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English-language version of Luistxo Fernandez's blog

All Your Basque Are Belong To Umap

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/10/28 10:22
It's a Twitter aggregator with language-detection. The Basque experience could, should be exported.

 Umap is a Twitter-based product developed by CodeSyntax, our little company. It collects and processes all the tweets (or at least most of them) in a certain language.

We have just tried it with Basque language, but we hope that some other languages will be coming soon. You can see the Umap's Basque version at The app works with some automatic processes:

  • A method to detect Basque speaker Twitter users.
  • Detect all the tweets of those users and distinguish the Basque tweets of those users.
  • Extract trends. and other data, for instance langauge-usage stats of the users being tracked.

Some more info in the company's English-language blog.

We hope to launch other Umap versions. Some languages and countries do have commercial possibilities, obviously. However, being Basques, we know minority languages first-hand, and commercial approaches are probably not practical for others in our situation.

We think that above 500 hundred original Twitter users, and not all of them using the language all the time, but with occasional users among them, it will work fine for a given community. The release of something like Umap could atract more users, and usage of Twitter is also expected to grow.

It would be nice to contact with some citizen association / media organisation / language promotion board / administration body that may want to make use of this tool, rigth now, in the most affordable way, with prospects for continuity and with the safe assumption that it will have a great impact in language use in the most cutting-edge of the communication realms, that of the Realtime Internet. Follow or DM Luistxo on Twitter if you're interested.

Plus: Umap looks great on an Apple © iPad | Umap Ipad batean © cc-by-sa: codesyntax

Awajun women can make poignant political speeches too

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/10/10 20:02

I was recently very much impressed by the video and story posted on this Latin-American English language blog, El Oso, which in turn, related the efforts of Peruvian journalist Jacqueline Fowks to document the fight of the Peruvian Awajun indians, in the conflict of the Bagua region.

Despite being problems located far away from my surroundings, there were some points so poignantly familiar.

  • The arrogance of monolingual journalists towards native speakers of other languages that, being bilingual, try to speak in the other person's language
  • The astonishing familiar speech of that Awajun woman... It's so basque, in a sense, being full of direct Spanish loans... It is as if a language with no connection with Spanish, when touched by its influence, should develop some traces. This might sound like a stupid claim, but really, one feels similar about my own language, as spoken by old people, for instance.

The shocking part in the video is from second 21 to 1.25.

Particularly, without doubting of the transcription (here: 'en') that Fowks got from an Awajun speaker, Fermin Tiwi; I would say that the woman, before mentioning the helicoptero, says something about cinco-metros and diez-metros, that is, plain Spanish for 5 & 10 meters. There's no mention of that in the transcript. It sounds familiar to me because it's also typical of some Basque dialectal forms to directly mix spanish numerals in some measurement contexts, for instance dates and time. So, I guess that the woman says something about the range of their spears, no more than 5 or 10 meters, or perhaps she refers to the short range from where soldiers shot at the indians... I don't know.

I was also interested in the subtitling of the video, that was finally achieved thanks to that journalist's effort. Captioning transcripts, subtitling; i think they are good ways to get multilingual understanding: hearing people's own speech has a value in itself, very much clear in the case of this Awajun woman, but it's good to understand the discourse. You see the first video, and you may feel the woman's gone crazy because of her tragedy... but you read the subtitles and you realize that she has a poignant political discourse, no bullshit at all.

El Oso also mentions that some of the documentation relating to the Bagua conflict opposing indians and the government (+ all those explotation companies) has surfaced in the website Wikileaks. Great. In that sense, I think that Wikileaks should take a more open view towards captioning and subtitling. Some months ago they released a shocking video document they named Collateral Murder, the video had burnt english captions; and they also released transcriptions in other languages, but none of them was in a temporal format, that is, SRT or SUB or some format that ties text to video-time, so each caption appears at the desired moment. I wrote to Wikileaks, asking for SRT files and volunteering for a Basque version, but this was the disappointing reply that I got.

We looked into this. srt is not yet reliable enough, but we will release the raw final cut project soon


One day, they'll learn, I guess.

Finally, I've written about this Awajun women also in Basque. I thought there would be some reaction, but, nope. In the Basque Country, there's great interest in Latin-American affairs, I would say. But it's always because of us understanding Spanish. In progressive circles, apparently pro-indigenous discourses like those of Evo Morales in Bolivia or Rafael Correa in Ecuador are greeted and hailed, but I am always left in doubt: I suspect it's just the same criollo attitude of always, a colonialised state of mind, which cannot think of any cultural, social or political role for speakers of indigenous languages.


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:

Ingelesen hilerria

El cementerio de los ingleses


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