Peru Language – Learn about Peru

The people of Peru speak three different languages: Spanish, Quechua (both of these are considered official languages) and Aymara, which although it is spoken widely in Peru, is not considered an official language as such.

Spanish

Spanish is defined as a Romance language, and is about the third or fourth most widely spoken language in the world. The origin of modern Spanish traces back to vulgar Latin which was influenced by Basque (the indigenous people of Spain and France) and Arabic. The word vulgar means ‘common’ and comes from the Latin word ‘vulgus’ which means ‘people’. Vulgar Latin has it roots in many other modern day languages, such as French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.

Spanish was introduced to the Americas in the 16th century when Spain colonized the Americas, bringing their language and customs (some extremely detrimental to the indigenous peoples) to the “New World”.

The Spanish alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet. It uses the standard 26 letters:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – H – I – J – K – L – M – N – O – P – Q – R – S – T – U – V – X – W – Y – Z

Spanish also uses the accent marks acute (´), diaeresis (¨), and tilde(~). The most frequent combinations are: á, é, í, ó, ú, ü, ñ. Accent marks have no impact on the order of the alphabet.

Acute
Used to mark stress on a syllable that does not follow the normal pattern of the language.

Diaeresis
Used on the vowel ‘u’ to indicate that it is pronounced when normally the vowel would be silent.

Tilde
The n with tilde (ñ) is used to indicate a nasal sound (“nya”) should be produced when pronouncing the word.

Quechua

Quechua is an Amerindian language (language spoken by the indigenous people of the Americas) native to South America and is related to Aymará. It was the official language of the Tawantinsuyu (Inca Empire). Quechua can be heard throughout South America, starting as far north as southern Colombia and Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and northwestern Argentina and northern Chile. In Colombia and Ecuador the dialect is widely different from the main branch and could almost be classified as another language, however it is not.

Quechua had no written alphabet, but did have an accounting system based on khipu-strings.

The khipu or quipu (meaning ‘knot’) strings were recording devices used by the Inca Empire. The khipu strings were made coloured cotton cords. On each cord a numeric value was represented by knots. These knots have not yet been fully deciphered, though some believe that the khipu are a primitive written language, and it is known that they were used for a number of purposes including taxes, census taking, and inventory.

The following are some examples of Quechua words that have entered English through Spanish; coca, condor, guano, gaucho, jerky, Inca, llama, potato (from papa via patata), puma and quinoa.