Do we need to look closer at the way the Basque Country is supporting the use of Basque and replicate similar schemes in Wales?
This is one of the pivotal questions that a group of Mentrau Iaith (Language Initiative) Officers will be asking on their visit to the Basque Country this week.
Mentrau Iaith Officers from across Wales will have a unique insight into the developments in language planning and policy on their visit to the Basque Country this week.
The visit started on Monday finding out more about the European Hitzargiak Project, a project that is recognising good practice and ideas in revitalising and promoting the use of minority languages in Europe. This was a great opportunity for officers to look at greater ways of working in partnership with organisations in the Basque Country and across Europe in the future in sharing information, including videos, images, documents and work programmes on-line as a part of the project. Bottom of Form
On Tuesday the officers visited UEMA, a Network of Local Authorities that operate through the medium of Basque and implement strategies and policies to proactively support and promote the use of the language in the communities they serve.
Following that meeting, they visited an Immersion Centre that works to integrate immigrants into Basque speaking communities whilst also encouraging more people to learn and use the language.
The day ended with a visit to a group of volunteers that organise a race in aid of raising money for community projects that support the use of Basque across the Basque country, Korrika, with the aim of sharing ideas in order to develop Ras yr Iaith further (Welsh Language Race co-organised by the Mentrau Iaith.)
Visiting Kontseilua (Organisation for Basque Language Rights) in Donastia Meirion Davies, National Chair of Mentrau Iaith Cymru said:
“We have visited organisations and community groups who are at the forefront of promoting the use of Basque in the Basque Country for many reasons.
We can see clearly, by only looking at how proactive planning and proper legislation can encourage language acquisition and create environments where the minority language can be used naturally.
Such policies and programmes as implemented in the Basque Country have proven highly successful with an increase from 22.3% of the population speaking Basque in 1991, to 27.5% in 2011, a figure that is projected to gradually climb over the next few years.
The model that we have in Wales of local language initiatives (Mentrau Iaith) is one not seen anywhere else in Europe and perhaps the World. This visit therefore is not only an opportunity for us to learn from others but for others to also see and learn from our experiences in Wales.
We have seen for ourselves how appropriate planning on a strategic, regional and local level has strengthened the position the Basque language plays in society today and I see no reason why we cannot replicate some of these successful schemes in Wales.”