Cusco was the capital of the Inca’s empire and the main language spoken there was Quechua. Currently it is spoken in 7 Latin American countries. During your stay in Cusco, you can find many things in Quechua like the names of streets, historical sites, and even people’s names. We are working on the revitalization of the language. If you are looking for a real challenge, we are here to introduce you to the language of the Inca’s time. Our team will not only help you to practice Quechua during your lessons, but also put you in an environment where you speak Quechua with local people.
Learning Quechua opens doors to a unique experience in Latin America that not many people will ever have. If this sounds like an adventure for you, now is the time! Go for it!
For further reading about the situation of the Quechua speaking population in Peru, please refer to the following article written by our academic coordinator. This article explains the sociolinguistic and cultural context of the struggle of many Quechua speakers in Peru.
Virginia Zavala is the author of ‘Racialization of the bilingual student in higher education: A case from the Peruvian Andes’ which is an article written in 2011. The author argues there is an unequal social order in Peru and takes the example of a university classroom when bilingual students who speak Quechua and Spanish mix the vowels from Quechua to Spanish (motoseo) and are mocked for this phonological practice. The purpose of the article is to analyze and critique the hierarchy of social power that still tries to perpetuate its dominant roots through prejudice against indigenous people via their languages, in this case the phonology of Quechua.
The article sharply demonstrates how the same racism from centuries ago has been acquiring a different name and a different practice in our society called ‘Language Standard’. Through interviews conducted over a two-year period, the author has collected a considerable amount of information to demonstrate the language discrimination that many Peruvians have witnessed, and indirectly or directly contributed towards. People who speak Quechua have been humiliated by their most legitimate tool for survival, their own language. At the beginning of the interviews for this study, the author did not intend to bring up radicalization, however interviewees’ naturally spoke on this topic. Therefore, the author chose to focus this research on racialization of bilingual students in Peru. The author believes that intentional interviews do not necessarily reflect the information the author is seeking. Instead, the author believes that a social relationship between the interviewer and interviewee will allow for both genuine and broader topics to be discussed. For this specific research the author searched for personal interpretations from students from the universities of Cusco and Ayacucho in Peru (using their own repertoires) to address topics of a social matter. In section three, the author remarks that linguistic usage consists of a public act and within this, when there is a debate about ways of speaking, one party may express social control above others sub-supported by morals, racial and political terms (Cameron, 1995 as cited in Zavala, 2011). One of the consequences of this is that people feel free to make comments about other people and themselves when there is an ‘incorrect’ way of speaking. Therefore, it is clearly seen that the notion of racism has acquired a different shape but still keeps the same essence of superiority of one group above others such as ‘different culture’, ‘different geography’, ‘different language’. In this way racism has evolved a new face constructed by geography, ethnicity, race, and culture (Zavala, 2011). Being bilingual is one privilege that allows those in possession of two languages to communicate in many contexts and develop different linguistic areas such as syntax, lexicon and phonology among others. This privilege is celebrated almost in every country except in Peru. In Peru, it is shameful to possess Quechua as a mother language due to the racism in the country, including at universities. This is especially clear when Quechua speakers talk in Spanish and show a different phonology sound in vowels and consonants. This is called Motoseo. When someone speaks with ‘motoseo’, it is a sign that they speak Quechua, and as Quechua is associated with illiteracy, rurality, uneducated, and being a peasant, people who speaks Quechua feel they are carrying misfortune in their mouth, el ‘motoseo’. In urban areas, such as universities, this study shows bilingual students are victims of marginalization and being mocked and segregated because of their accent. This segregation is so rooted in the students who speaks Quechua that they have two sides of the discourse. One side feels it is their fault to have an accent, while the other side values their origins. Adding to this, as it is not common to read in general for most of everyone, the students who speaks Quechua believes that because of their lack of reading they do not have an advanced vocabulary, so self-blame is another feature in them. That is one of the misconceptions, seeing the ‘motosos’ as lazy because of the lack of practice and reading is why they keep that strong accent. In general, the feeling of seeing monolingualism as the ideal way of communication (Silverstein, 1996; Wiley & Lukes, 1996 as cited in Zavala 2011) is detrimental to the bilingual Quechua speakers. Most of the teachers of universities in Peru contribute to the spread of this prejudice and these teachers even gives mouth exercises so students with ‘motoseo’ accent can get rid of it like placing a pen in the mouth and reading aloud among other unnecessary exercises. By doing these exercises, the Quechua speaking students internalize this as a problem and think of their accent as a problem. Class presentations are another important example remarked in the article. As during presentations, Quechua speaking students feel nervous and exposed with their ‘obvious’ accent, so they do not participate much and give the impression of being shy, introverts and reserved people. Therefore, many people in the country believe rural people are quiet and need to take a course of public speaking to improve their ‘social abilities’ (Zavala 2011, p. 399). The article shows another testimony in which when one Quechua speaking student makes a ‘mistake’ in the pronunciation, the other students laugh, and instead of correcting those who laugh, the teacher corrected the student by suggesting better ways to say that word. Another teacher remarked on the difference between ‘educated speech’ and ‘vulgar speech’. In the universities where the interviews took place, teachers misused the word bilingual, referring in a condescending way to students that come from rural areas. It appeared that teachers needed to reaffirm their own positions as ‘the ones that is here to correct and form students’, and so they always pursue a chance to correct grammar or pronunciation among other stigmas.
All in all, the author exposed that the hidden agenda of ‘verbal hygienization’, a term for all the normative metalinguistic practices through which people attempt to improve language or regulate it according to particular values (Cameron, 1995), has been taking different forms but is still not far from the nineteenth century. Speaking Quechua is, for many in Peru, related to rurality, poverty, lack of education, dirtiness among other unfair adjectives, Quechua speaking people feel the desire to stop using it. Hakuta (1986) and other scholars have built an argument based on similar cases that the Quechua speaking people rejecting their mother tongue will prevent the development of the second language. Finally, Zavala (2011) also shows that this system that oppresses others is well intricated and well established in the social power within all parts of Peru, as well as the contradictory discourse of many Cusquenian who on one hand are proud of their Andean cultural practice, but on the other hand want to be distanced from anything that stops them from becoming ‘successful’ in this society.
Zavala, V. (2011). Racialization of the Bilingual Student in Higher Education: A Case from the Peruvian Andes. Linguistics and Education: An International Research Journal 22(4), 393-405.
Jesus Napancca Herrera
Amigos Spanish School