|The following text is from the 1999 World Congress on Basque Communities:|
|HABE: BASQUE LANGUAGE TEACHING IN THE BASQUE CENTRES DESCRIPTION AND FUTURE GOALS
MR. JOKIN AZKUE ARRASTOA (HABE: BASQUE LANGUAGE TEACHING IN THE BASQUE CENTRES)
HABE's aim is to promote initiatives relating to Basque language teaching. It mainly operates within the Basque Autonomous Community.
It is clear that beyond our borders, there is a great deal of feeling for, and curiosity about, the Basque language and a great number of people who wish to know more about it, and in some cases even learn to speak it. All this is due to the work carried out by Basque Centres all over the world. It is the Basque Centres that have been the real promoters of our language outside the Basque Country and the Basque Centres that have been the true ambassadors for our culture throughout the world. In fact, many such Centres were running Basque language courses before HABE, or even the Basque Government for that matter, were even founded.
Basque language teaching has been an arduous task. It was carried out on a voluntary basis by many emigrants, who, without any kind of professional training and with only their own knowledge of the language to go by, undertook to keep their childhood language alive, a language which, over the years, they were obliged to apply to contexts totally foreign to its concepts and origins. These efforts deserve our unstinting praise. What these emigrants did was not only to conserve the language, but to spread it also, and mainly under conditions that can best be described as precarious. Thanks to their efforts, today we can say with pride that Basque language teaching has spread throughout the world. We can proudly say that nowadays, you can learn Basque in countries such as Venezuela, Belgium, Chile, Uruguay the United Kingdom, the USA, France, Puerto Rico, Brazil and many others.
HABE has always considered the Basque Diaspora to be extremely important, and it is one of our main aims to continue in the footsteps of those people who, motivated by their great love of this land, began this difficult task. We aim to professionalise Basque teaching in order to enable the Basque Centres to offer increasingly highquality courses. For this reason, we have always maintained close ties with the Basque Centres who offer Basque language courses, collaborating with them in many different ways such as sending teaching material, training teachers or subsidizing courses, to name but a few.
Currently, HABE monitors the teaching activity of the diverse Basque Centres located both in Spain and abroad on a daily basis. The «Argentinan Euskaraz> program is especially important in this context, but I will expand on that in more detail a little later on.
The situation within Spain
There are currently 200 students learning Basque in Madrid and half that number in Barcelona. M6laga has around 50 students, and Valencia and Valladolid have approximately 30 each. The reasons for learning are various. Some learn because their ancestors spoke Basque, others because they plan to return to the Basque Country at some point in the future, and still others because they are curious about the language and want to learn more about it.
Some of the aforementioned Centres' teaching activities are more formalized than others. This is the case for Madrid and Barcelona, which are also the Centres with the greatest demand. Today, any citizen of these two cities can take classes at any level, with the guarantee that only the most up to date teaching methods will be employed, as well as the best teaching material. Both Centres have a staff of highly trained teachers: the Madrid Centre employs three full time teachers and the Barcelona Centre has six part time members of staff.
Over recent years, we have made it a priority to train a group of teachers for these two cities. For this reason, a few years ago we developed a project to promote the teaching activities of the two Centres. The project consisted of running methodology courses alternately in the two cities: two in Madrid and two in Barcelona, thereby gathering together teachers from both Centres. The contents of the courses were varied, with the aim of providing a global vision of the entire teaching/learning process, from how to develop the different language skills, through focusing on the most modern techniques, such as task based activities, to criteria for developing teaching material. We also provided teachers with the latest teaching material published by HABE, as well as helping them with any problems arising from their professional activity.
The «Argentinan Euskaraz» Program
As I stated earlier, the < Argentinan Euskaraz» Program deserves a special mention. Set up in 1990, this year the program celebrates its tenth anniversary. There have been two clearly defined stages to its development, the first from 1990 to 1995 and the second from 1996 to the year 2000.
The «Argentinan Euskaraz» is much more that just a Basque language course. It is a joint project set up between FEVA, Overseas Affairs and HABE, and although its fundamental aim is organizing language courses, the related activities which have arisen around it are by no means less important. Throughout the year, a series of cultural activities take place which make a significant contribution to reviving the Basque atmosphere of the Basque Centres, an atmosphere which was becoming less and less perceptible. Before the program, Basque had all but died out in the Centres, largely because the number of Basque speakers was gradually diminishing, and the language transmission from generation to generation was very scarce. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to say that thanks to the «Argentinan Euskaraz» Program, Basque is once again beginning to be spoken in the Basque Centres.
As I said earlier, over the last 10 years there have been two clearly defined stages in the development of the program. During the initial stage, the main objective was to train a group of students who themselves gave classes to both adults and children in the Basque Centres.
Over the years, this initial stage became increasingly consolidated until, in 1996, we entered the second stage and redesigned the plan to incorporate a wider range of objectives. The main objective of this second stage was to train a group of teachers to provide Argentina with a greater level of autonomy in the field of human resources, thereby enabling the Centres themselves to meet the demands of the program. Today, I can safely say that, although we have not managed to train as many teachers as we hoped, we do have a team of teachers with extremely advanced language and teaching skills. I would also like to point out that current project leaders are mainly young people, something which, to a certain extent, guarantees the program's future. These young people are second or third generation Basques, and it is they who have continued to develop the program and who have given it its current solidity. I must underline once again the significant contribution that this has made to bridging the generation gap. Basque Centres continue to be social meeting places for emigrants and their descendants, and are therefore an ideal place for inter-generational mixing.
This is a great step forward. Argentina currently has enough human resources to take over the effective running of the project, and it is HABE's wish to continue to work in close collaboration with the Centres, making a positive contribution, both economically and as regards teaching aids, to the future development of the program.
We believe that, taking advantage of the experiences of recent years, the time has come to take on a new challenge. The situation in Argentina as regards human resources is immeasurably improved and has brought with it changing needs. Nor should we forget the great technological advances that have taken place over the last few years, changes which enable us to focus on new working methods and new techniques while remaining faithful to the constant goal of making the most of resources and optimizing objectives.
Improvement in communications between the Basque Centres and HABE: HABENET
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
HABE is currently developing a project called HABENET, which will enable us to explore new working methods.
The HABENET project aims to develop and set up a series of telematic services and infrastructures to support HABE and the Basque language schools' activities. The objective is to improve the quality of Basque teaching in the following areas: education management, continuous training and teacher support, development and management of teaching material, development of selfteaching systems and external customer service.
HABENET will enhance internal and external HABE network communications (HABE, Basque language schools, teachers, students), contribute to the standardization of teaching materials and make them immediately accessible, contribute to,the setting up of selfteaching systems and online teaching and improve administrative management by introducing new information and communications technology.
Four general areas of activity have been identified:
1. The creation of a HABE Intranet, which would use Internet Technology to manage all internal and external communications between HABE, the Basque language schools, Students and Teachers:
• Relations between HABE-Basque language schools- Teaching staff
• Development of an Electronic Material Catalogue
• Extension for students visitors overseas Basques
• Library extension
• Extension for enrolment information
• Enrolment reservation/pre inscription extension
• Enrolment access EGA results
• Basque language school activities
2. HABE Content management (teaching material, publications). This area will cover the organisation of all teaching documents, including teaching material, library material, publications catalogues and thematic forums.
3. HABE Electronic management. For the direct integration of administrative details, electronic forms, DelegationBasque school connections, grants and applications, administrative aspects of inspections, greater operational efficiency and monitoring of the budget distribution.
4. HABE online teaching. Incorporating Multimedia Technology into teaching systems, access to specific exercises according to level and area, area specialisation, specialised queries, tutoring, specialised programmes, continuous teacher training, both individual and supervised and development of selfteaching systems.
ADVANTAGES OF THE PROJECT
HABENET will enable us to overcome distance barriers which currently make programs such as «Argentinan Euskaraz» so difficult. We will be able to work constantly as a united team. It will enable us to maintain a more personal contact with overseas teachers and train teaching staff regardless of their geographical location. We will also be able to manage materials and set up individual plans aimed at maintaining current high language levels and teacher qualifications.
HABENET will provide you with constant access to technicians, advisors and collaborators to an extent currently impossible due to the high transport costs involved. It will enable us to extend this kind of service to other countries. In short, HABENET will overcome geographical boundaries in the interests of developing projects aimed at spreading and promoting our language throughout the world.