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The salty spray with Diamant Rae The salty spray with Diamant Rae. Language Lesson.

Diamant Shaw

"One day when I got out of the water from surfing, I met another surf girl at the showers whose name was Itsaso which means ocean. Now you can’t get any closer to your namesake than that."

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Language Lesson JettyGirl Surf Travel Feature

By Diamant Shaw

This semester I had the opportunity to teach English as a substitute teacher at one of the many language schools here in town. It was my first real experience actually having to think up lesson plans and fill in that whole hour and a half with inspirational material. As prepared as I tried to be, I think I learned more about the difficulties of keeping a small class interested than they did about English grammar. It can be rather isolating when your 5 students (only 5!) will only speak English to you as the teacher…they would talk to one another in Euskara, cutting me off from their world and making their rebellion that much stronger. It was then I realized how a language can make or break you, create community or shut people out, and give identity to its speakers.

Here most things are written in Basque and then Spanish….the trademark of Basque territory and the modern day affirmation of this ancient language. From road signs to bar names, to products and names of people, Euskara gives new significance to things written and spoken. Because a Spanish translation just doesn't cut it. For instance, many video rentals have translated the English title to something in Spanish that hardly correlates to the original intended meaning. Like "13 Going on 30" said "Mi Vida Como Adulto" or my life as an adult. I'm sorry Jennifer Garner, it's just not the same as the English expression!

Taking a Basque class has opened my eyes to this world within Spain…especially considering that the Basque people were just months ago a name in a travel booklet…just a side note to my pending adventure. But it turns out that being among the Basque people in particular has given me a new appreciation for learning Spanish.

Euskara for the people who speak it, is the definitive line between being Basque or just another Spanish speaker. But unlike other regions of Spain like Cataluna, where Catalan is spoken religiously and foreigners are less welcome to join the conversations, Euskara thrives on the will of newcomers and the younger generations to learn and practice it. More than once have I received big smiles from shop keepers for attempting an "eskerrik asko" (thank you very much), because it means just that much more when they get to hear it in their own tongue. My intercambios who are from this area and are around my same age all have emphasized their important role in keeping Basque culture alive by speaking Euskara, even if it's mostly within the home. The Basque's even have two words for Basque people…Euskal Herrikoak, meaning from the Basque country, and Euskaldun, which is literally 'to have Basque.' So the people who have the most 'Basqueness' are literally those who have the language, and speak the heart of the Basque people.

Euskara gives way to community as well because it originates from an oral tradition between generations. Singing, telling stories, and just speaking it on a daily basis was the means of survival—not an easy feat alongside the huge development of Castellano and French in the neighboring countries. The language ties in history lessons, the natural environment, and matters of the home into all aspects of life. The important elements of life were included in words, such as 'sukaldea' (kitchen) which includes 'suk' (fire), the most important cooking element. Or the word for year, 'urte', references 'ura' (water), because having clean water for food and family was essential. Because Euskara is such an older language, it has had to conform to the influences of modern culture. The new Christian idea of a weekend and Sabbath was a concept that had to be added to the language as well as their lifestyle. In contrast to our 'week-end' the Euskara 'Asteburua' means 'week-head' signifying the importance of this time. Also, some of the most common Basque names are those which directly describe people, such as Aitzol which means strong stone, or the last name Goikoetxea which signified that the family lived in a house on the hill. One day when I got out of the water from surfing, I met another surf girl at the showers whose name was Itsaso which means ocean. Now you can’t get any closer to your namesake than that!

Here the language is what defines a is the Basque nation. Now, I speak a language a greater percentage of the world can understand and it has never really affected or mattered to me. So to come up close to the people whose lives, families, and ancestry all connect to the very words they keep alive everyday…that is some awesome language lesson. I think my own struggle to communicate in Spanish has been stimulated by this sort of vital connection I can now see in the spoken word. It is most rewarding to be able to break a barrier or create a friendship with the knowledge of a common tongue.

I admit my discovery may seem a bit obvious, considering I came to Spain wanting to improve my Spanish. But like the Basque's with Euskara, the Spanish language is now something that I need. The chore of grammar class or the nights of homework are somehow outweighed by a new desire to take part in the community they offer.

Outside the classroom is often what gets taken for granted, because as much as I am always thankful for my learning opportunities, I think the way they get put into action is sometimes overlooked. Like when I get to talk on Skype to family or friends, I am now especially grateful because we can share our words in that familiar way we do. And with the holidays drawing near it's making me just a little more observant of the little everyday things I forgot I loved. Enjoy the pictures…they are just a snippet of those things which in some odd way have made me thankful for something here or something back home. Because sometimes you have to see through the places you visit to really appreciate the beauty of the things you left behind.


Previous Editions of The Salty Spray with Diamant Rae

"The Sole of the Matter ...setting foot into cultural oddities"

"Wandering Around the World Word"


diamant shaw

storm surf

my way home

Diamant Shaw studying

Diamant Shaw's lunch buddies

Monte Urgull and the last of the blackberries

Spanish wine cellar

in memory

Courtney Conlogue 728X90

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