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The Uncomfortable Truth about Peruvian Spanish

For ages now, Peru has had a tenuous relationship with its indigenous peoples. But a country like Peru needs to support its native communities, including appreciating and using Quechua in government business.

Earlier this year, Peruvians elected a new president, Pedro Castillo. He is Peru's first president of peasant origin. He's also a former teacher in a rural area of Peru.

Many people in Peru do not appreciate his politics. They say that he's a socialist, in the same vein as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Politics aside, Castillo and his Cabinet head are proponents of speaking the Quechua language in Congress.

However, his opponents say this is not appropriate because the majority speak Spanish. In fact, Spanish is the official language of Peru.

However, official data from 2017 shows that 13% of Peruvians, some 4 million people - most of whom reside in the Andes - speak Quechua.

The truth is that Peruvians use Quechua every day when speaking. They may fight it politically, but it's an integral part of their culture.

Here are 10 common words from Quechua used in Spanish, and even in English, among other languages.

🇵🇪 quinoa

🇵🇪 coca (leaves to make a tea for energy and alleviate altitude sickness, also the base of cocaine)

🇵🇪 jerky

🇵🇪 condor

🇵🇪 llama

🇵🇪 michi (gato, cat)

🇵🇪 puma

🇵🇪 guano (bat poop)

🇵🇪 poncho

🇵🇪 soroche (altitude sickness)

This may be an unpopular opinion, especially among my Peruvian friends, but as an anthropologist and language lover, I believe that a country like Peru needs to support its indigenous communities. That includes appreciating and using Quechua in government business.

You can learn Quechua with this introductory lesson.

👉Do you think it's appropriate to speak another language in Peru's Congress? What about in your country?

Learn more about Spanish as it's spoken in Peru, as well as cultural tidbits, in my Spanish conversation classes. Contact me today for more info.


Jackie Donaldson is a language teacher and pronunciation specialist at Amidon Studios. She founded Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught English and Spanish to students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, and exploring the globe.

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