“The classes can be exhausting, but we’re learning a lot”

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.


Since January 9th, a total of 13 students from Etxepare Basque Institute´s Basque Language and Culture programmes in Latin America have been part of an intensive language immersion course, three of them at the Barnetegi in Zornotza. The students arrived eager to learn Basque and experience Basque culture first hand.

Constanza Ortiz, from Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica, is one of the three Chilean students studying in Amorebieta. Argi Ocamica and Javiera Yulisa complete the trio. We spoke to Ortiz about her experience, which will continue until the 27th.

- Zornotzako Barnetegia, overseen by the Aurten Bai Foundation, has been working for 30 years in the area of Basque language and adult literacy. What are the goals of the course you’re doing?

- The main purpose is to learn Basque by being exposed to the language all day long. The residence serves us meals and many of our classmates are proficient enough in Basque to be able to converse with each other in the language, so at meal times we listen to a lot of Basque. We also have 6 hours of class during the day and another 2 hours of extracurricular classes where we listen to Basque as well as Spanish.

- How is the experience so far?

- So far, the experience has been really good. Obviously, it can be a bit exhausting with all the class hours, but we´re learning a lot and taking in great deal of material. Plus, our classmates help us a lot and at meals they help us to translate different concepts, since our level of Basque is very basic.

- What is your daily routine?

- I get up at 8:45 and get ready for breakfast at 9:00. Then we start Basque classes, which last until 2:00, with a half-hour break mid-morning. After lunch we go back to classes, from 3:30 to 5:30. At lunch we chat with the rest of the people who are taking courses here and then, since we’re a bit tired after the morning, we rest until it’s time for class again.

At 6:00pm. the extracurricular activities begin. We usually go for a walk around the city or take part in workshops that are also in Basque. The activities end around 8pm and then we have dinner. We usually take a long time over have dinner because the 12 people who stay overnight at the barnetegi talk wtih each other.

In the evenings everyone has their own routine. We spend the weekends in our respective places, wherever it is that we stay. In my case, I´m in a student residence in Bilbao.

- You’re part of the Etxepare university lectureship network. What exactly is your relationship with the programme?

- My university offers a course called ´Basque Language and Culture´. That’s how I got to know about the Basque Country and language. I really liked the language and culture, so when our teacher told us about this opportunity, I didn´t want to miss the chance. I applied for the scholarship, and here I am!


- Is this your first time visiting us?

- Yes, I’d never been to the Basque Country before. I came a few days before the programme began so I could see some other places in the Basque region, such as Pamplona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia, Bilbao... and then I came to Amorebieta to start the course.

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