MA students visit the Basque country to see language planning in practice

Students on the MA Language Policy and Planning degree have had a unique insight into the subject of their studies thanks to an insightful trip to the Basque region of Northern Spain.Bangor lecturer Dr Rhian Hodges and student Bet Huws (both right) with students and a lecturer at the University of the Basque Country Bangor lecturer Dr Rhian Hodges and student Bet Huws (both right) with students and a lecturer at the University of the Basque Country

Along with Dr Rhian Hodges, the students visited a number of key institutions which work to promote and nurture the Basque language. The aim of the trip was to introduce students to organisations that campaign on behalf of the language rights of Basque speakers, and to compare and contrast this with similar movements happening in Wales. 

With visits to educational institutions, a newspaper office and a language rights movement, the three-day trip gave an insight into language planning and policy from multiple perspectives. Beginning in Orio, one of the Basque language’s strongholds, the group visited an ‘Ikastola’ – a Basque-medium school where pupils are taught English and Spanish alongside the Basque language. Here, the students witnessed Basque and English lessons and contributed to class discussions. In Donostia, a visit to Kontseilua (the movement for Basque language rights) was an opportunity to learn about language planning strategies and how the language rights of Basque speakers are ensured. At the University of the Basque Country, also in Donostia, there was an opportunity to sit in on an MA in Multilingualism lecture, while a visit to Andoain saw the group visit the offices of Berria, the only Basque-medium newspaper in circulation.

Student Bet Huws, a Language Broker, said of the field trip: “it can be a good thing to leave our geographical and psychological (in terms of a minority mindset) island and to realise that Welsh speakers are actually in a majority. That was the one thing that really stood out to me about the trip.”

Publication date: 6 February 2012