Spoken by approximately 850,000 people in parts of both Spain and France, Basque (known as Euskera to native speakers) is truly a unique language. In fact, Basque does not belong to any established language family
and it is the only non-Indo-European language spoken in Europe today.
Once considered close to extinction, the Basque language has made a notable comeback in recent years. This is due in part to efforts to incorporate the language into business communication and as the language used
in regional government affairs. Local communities have supported the revitalization movement by advocating for the use Basque as the primary langu
age of school instruction
Efforts to Revive a Unique Language Through Immersion Education
The Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola school was founded in 1965, with the aim of offering high quality education in Basque. Located in Azpeitia, a municipality along the Urola River in the Basque region of Spain, the school serves 784 students between 2 and 12 years
of age. Among the students, 75 percent are native speakers of Basque. As Begoña Sarasua, Director at the Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola, says: “Up until 1965, the language of instruction in schools in Azpeitia had always been in Spanish, so generations of parents
and teachers never had the chance to study in Basque. Since that time, and for more than four decades, Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola has played an important role in helping to sustain the Basque language.”
At Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola, all classes, except for Spanish and English language courses, are conducted in Basque. “We believe that it’s imperative for the Basque language to be a functional tool for everyday life in the modern world,” says Koro Uranga,
a teacher at Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola. “Our students need to feel comfortable reading, writing, and speaking the language from an early age.” In conjunction with immersion in the Basque language, school officials emphasize that all students gain fluency
in basic computer skills. “Many of us never got to use a computer until we went to college,” says Sarasua. “But we recognize that technology is now integral to a twenty-first century education.”
||Because the interface of the programs that the students use is entirely in Basque, they see their native language in a modern context, which is extremely important in promoting the long-term health and survival of the language.
| Begoña Sarasua Director, Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola
In 2010, the Department of Education for the Basque Country government initiated a project called “School 2.0,” which encouraged schools throughout the region to integrate technology into daily instruction. Leaders of Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola wanted to access
software programs in the Basque language that teachers could use as part of their lesson plans.
Technology That Reinforces Cultural Tradition
The school began working with the Microsoft Local Language Program to adopt localized versions of familiar Microsoft software. The mission of the Microsoft Local Language Program is to empower people around the world to have access technology in their native
languages. In this way, Microsoft hopes to help local cultures bridge the technology gap—while enabling these societies to establish and strengthen their presence in the digital domain.
Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola deployed the Microsoft Language Interface Packs for the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office productivity software. Now students can use programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheet software, to complete classroom
and homework assignments in Basque. The Language Interface Pack for Basque also has built-in functionality that lets students easily switch between a Basque and Spanish-language interface.
“Using dual-language technology in the classroom lets us tailor lessons to the different learning styles of our students, so we can provide a personalized education experience for each child,” says Pili Juaristi, a teacher at Karmelo Etxegarai Ikastola school.
“Now, we are able to bring together the two aspects of our school’s mission—to deliver modern computing tools to our students that reinforce communication in their mother tongue.”
From the time the school adopted the local language software several years ago, teachers have raved about how the interactive nature of the technology encourages students to actively participate in their own learning. “The technology encourages an enormous
amount of self-learning, and it also fosters teamwork and collaborative problem solving,” says Uranga. “The students are now more engaged in each lesson, and I can help facilitate knowledge sharing in the classroom.”
The Microsoft Local Language Program provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. The program aims to empower individuals in local communities
to create economic opportunities, build technology skills, enhance education outcomes, and sustain their local language and culture.
Microsoft Local Language Program