Unai Lauzirika- Reader in Leipzig: "All the students give the Basque language a chance, no prejudgments"

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.

2017-11-14

What is a reader? What do they work on? What’s a typical day like? We’ve decided to answer all your questions about readerships first-hand. And who better than a Basque language and culture reader to tell you all about it?

Born in Lekeitio, Unai Lauzirika has lived in Leipzig, Germany, for 6 years, working as a teacher of Basque language and culture. He is part of the Etxepare Institute network of readers, made up of 30 teachers in 38 universities around the world. Are you interested in being part of this network? Keep reading to learn about the experience.

 

What is a reader? What do they work on? What’s a typical day like? We’ve decided to answer all your questions about readerships first-hand. And who better than a Basque language and culture reader to tell you all about it?

Born in Lekeitio, Unai Lauzirika has lived in Leipzig, Germany, for 6 years, working as a teacher of Basque language and culture. He is part of the Etxepare Institute network of readers, made up of 30 teachers in 38 universities around the world. Are you interested in being part of this network? Keep reading to learn about the experience.

 

 

 

How would you define a reader of Basque language and culture?

 

Readers are teachers and that’s how our students see us. The term reader is only a technical term. But we are not just teachers either; somehow we work as ambassadors since we are the only Basque representation among students and professors. A readership is a showcase or gateway to the Basque Country – or it should be. That must also be reflected in the programming, offering different activities and events. That, in my opinion, is the work of the reader.

In the same way, if we want to highlight our work, the reader should be an active person who is involved with the rest of the department. It’s important to expand the network of relationships and to know what each person does. In the case of Leipzig, Galician, Catalan, Sorbian, Irish and more languages are taught. It’s the responsibility of the reader to position Basque studies in this offer.

 

What is your typical workday like? And your experience as a reader?

 

The work of the reader is very pleasant. It’s part of the daily work at the university: in addition to specific department meetings, it consists of carrying out the academic program within a scheduled timetable. Readers also have the opportunity to investigate and learn more on their own; once you’re in the academic world, you’re responsible for improving in your work.

In addition to daily classes, I should mention the importance of the events, since they give us the chance to take a break from the daily routine and bring Basque artists, experts or writers into our classrooms. It takes work to organize these events, but the results are very positive and it’s a treat for students and teachers to get to know the guests first-hand.

With regard to classes, there are two types, language and culture, each attended by students with very different profiles. In Euskera classes, the aim is to learn the language and the general aspects of culture, to speak. The Basque culture classes, on the other hand, are in German and many different subjects are covered. Some students don’t want to start learning a new language, but they have great interest in knowing the inner workings of a foreign language. We also have those who are interested in history or literature. The students have very different interests, so you have to know how to address all of them.

 

What is the profile of your students? What makes German students want to learn Euskera?

 

Their ages range from 22-27 years old. Most of them are women working on linguistic degrees. The more varied the students’ backgrounds, the better the classroom environment.

The biggest advantage of working abroad is that the students themselves are very motivated. Here the students do not need a degree to work, their motivation is not instrumental, and they have real interest. They’re interested in languages and you can tell they like to come to class. Sometimes they also come as listeners to the Basque culture classes. Since the programming is public, anyone who is interested sit in.

As for the motivation, you can’t put all the students under the same umbrella. Some know our language or culture (especially music), because they’ve already been in the Basque Country. Others have a practical interest; they want to learn a minority or linguistically attractive language to complete their academic profile. People with a Basque partner have often come – that’s always a good reason to learn a language. Even so, as for a common characteristic, I’d say that everyone gives the Basque language a chance, no prejudgments.

 

 

Besides the classes, do you organize other types of events?

 

We organize different activities and lectures during the school year. In addition to the usual activities, such as ‘Korrika’ (a race to support the Basque language) or film screenings, there are also cooking and dance classes. But above and beyond the activities for students, I’d highlight the activities organized at the university level, with invited guests.

In the last four years we’ve brought 20 Basque experts or writers to Leipzig, and that gives visibility to our offer, both at the department level and among the students. Students who enroll in Basque studies know that they will have the opportunity to learn different subjects. People from other departments also tend to come.

 

What piece of advice would you give to a new reader?

 

To start the job with motivation. The work of the reader is an interesting challenge for anyone; teaching in a foreign language and adapting to foreign universities requires effort, but if you’re enthusiastic and serious about the work, it’s a pleasure. As I said before, the students´ own motivation makes work easier. Besides, it gives you the chance to live in another country, doing a job you like. You can learn a lot in an environment surrounded by people.

Try it – it´s great work!

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