Garbiñe Iztueta: “The most exciting challenge is to embark on new avenues”

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.


Garbiñe Iztueta (Tolosa, 1972) holds a degree in English and German Philology (1996) and a PhD in Modern Philology (2002). In 1998 she began working at the University of the Basque Country (UPV) as a lecturer in the Department of English and German Philology, Translation and Interpretation. From 2007 to 2011 she was Assistant Dean of International Relations and Mobility Programmes at the UPV Faculty of Arts. Iztueta has focused her research on German literature and the interculturality between Germany and the Basque Country.

Since 2017 Iztueta has served as director of dissemination and promotion of the Basque language at the Etxepare Basque Institute. As part of her role, she has taken on the responsibilities of advancing the global reach of the Basque language, fostering the presence, research and learning of Basque in foreign universities, and promoting the training of teachers of Basque as a foreign language.

This month, philologist and researcher Monika Madinabeitia takes over from Garbiñe Iztueta as she embarks on a new path at the University of the Basque Country, where she will return to teaching and research, among other activities. We recently caught up with Garbiñe to discuss her six years at the Etxepare Basque Institute and to gain insight into her future career plan.

What has the experience been like over the past six years?

I guess I could say that I was faced with different types of objectives when I started in 2017.

In terms of academics, some 35 lectureships/language assistants and 8 chairs were already in operation. One of the main goals was to strengthen and consolidate these programmes and to create new, solid long-term collaborations. The priority has been to expand the opportunities for networking and ongoing training among lecturers, and to enhance resources aimed at energizing students and providing greater global exposure to the Basque language and culture at universities around the world. And of course, teaching the language. As for students, the next step in the international learning process has been to encourage research in the area of Basque language and culture in their projects (final degree projects, master´s degree projects, etc.).

Beyond academia, the main objective has also been to incorporate a new direction for the Etxepare Institute. In fact, until 2018, the Euskara Munduan programme was run by HABE (entity funded by the Basque Government whose mission is to teach Basque to adults). At the Etxepare Institute, we have made efforts to host and improve the organization of certification exams beyond our own purview. To this end, HABE´s collaboration with the coordinator of Euskara Munduan itself has been extremely valuable, since before that Etxepare had no direct contact with Basque language teaching at the Basque Centres (Euskal Etxeak).

Another key objective has been to enhance collaboration with diverse stakeholders active in advancing the Basque language (Euskalgintzaren Kontseilua, Euskalzaleen Topagunea, Soziolinguistika Klusterra, among others), thereby raising the visibility of Basque in global forums.

It goes without saying that working on each objective has been a great learning experience for me and that if it hadn’t been for the Etxepare Basque Institute, I would never have had the opportunity to work with so many people on the international dissemination of the Basque language.

What challenges have you faced in promoting and disseminating the Basque language?

Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting challenges is to embark on new avenues of work. Shifting the Euskara Munduan programme from HABE to the Etxepare Institute has been the right move. Also, making contact with other Etxepare programmes, bringing together networks for Basque language readers and Euskal Etxeak centres to teach Basque and foster synergies. The new lectureships/language assistantship programmes and chairs that have been set up also require a lot of work but the outcome is very satisfying.

The most difficult and emotionally challenging situation of the last six years was managing the disruption and impact of the pandemic. Those of us who are dedicated to the international teaching and promotion of the Basque language, each in our own role, whether at the universities or the Euskal Etxeak, have strengthened our collaboration in times of pandemic. Thanks to the special effort and commitment, the situation brought us closer to each other. I’d say that our ties have been strengthened.

Over the course of your career, you have been a lecturer for the Department of English and German Philology, Translation and Interpretation at the University of the Basque Country and have focused your research on cultural ties between Germany and the Basque Country. What direction will you take in this new chapter?

I’ll be going back to teaching English and German literature, and will continue my research on topics, reflections, concerns and contributions that intersect with German and Basque literature. As a teacher and researcher in German Philology, this will be my contribution. For example, as part of the "GERNIKA (S)" research project, financed by MINECO (Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation) and directed by professor and researcher Mari Jose Olaziregi, I am beginning to investigate how Gernika appears in current German literature as a place and a contribution to collective memory.

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