Speaking Like A Local

October 20th, 2011 by
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Quechua: The language of the Inca

Travelers to the Andean countries are often surprised to learn that in many areas, the most commonly spoken language is not Spanish, but Quechua. Once the official language of the Inca Empire, Quechua remains the dominant language in much of Peru, including the Sacred Valley. It is is also spoken in parts of Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, although there are significant differences between dialects. All told, about 10 million people still speak Quechua as their primary language, although about 75 percent of these also speak Spanish. Because Quechua was not historically a written language, the spelling of Quechua words varies.

Quechua is related to Aymará, another important indigenous language in the region around Lake Titicaca. Some vocabulary words are shared between the two languages. Quite a few Quechua words have even entered the English language through Spanish, including coca, condor, gaucho, guano, jerky, llama, potato, puma, and quinoa.

Here are some useful phrases to practice if you are heading to Peru or other areas in which Quechua is spoken:

How are you? – Allillanchu? (also used as a way of saying hello)
I am fine. – Allillanmi.
Goodbye (until we meet again) -Tupananchiskama
Excuse me – Dispinsayuway
Please – Allichu
Thank you – Sulpayki (or Yusulpayki)
You’re welcome – Imamanta
Yes – ArĂ­
No – Mana
What is your name? – Iman sutiyki?
My name is _____ – Sutiymi _______.

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