Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's in a name?

Well, it is official, I have passed the first year of Basque language class!  I had my written exam (reading, writing and listening) last week, and after passing that was given a slot for the oral exam.  Terrified to bits, I spoke easily and at the end, asked about signing up for the course next year and how to do it and my teacher told me how and that of course I should sign up for the next level because I passed with flying colors.  I was so excited that I did a little leap when I left the testing room.

After only 9 months, I am so overjoyed that I can understand and speak (somewhat) this crazy language!  Overjoyed as I was, Joseba was the first person I called after the good news.  He was equally excited.  My end goal is to someday be able to speak his language as well as he speaks mine.  It will take some time, that's for sure.

But, as the course went on this year, I learned quite a wealth of Euskera vocabulary.  Learning new words everyday, I started to realize that many names of my students are of words I had been learning.  Here, names like Sara and Brittney or Steve and Eric are basically non-existent.  Instead here, I have students named Arkaitz, Xabi, Zuhatz, Nerea, Iker, Izaskun, Itsaso and Patxi.  To me, these names are completely acceptable names now.  But when I arrived they were 1) incredibly strange to say and 2) terribly difficult to pronounce.  I have mastered the pronunciation of my students' names, but now that I am learning what they mean, a lot of them are quite odd.

For example, would you ever think to name your kid 'cloud'?  Because here, Hodei, the Basque word for cloud is a name.  Some other ones that struck me as a bit off-kilter are:
 - Arkaitz (boy name) = rock
 - Nerea (girl name) = mine
 - Itsaso (g) = sea
 - Lorea (g) = flower
 - Irati (g) = fern field
 - Aihnoa (g) = name of a town in French Basque Country
 - Aitor (b) = good father
 - Amaia (g) = the end
 - Amets (g) = dream
 - Ekaitz (b) = storm
 - Asier (b) = the beginning
 - Esti (g) = similar to the word for honey
 - Goizane = the morning
 - Haizea (g) = the wind
 - Ilargi (g) = moon
 - Irune (g) = trinity
 - Oihana (g) = forest
 - Oihane (g) = jungle
 - Usoa (g) = dove

But, some Basque names are just variations of names that we ARE used to...but take a little imagination to see the connections:
 - Jon (b) = John - that one was super obvious
 - Ander (b) = Andrew
 - Antxon (b) = Anthony
 - BeƱat (b) = Bernard
 - Bixente (b) = Vincent
 - Esteben (b) = Steven
 - Gorka (b) = George
 - Maialen (g) = Madeline
 - Mikel (b) = Michael
 - Matias (b) = Matthew
 - Patxi (b) = Frank
 - Joseba (b) = Joseph

So, if you can't pronounce my boyfriend's name, you could always just call him Joseph and he will respond!  On the other hand, they think my name is quite funny.  Here they pronounce it uh-mun-duh instead of Amanda.  When I try to explain to them how to pronounce it correctly they laugh and struggle to say a-min-duh.  Apparently my name's pronounciation doesn't translate so well.  Even better, the students love when I say thier names in English.  So, Helene (silent H) cracks up laughing when I call  her Helen; or Ane (pronounced ann-ey) dies when I call her Ann or Annie.  A few classes ago, I shared with my 14-year old girls some common names in English and they couldn't believe them.  But, I guess the same goes for me with thier names.  But, atleast now I can understand what they mean!  Come on 2nd year of Basque class!


No comments: