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This paper argues that the type of variety learned and used by Basque language learners
is a key element in their self-perception as “true” or authentic speakers of Basque.
Drawing on focus groups and individual interviews, we find that new speakers are for
the most part strongly oriented towards the value of authenticity epitomized by local
varieties. While new speakers report the utility of their mastery over the new standard
Basque variety, they are not inclined to view this mastery as granting themselves
greater authority or ownership over Basque. Rather they strongly valorize the informal
and vernacular speech forms indexing colloquial speech and local dialect most identified
with native speakers. The new speaker’s sociolinguistic context and motivations for
learning Basque seem to be predictive of the strength of this orientation. The findings
of this study point to the necessity of further study and documentation of local vernacular
as well the urgency for language educators to find ways of incorporating the acquisition
of local and dialectal features into language instruction.