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Basque language at Fry's Planet Word

Luistxo Fernandez 2012/01/17 09:05

I've recently watched Stephen Fry's Planet Word, a documentary series of the BBC, which I downloaded from BitTorrent. The wonders of that distintive human trait, language, basis of our culture, civilisation...

It is a very watchable series, well produced and narrated with Fry's usual charm and enthusiasm (he is the writer of the series as well). I found some parts really fascinating as the bit about the girl with Tourette's syndrome who cannot stop from saying expletives, or the musings about poetry and pop-rock lyrics with the author of the script of 4 weddings and a funeral.

However, some scientific aspects of the issue are treated somehow lightly, I guess. And the choice of travels made by Fry to interview and meet people speaking different languages seemed to me to be not too well rehearsed. For instance, I feel honored that Fry talked about Basque, and visited us, my city, Donostia, to be precise. 10 minutes of episode 2 are dedicated to our isolate language, and how it survives despite its minority status. However, the choice of interview to illustrate that point was awful: they spent the day (it seems) in Donostia with a famous Basque cook, Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter, and just spoke with little sense about the relationship between Basque gastronomy, our love for food, and the Basque language and our love for it. That makes no sense at all, and besides, Arzak is a man with very little fluency in Basque, and the mix of Basque, Spanish and French that he produces while speaking with Fry is horrible.

Elena Arzak, Stephen Fry (wiith propaganda of Donostia 2016) and Juan Mari Arzak

The producers could have sent someone more apt to do some research and find more appropiate people in Donostia. For instance, linguist Itziar Laka or the people working at the BCBL center; insightful investigation about language acquistion, bilingualism and the brain's linguistic secrets, which they could have used in other episodes. As for speakers, lots of people, anonymous or distinguished in some filed or other, could have provided a much better chat to Mr. Fry. If the matter was to connect it with food, they could have got better advice and met Hilario Arbelaitz at the Zuberoa restaurant, for instance.

I also felt that some other visits to speakers of some languages were somehow similarly wasted, as with the Turkana in Kenya. Irish also appears, though I'm not sure if it was depicted accurately or erroneously.

Anyway, BBC and Stephen Fry, the effort is appreciated, thanks for putting us Basques in this brilliant television product.

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Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

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