. We are hitting it hard in school, but not in the bars. I´m saving it up for Thursday.

Tonight a Bertsolaria is going to sing at dinner. If you don´t know what that is, Google it!

Until next time. Agur!

:) positive encouragement makes a world of difference

I just have to say that I just read an email from my irakaslea (teacher) in Boise, and reading it removed the raincloud that was lurking over my head. She told me to just relax and relish in the positive things that are happening. And she is right! This is the best trip I´ve ever been on! THE BEST EXPERIENCE I´VE HAD SO FAR! And I am wasting my time getting frustrated. So thank you, Nere, your encouragement really helped. Thank you also to those of you who have commented on the blog. Your kind words have made a world of difference for me.

This trip has been amazing so far. Euskal Herria has been everything that I expected, and more. Lazkao, especially. It is an ideal town for me because it is small, surrounded by green, and it just feels safe. And you can speak Euskara wherever you go! (That isn´t possible at home, so I will relish it while I am here. )

On another note, I have much to tell of this last weekend. Megan Cody, and I visited the town of Muxika in search for Megan´s family´s etxea. The story is pretty incredible and I will share it with you later. Now I am going to meet with my new irakaslea, Noe, for some study help. I have many questions for her!

wrapping up week two

Last Thursday was rough because I was feeling very frustrated. At times, I feel so behind the other students in my class, becase am not used to having six hours of Euskera instruction every day. I know it´s not good to compare yourself to others, but I do. And I was trying so hard to understand, and I was just NOT understanding. (I think it had a lot to do with me being upset. I would get frustrated about one thing, and then it would just build, one thing after another, until I couldn´t take it anymore. ) I want to know everything about Euskera. I want to be able to speak it fluently. I want it so bad I can taste it, but it isn´t going to come overnight.

After stepping back and evaluating what we´ve done here at this barnetegi, I realize that we accomplished in two weeks at Maizpide what it took us an entire semester to do at Boise State.  We´ve already had 60 hours of Euskera instruction! 60 hours! Not counting  breakfast, lunch, dinner, visits to the cafe and day to day interactions with people in the town of Lazkao.  There is so much opportunity here to practice speaking and listening. Euskera is everywhere you go. The interactions with the bartender at the taberna, the clerk at the grocery store, those day to day events you don´t think about until you are so far away from the language you are used to. Even the directions to use the washing machine are in Euskera!

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, like I´ll never know it all, I´ll never be able to read and understand the signs on the road, but as my instructors have told me time and again, pixkanaka, pixkanaka. Little by little it will come. And it´s true! This morning in class we were given article to read. It had some blank spots for us to fill with the correct word.  The assignment was not only to fill in the blanks, but also to explain the content to our neighbor, who was given a different article. Now, usually assignments like this take me FOREVER. I stop and search for every little word I don´t recognize. But today was different, because I didn´t stop at every new word. I have learned that it is easier to make sense of something if you just read it through several times before trying to understand every little detail. Each time I read it, I understood a little bit more, and was able to figure some words out based on their context, rather than relying on the dictionary.  Same goes with listening. When I just quiet my mind and let the words come it´s much easier on the brain. You walk away with a much smaller headache.

Today is Monday and I just finished my morning class (well, I missed the first one, because our alarm clock failed to go off, so we slept through the first bus ride out of Bilbao). Anyway, I am here, well fed, and ready to learn! Lunch was great today 🙂 a stew with potatoes and beef…mmmm. That´s one thing I´m really going to miss about this place. The food. And the good times we have while eating. We all just sit around and speak Basque to eachother. Well, really I just butcher it, but the butchering has decreased since I first arrived.

bigarren astean

Kaixo! eta zer moduz? Ni oso pozik nago!

Today is day 10 of the barnetegi experience. We have been learning in the classroom for a week and a half–and the study is very intense. My ability to understand other people has increased exponentially, but when it is time for me to talk, I feel tongue-tied.

I have a hard time expressing myself–I think that´s the hardest part for me. I have so much that I want to say to other people, but don´t know how to put into words.  I can talk about simple things without difficulty, but when it comes to complex sentence structures I stumble through them.

In conversation, my biggest hang-up is vocabulary. I feel like I should tote my dictionary around because I have to ask about every other word.  People start to talk and I hear a word that I don´t recognize and I get fixated on that word and miss the rest of what they are saying. Then we have to rewind the story, they repeat themselves, repeat. But this is normal, I am told, when learning a language. A good piece of advice someone gave to me was that when you are learning a language, you need to memorize words. The more the merrier. And until I came to Maizpide,  I didn´t realize just how important that was.

(It´s funny, but sitting here writing in English is actually difficult right now. I am used to Euskera! I have forgotten how to spell some words in English, and have to consult the online dictionary from time to time.      🙂 But then I can´t write that well in Euskera either…Ai ama!!!)

Wow. there´s so much to tell, I don´t even know where to begin. Right now, I am going to go study. Maybe after exercising a little more Euskera, I will be inspired to write something here.

three days at a barnetegi

Kaixo! It has been three days since I arrived in Lazkao. Three days of total immersion in Euskera. When I first arrived on Monday, I didn´t know what to expect, I was nervous and intimidated. Even though I had already completed four semesters of study at the university I was still scared.

When we arrived at Maizpide, the people here were very welcoming and helpful, students and teachers alike. Cody, Megan (another student that´s with us from Boise), and I were instantly welcomed into the classroom.
At first, the content was very difficult. I felt overwhelmed by all of the Euskera. I hadn´t quite prepared myself for being completely submerged in another language, and wasn´t ready for the change. By the end of the day, it felt like my brain was going to explode. Not only do we have class all day, Euskera is spoken at all of the meals we eat together. When Megan and I returned to our room for the night, all I wanted to do was speak English!

Today was day three, and there is already a huge improvement in my Euskera. Not only is it easier for me to understand other people, I feel more comfortable talking. Euskera is a very hard language to understand, especially coming from an English background, but as the teachers here keep telling me, “pixkanaka-pixkanaka” (little by little), I will understand.

It is easy to get frustrated. This morning I was so upset at my limited understanding that I wanted to cry. But, my getting emotional only made matters worse. When I stopped, took a deep breath and relaxed, the words seemed to flow from my mouth. (I have noticed that when I get upset or nervous it is very hard for me to communicate. It´s almost as if I forget everything I know). I know that this language is not an easy one to learn, and once you know that and accept it, it makes learning much easier. You can´t let your fear of embarrassment hold you back. You´ve got to just put yourself out there and speak if you want to improve. After three days here, I can say that the best thing to do is to lasai (relax) and just listen. It is much easier to learn when I feel calm.

Though it´s only been three days, I feel like I know so much more than I did when I came. This is a wonderful environment for learning, and being completely submerged in the language is very helpful.

Each day, we are given homework. (Which I am about to go do). We have three teachers, and throughout the day we focus on a particular subject. We continue to practice with each teacher doing different exercises to reinforce what we are learning. In class, we read, write, listen, and speak in Euskera. We also work in groups. One detriment is that I don´t speak Spanish. Most, if not all of the students here do, and every explanation is given in Spanish. This makes it very difficult for me to understand, but it is also good, because Euskera is all I can rely on. This forces me to use my knowlege of Euskera to express my thoughts and questions–and it forces the other people in our class to explain in Euskera. Sometimes we get really creative, drawing pictures, making sounds…sometimes I feel like we´re playing charades.

I am learning a lot, and I am very excited to take full advantage of this opportunity. It´s not every day I get to be surrounded by Basque speakers everywhere I go.

Oso pozik nago, Maizpide nagoelako! Maizpide eskola onena dela, uste dut. Irakasleak eta ikasleak oso jatorrak dira.
Asko praktikatu behar dut ikaskideekin. Exterako lana asko badaukat, horregatik, ikasiko dut.

The weekend in Lazkao

This weekend we stayed in the convent which is next door to the school. Some who know me may find it surprising that I, being the chain smoking, hard drinking, Lord´s name in vain taking kind of guy that I am, would elect to stay in a house of nuns. I only dealt with one, Encarna, who was elderly and kind. My room was small but had a great bathroom. I met the parish priest, Juan Mari, and he drove us up to one of the mountains and we hiked for a few hours early Sunday morning. But the xirimiri forced us to go back.

We walked one town over to Beasain and we were delighted to find that nothing was open. We walked up the highway to Lazkaomendi, which has one restaurant and other than that, is just farm houses. We walked to a small town past Lazkaomendi, Zaldibia.  We´re in beautiful country. We ate in the restaurant in Lazkaomendi and an old bertsolari sang to us.

This is by far a better ¨Basque Country¨ experience than you can enjoy in a big city like Bilbao or Donosti. Everybody speaks Basque and outside of this small city, it´s very rural. When not in class, all there is to do here is walk around, speak Basque, eat, drink and smoke cigarrettes. But, those are pretty much my favorite things to do anywhere, so what better place than here, eh?

lehengo astea amaiera

Beno, lehengo astea ya bukatuta dago, zein tristea, eh? Serioaz esaten dut baietz ez dudalako denbora asko hemen baina beno, oso pozik nago, primeran.
Atzo gure parranda eguna zen. Esaten da atzoko parranda besteak baino gutxiagoa zela. Nik oso ondo pasa nuen. Joan ginen tabernak Heren izena du. Beno, zer kontatzeko? Kaña batzuk, kalimotxo batzuk, dantzatu nuen, eta Meganen arabera, dantzari ona naiz. Zein konplimendu, ez?
Gero beste taberna batera joan ginen eta goizeko lauretarako denok OSO GORAZ kantatzen genuen kalean. Gau bat harrigarrizkoa izan zen.
Asteburu honetan konbentuan egongo gara mojekin eta espero dut hori ongi ibiliko dela. Mendira joan nahi dugu, a ver…
Beno, utziko zaituztet, eskerrik asko irakurtzeagatik, ondo pasa asteburuan, eta agur!
Beste gauza bat: Iparaldeko ahoskera enkantatzen zait!

Bigarren posta

Due to the overwhelming number of requests for a post in English, I will oblige my anglophone family and friends who could not read my last one that, save a few sentences, was in Euskera. This place is awesome, primeran, un lugar encantador. So how am I doing? Well,…
The people have been more than willing to help with any problem, linguistic or otherwise. Today I did an interview with EITB, which is the Basque television and radio station. The video should be on the site within a few days.
I enjoy the classes very much. I have three classes a day, each one for two hours. Each class has a different teacher. Nire ustez, (in my opinion) the first class hits us with new grammatical concepts and is a bit dryer. But I enjoy that kind of thing. The second class is basicaly a continuation of what we were doing in the first. Then we have lunch, which is from 1:30 to 4:30. After eating you can take a nap, do homework, or get a drink in the bar. Then we go to the last class, which I think is the most fun. We don´t study technical grammar per se, it´s more conversation and practicing our Basque. Today we had to tell a story. Anything we would care to share with the class. I talked about the night we ate hedgehog in Donosti, and how I ordered three, one for each of us, as it turns out, we didn´t even need one. The girls, being girls, couldn´t finish this new and exotic dish. So I ate all three. Beer never tasted so good after eating three puréed hedgehogs. I really think they just killed them up on the mountain, maybe with a .22 or a BB gun, and threw the hedgehog cadavers in a blender and scooped the goop back into their shells or hard body or whatever the hell it was, still with the spines on the back. When in Rome, eat like the locals do.
Other than that, I go thru my day speaking three languages: Basque 90% of the time in normal day to day interactions; English 8% when I want to express myself in the every trustworthy mother tongue with my Megans; and I speak Spanish 2% of the time to ask for a translation or a ¨Nola esaten da…?¨ (How do you say…?) But here, everybody´s first language is Spanish, and we are not here to speak Spanish, so we do not have conversations in ¨Cervantesen hizkuntza¨ (the language of Cervantes), as our teacher Aitzol refers the the Castilian tongue.
Well, that´s about it for now. For all you fellow grammar nerds out there, we are currently studying, among other things, hypothetical situations and the subjuntive. For example, ¨If I had money, I would buy food¨ or ¨If I were smarter, I wouldn´t be working here.¨ Those are the kind of constructions we have been practicing. Eskerrik asko irakurtzeagatik (Thanks for reading) eta ondo pasa, agur!

Lehengo astea

Kaixo, oso ondo nago hemen Maipiden, klaseko materiala pixka bat zaila da baina beno, gramatikazalea naiz, asi ke ez dago arazorik. Jende gustiak euskeraz bakarrik hitz egiten du eta nik ere. Gaur dantza klase batean fandangoa ikasi dugu. First impressions: everybody is so nice. A bit surprising, seeing as how I was just in Madrid for a week. Ingurua ederra da, mendian egoteagatik. Irakasleek eta beste ikasleek niri asko laguntzen didat.
Batzuetan ingelesez itzulpena eskatzen didate gazteleraz ez dakien jendeentzat eta oso pozik egiten dut. I love being in a place where you must learn and utilize the local language, immersed and immerged like a man underwater, and you must either swim or drown. It stimulates the mind like a crossword puzzle.