Lehen barre egiten ziguten erdaraz ez genekielako eta orain, askori, euskararekiko sentimendua piztu zaie. Nik beti esaten diet erdaraz gaizki hitz egin arren, esaten duten guztia ulertzen dudala. Haiek ulertzen al didate niri?
Before they (Spanish speakers) used to laugh at us because we didn't speak Spanish. And now, an enthusiasm for Basque has ignited in a lot of people. I always say that even though I may speak Spanish badly, I still can understand everything they say. Can they understand me?
I.e. Can the monolingual Spanish speakers say the same about me? The worst bilingual Basque speaker is more multilingual than the best monolingual Spanish/French speaker.
Altsasu in the last century has seen its knowledge and use of Basque plummet, in what was until the late 19th century a monolingual Basque town, before the coming of the railway, industrialisation and foreigners who never bothered to learn Basque.
Since the 1960s with the first classes of Basque outside of school, then with the first ikastolas, now the D model of immersion education (3 out of every 4 children in the town goes through model D) and the effort of the citizenry and administration, Basque is clawing itself back. As of today, 21.88% of the town of 7,623 inhabitants are Basque speakers.
There's so many examples of this throughout the Basque Country. In a matter of one or two generations, a language spoken by 100% of the population, a language that as late as 1904 was put forward as a required language when the town hall of Altsasu were hiring for a town pharmacist, can collapse.
In light of such examples, to go to a town where Basque is currently healthy and assume that Basque is safe is to commit a fatal mistake. It's more accurate to think that Basque is currently one step away from the grave.
The Madrid telegraphist José Fuentes was sent to work in Altsasu in 1856. He published his memoires in 1873 as 'El telegrafista del sistema Weasthone (sic). La vida en Alsasua'. He recounts:
El lugar tenía un censo de población algo superior al millar de habitantes, labradores y ganaderos y algunos artesanos, todos vascoparlantes.
Pero las conquistas resultaban difíciles, y el lenguaje constituía un valladar insuperable. Cuando a cualquiera de aquellas recias mozas le decían:
-Muchacha, ¿sabes que me gustas mucho?
Respondía evasiva y con un aire cándido: -No entender”
The place had a counted population of a bit over a thousand people, workers and farmers and some artisans, all Basque speakers.
Romantic conquests were difficult, and the language was an unbridgeable barrier. When someone said to any of those reluctant girls, "Lass, do you know that I fancy you?", she would reply evasively and innocently, "Me no understand".