IZASKUN KORTAZAR (Ilha do mel, Brazil)
I love languages. When I was 5, I had philosophical ideas about languages, even if I was monolingual. When I was 10, I felt like an outsider in my own country and I decided to learn Basque. Baque was forbidden for 39 years and public primary education was not available when I was a child. After spending all my pocket money in Basque language classes (AEK, Batzoki and Official Language School), I decided to study high school in Basque. It was a lot of extra work and moments of embarrassment apart from the fact that I did nor talk for the first year. However, at the end of high school, I received the highest title for the Basque language (EGA) and the EOI (Official Language School) language certificate. I graduated with a B.A in Basque Philology (Basque language studies) and I became a Basque language teacher. During those years I volunteered in a group to promote the Basque language by translating documents for a nonprofit. For 4 years I taught Basque full time and all levels, even the EGA test preparation courses. I taught teachers, bank workers, parents and even people in the prison. I just loved it. While teaching 5 h a day I finished my second degree on Primary Education.
During the summers, I traveled for a bit in Europe (Portugal, France, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Ireland)
I decided to travel to London for a summer in order to improve my English. At that time, I could not understand or make a full sentence. I spent the following 2 summers in Scotland even though I was not able to understand the Scottish people.
For years I knew that I had to learn another language and live abroad. I moved to the USA where I taught Spanish at the University through USAC (University Studies Abroad Consortium). Then, I moved to Boise, Idaho to teach Basque at the only Basque preschool outside of the Basque Country (Boiseko Ikastola). During that time, I also taught Basque to the parents of the kids and at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. I finally became the first Basque language coordinator for the USA and Canada through NABO (North American Basque Organization). I created materials to learn Basque, trained teachers and ran a Basque learning webpage called BOGA. I finished my M.A. in Spanish Literature and I became a full time Lecture at the University of Boise State in 2007. I have taught Spanish (all levels) and Basque Culture Workshops since then.
During these years I translated a book for a nonprofit from Spanish to Basque and I did several small translations for the Basque Museum. At BSU I started a Service Learning project where students would translate webpages and documents of nonprofits from English to Spanish and vice versa and I would proofread them. Suddenly, I was more and more involved with translation and I also needed another challenge.
I studied French at BSU in 2010 and when finally my University offered Portuguese, I jumped into it because I find this language to be the most beautiful ever. I attended a course at the University and I received a FIDA grant to study it in Brazil.
I have done 4 trips to Brazil. The last one was 3 months long and during this trip I taught Basque in Brazil and Uruguay. It was a little challenge to do presentations about Basque culture in Portuguese but it was a great experience. During this trip I met some tribes that live in multilingual communities and that experience motivated me even more to learn languages and work for their survival. I was thankful that I spoke Portuguese and I was able to communicate with them.
After living with this tribe, I spent Thanksgiving with a Shoshone Native American family in Idaho learning about their culture. It was a beautiful experience and it taught me how rich humans are (when it comes to culture and languages), how similar we all are from each other, and how much we have to learn from each other.
After learning Portuguese, I realized that I have been postponing learning languages for too long because I was too busy teaching them and that I had to do something about it. Once you speak 4 languages, something changes in your brain. All languages are more connected and you feel a necessity to learn more.
This is my goal now: Work as a translator and interpreter and volunteer abroad in order to learn new languages. My next ones: French and Swahili.
I am currently studying how to document endangered languages and the more languages you speak, there better you can do this important job. Nowadays globalization is making many languages disappear and something must be done before it is too late. It is believed that half of the languages (3,000) that we speak nowadays (6,000) will disappear in the following 50 years. That is a tragedy.
Language is what makes us human, is what connects us to a society and what helps us understand the world, interpret it and find our place in it.
Selfie at the Tatuyo community at the Rio Negro close to Manaus, Brazil. I lived for 5 days with them while I interviewed them about their culture and taught them few things about mine. They painted my face so I would be protected from the animals while they taught me about the plants in the jungle.