Lima (Peru), Tucumán (Argentina), and elsewhere
Is It Easy?
In my experience, yes, pretty much. As a linguist I’ve had a go at a dozen or so languages, and in absolute terms Quechua is by far the easiest of them! You may be glad to know that there are:
• no irregular verbs
• no irregular nouns
• no irregular adjectives
• no gender
• no adjective agreements
• no definite or indefinite articles (Quechua’s ‘topic’ and ‘focus’ markers perform something of the same task as articles and intonation in English or Spanish).
• there is a case system, but again it is entirely regular, very simple and easy - much easier than such languages as Latin, Russian, Greek and German - no harder, indeed than English prepositions
Not that Quechua will be a pushover. No language you already may know will be of as much direct help with native Quechua vocabulary, though Spanish will help a lot for the many loan-words. There are a few things you will have to get used to, too, but they shouldn’t put you off, they’re different, not in themselves so difficult. Think of them as an exercise in broadening your mind! It just proves how the way your language, and European languages in general, have of doing things is not at all the only way possible, nor necessarily the best!
• Quechua is an agglutinating language, so typically it has long words built up from a basic root meaning followed by strings of suffixes, but the suffixes are all clear-cut and the long words are actually very easy to form from these logical building-blocks.
• Native Quechua vocabulary will seem quite foreign, of course, though if you speak Spanish this will help with the masses of loan words which have entered Quechua.
• Pronunciation is straightforward too, though Quechua does have a few sounds you probably won’t be used to, particularly uvulars, and if you’re going for the Cuzco and Bolivian dialects these also have ejectives (‘glottalised’) and aspirates. Again, though, these are actually pretty easy to get used to and in no way should put you off!
• Things to watch out for are Quechua’s system of ‘evidentials’ and topic/focus particles These you may well find the most challenging things in Quechua - but the kickback is that they’re also the most mindbendingly different and most interesting facets of this amazing lingo. (For specific details on these, search for ‘attitude particles’ on www.zompist.com/quechua.html, or go to my page on “Quechua - What’s it Like?”).
For more details on Quechua linguistics in general, see my other webpages on it.
Which Quechua? National and Regional Varieties
Given that Quechua is spoken from southern Colombia to northern Argentina, it is not surprising that it is a language subdivided into various regional dialects - six to ten, depending on your criteria. Note that the term dialect is used in the purely linguistic sense of ‘varieties’: none is necessarily any better or worse than any other, of course (though the Cuzco mob would have you think differently).
The differences between dialects are big enough to mean that speakers of one will have difficulties in understanding everything spoken in another, but they will certainly understand a fair amount - just how much depends on how similar are the two dialects in question. (Quechua dialects group into two main sub-families: for more details click Quechua Dialects). Linguists looking for an idea of how different the dialects are from each other might like to see a comparative table of phonological inventories of five main Quechua dialects.
Still, particularly as a non-native learner, you should specifically learn the variety you will need - if you can. Outside South America, though, you will probably find courses tend to go for the Cuzco-Bolivian dialect, so if that’s not the one for you, you have two options. Either you could forget the course at home and go straight to the region in South America where your dialect is spoken and learn it there. Or you can learn Cuzco-Bolivian anyway at home first, and then you’ll have to adjust your Quechua to the local variety once you get to the area you’ll be in - which might take a bit of effort!
Note also that in much of Bolivia, particularly northern Bolivia around lake Titicaca, and in neighbouring border regions of southern Peru, the native language is not Quechua but Aymara. Don’t turn up in these areas expecting people to speak Quechua! For more details on links between the Quechua and Aymara languages, see my other webpages.
Which Variety to Learn?
First of all, if you know where you want to be, then learn the local form, of course. Other than that, which form you would be most helpful to you depends on what you want to do with it.
The biggest dialect in terms of numbers of speakers and areas it is spoken in is the Cuzco-Bolivian one. This would imply that there is likely to be more material available for learning and studying this, and certainly the small amount of surviving Quechua literature and theatre (all written down after the Conquest, of course) is, I understand, essentially in Cuzco-Bolivian dialect. [There are in fact some minor differences between Cuzco Quechua and Bolivian Quechua (somewhat greater influence from Spanish in Bolivian Quechua), but learning either one will be fine for the other too.]
As far as I can tell it’s not really accurate to say that there is a ‘central’ dialect which is linguistically “in the middle” and therefore the most practical to start with if you then want to move on to learn the others. If you’re a linguist and want to have a go at various dialects, then you might be advised to go for Cuzco-Bolivian first, given its size. Also, if you learn a different dialect first and then try Cuzco-Bolivian, you will have a job to learn where to use its aspirates and ejectives - as opposed to just forgetting about them if you learn Cuzco-Bolivian first and then another dialect. On the other hand, the most conservative dialects are supposed to be the northern and central Peruvian ones, so if you’re interested in Quechua historical and comparative linguistics these would perhaps be most useful.
If you’re into education, I understand bilingual education is far more official and advanced in Ecuador and Bolivia, so these might be the most useful. The parts of Argentina where Quechua is spoken also are, I am told (though I don’t know how reliable this is), very well organised in defending and using Quechua, particularly in Santiago del Estero University.
All of this puts Peru, as the home of Quechua and the Incas - to shame a little. There is a project to start bilingual education here in Quechua-speaking regions, and some things do appear to be moving, e.g. November 1997 has seen the first national conference of Quechua teachers. Nonetheless, the official Lima attitude to Quechua is still not too encouraging, and I’ll believe bilingual education when I see it.
The Colombian, Chilean and Brazilian varieties are tiny minority languages with only a few thousand speakers, so you’d have to be doing a pretty specific project for these to be of use to you.
Learning Quechua in the
For a teacher in
The Centro de Estudios Rurales Andinos “Bartolomé de las Casas” (for address see below under “Useful Organisations In Cuzco”) runs two different courses at its Escuela Andina de Postgrado.
• Quechua language courses, basic and intermediate levels. The spring 2002 basic level course is from 4th Feb to 15th March: six weeks, 2 hours per day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 36 hours total. Cost is 180 Soles, c. US$52.
• A course in Lingüística Andina (‘Andean Linguistics’). A full term course, I understand. This is taught by professional linguists and is quite heavily ‘grammatical’, but have been recommended to me by people who have taken them.
Note, however, that these courses are not cheap, by Peruvian standards at least. The is 180 Soles, c. US$52, while the full “Lingüística Andina” circa US $1,300 per term for non-Peruvians (though perhaps including accommodation?), I understand, and US $300 for Peruvians.
For more details of their courses, best consult their webpage: www.cbc.org.pe and from there connect to the pages :
• Curso de lingüística andina y educación bilingüe,
• Curso de lingüística quechua
• Cursos de postgrado.
Much cheaper courses (50 Soles = c. US$14 per month) are run by the Cuzco Quechua Language Academy. There are currently (Jan. 2002) 5‑month normal courses, and intensive 3‑month courses, 3 hours per day (choice of three times a day), groups of about ten students. See the details on the Academy below under ‘Useful organisations in Cuzco’.
The languages department at Cuzco University (see below) also runs less intensive courses in Quechua. Indeed, in December 1997 the University legally challenged Bartolomé de las Casas’ description of itself as a “Postgraduate School”, claiming it has no right to call itself thus and that its postgraduate qualifications do not have official recognition. I don’t know the ins and outs of all this, but in any case from my experience of the two institutions and from conversation with Western students at Bartolomé there is no doubt in my mind that Bartolomé de las Casas is infinitely more serious and more professional than the university.
Arranging Private Classes
It is true that native Quechua speakers (particularly campesinos) can often show considerable reticence – especially with gringos or Peruvian professionals – to speak Quechua, claiming they don’t speak it properly, or even that they don’t speak it at all. With some encouragement and effort on your part, particularly making it clear that you like and have a high opinion of their language (rather than the traditional scorn it was long viewed with within much of ‘mainstream’ Andean society), in my experience this reticence usually won’t last long.
In fact it is quite easy to arrange tuition or private classes, at any level. In Cuzco itself you can try the Quechua Academy, though you might note that some of the members will see you as a nice source of dollars, and feel their services are worth big bucks by Peruvian standards, and can ask for $20 an hour. This is way over a normal and decent local rate, which is about $3 per hour for a professional tutor for individual classes. The Academy Office should be able to put you in contact with a lady called Juanita, who charges about this and who is apparently pretty good .
In any case, if it’s just conversation practice rather than formal tuition that you’re after, you can also easily find with native speakers in any small town who would be very willing to chat in Quechua. Quite what sort of ‘deal’ you strike, how much you wish to mix ‘business’ with money, is of course at your discretion. Again, some people may try to charge gringos handsomely, but it’s more likely that people will be only too willing to chat in Quechua for only a few soles an hour. Remember, given how low wages are, and often how little work there is available locally, the cards are heavily stacked in your favour, so you can easily end up bargaining a little too hard. Be fair.
As just two examples I recommend the small towns of: Maras, a little off the road from Cuzco to the Sacred Valley via Chinchero, speak to almost anyone; the local priest says mass in Quechua too; and Pitumarca, near Sicuani, one of the start points for the Auzangate hikes.
Given the importance of tourism as a source of employment for people in the Cuzco region, many locals are keen to learn European languages, particularly English. So in Cuzco itself it’s also quite possible to arrange conversation exchanges, e.g. English-Quechua. Bear in mind that given that the general level of English teaching in the Andes is not very high at all, you don’t really need to be a native or even particularly fluent speaker of English to be of help to them. For this you may wish to contact people on the list below.
Useful Personal Contacts in
Here are a few people I know in Cuzco who can be useful personal contacts as Quechua teachers, helping linguists with Quechua research, or for just generally getting involved in the Quechua scene in – and better, in the villages around – Cuzco. I’ve sorted their names in order of the people I found most enthusiastic and helpful first.
To dial the telephone numbers given below from outside
• Your international access code (indicated by ‘+’): usually 00
• Peru country dialling code: 51
• Cuzco city dialling code: 84
• the 6‑digit number given below
If dialling from another city in Peru just dial 084 followed by the 6‑digit number.
Cesar Morante Luna – Tel.: 274671. Very experienced both
in teaching Quechua, and in training Quechua teachers who work in bilingual
education. A firm supporter of the
3-vowel (i.e. correct!) alphabet, naturally enough since he works in
education. Of the various people I
worked with trying to clear up queries about Quechua language and grammar, he
was the best-informed and most useful of all.
He has worked with a group in
• Hipólito Peralta Ccama – Tel.: 248319. wankarki13 AT yahoo.com. A senior member of the Bilingual Education Department of Peru’s national Education Ministry in Cuzco, with responsibility for training teachers in the use of Quechua in the classroom. An excellent native speaker of Quechua, experienced and very enthusiastic for all things to do with promoting the language. (Also interested in indigenous culture more widely, and conducts pago a la tierra ceremonies to Pachamama, if that’s your thing.) He has good contacts with local media too. Another firm supporter of the 3-vowel (i.e. correct!) alphabet, naturally enough since he works in education.
• Jaime Pantigozo Montes, a linguist who teaches at Cuzco University (UNSAAC), who has for 25 years been working in bilingual education in Quechua, and has translated into Quechua some short works by Arguedas. His contact details are: email: atuqcha1 AT terra.com.pe Address: Calle Hospital 829 Tel: 239048 or 930024.
Mariana Miranda Acuña – Tel. 222107. Teaches Quechua at the University (UNSAAC, Facultad de Educación) to
trainee teachers (uses the correct 3-vowel alphabet standard in bilingual education
programmes in the
The next three people listed below are former active members of the Cuzco Quechua Academy, but now appear to have pretty much given up on the Academy as incorrigible dinosaurs who won’t change their opinions even when they know they are mistaken. (This is in part why they’re recommended!)
Julia Silva Flórez – Tel. 229127. Has
often worked on her own Quechua
programmes on various
José Aragón Aedo – Tel: 238855. Very
active in Quechua. Has a Quechua
programme on Radio Sicuani (a town about 120 km south-east of
The next people listed below are current active members of the Cuzco Quechua Academy. Be aware that most such members of the Academy can have some very aggressive and mistaken views.
Domingo Dávila – friendly, interested and
very active, he was writing a trilingual (Quechua-Spanish-English) dictionary
when I was in
As for most of the more senior members of the
Academy, these should perhaps be approached with considerable caution. The President of the Academy (since 2001) is
one Leandro Herencia Fernandez – but after
his quite outrageous, preposterous, xenophobic and nonsensical keynote speech
to the Quechua conference in
Listening to Radio in Quechua
I’ve now switched this information to a separate page, click here
Postal address: Apartado 477, Cuzco, Peru.
For more information on their bookshops – the best Quechua bookshop I’ve found anywhere! – and publishing, see my bibliography page.
Bartolomé de las Casas seems to be by far the most – indeed the only truly –‘professional’ organisation working with Quechua in Cuzco.
It is a research institute, with its Colegio Andino on Avenida Tullumayo in Cuzco. This includes a hotel in which visitors attending their courses can stay (but there’s also much cheaper accommodation than theirs in Cuzco). There are a number of researchers working here, many from the West.
They have one of the best libraries on all ‘Andean subjects’ that you’re likely to find, and certainly the best in Cuzco (it’s next to their main bookshop and printing press, at Limacpampa Grande 571, a square at the end of Calle Tullumayo, about five minutes walk from Cuzco main square). You can join the library for a day, month, three months or year, all at pretty reasonable rates (US$1, $3, $6 and $18 respectively). They will photocopy anything from their library for you, if it’s for research purposes. This is especially useful for the many out of print books on Andean subjects.
Bartolomé de las Casas may be especially useful to those working in fields such as anthropology, education, sociology, and of course Quechua linguistics.
Some locals I’ve met seem to hold something against Bartolomé de las Casas for being run on a pretty much a commercial basis on an ethos that ‘culture is something you have to pay for’, and it’s true that not surprisingly, Bartolomé de las Casas tend to want you to pay for their expertise and professionalism. By Western standards, if perhaps not Peruvian ones, however, their courses and publications remain fairly cheap.
UNSAAC: Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cuzco
Avenida de la Cultura, Cuzco, Peru. Here there is a department of Linguistics (in the Communications Faculty) whose staff are friendly and like to meet linguists from elsewhere (and might ask you to give them lectures!). One particularly useful contact there is Jaime Pantigozo Montes, for his contact details click here.
The languages department also runs Quechua language courses (not very intensive). Be aware that some of the lectures in the university are given by members of the Quechua Academy who have next to no grounding in linguistics whatsoever, and whose views on Quechua are therefore not necessarily very reliable at all. For academic professionalism, the Centro Bartolomé de las Casas seem to be a safer bet.
– Qheswa Simi Hamut’ana Kuraq Suntur
– Academia Mayor De La Lengua Quechua
The members of the Academy constitute a collection of educated, professional people who are all native Quechua speakers – and as such could be very useful for you to get to know. Their venerable founder, Sr. Faustino Espinoza – known by all at the Academy simply as “El Inca” (for ten years he played the Inca in the Inti Raymi festival), spoke an exceptionally clear Quechua, and I was delighted to have been able to listen to him speak on a few occasions, at the grand old age of 93! I was very sad to hear that he died in 1999 – he will be greatly missed. Quechua has lost one of its great advocates, among the first who dared stand up for it in the old Inca capital.
In any case, if you want to meet a bunch of Cuzco professionals who speak clear, careful Quechua, the Academy is one option. Steer clear of linguistics and their members are very friendly, welcoming, helpful and generous, and I recommend you get to know some of them. They can also help you practice your Quechua (though many will want nice pay from gringos).
Firstly, it’s a very sad reflection on the sociolinguistic prestige of Quechua to say, though, that the very Academy conducts the vast majority of its business in Spanish!
Also, if you’re going to listen to the content of what the members of the Academy have to say on any topic of Quechua linguistics, even the analysis of pretty basic grammar, then be warned! You should know that the members, for all their formal titles and self-esteem, are quite the amateurs in linguistics. The Academy is an entirely voluntary, non-profit-making organisation, and its members are in no sense professional linguists - most have little or no specifically linguistic training at all. Above all, their personal career and (albeit minimal) publication interests, and their professional careers reading and writing for decades in Spanish spelling, dominate their view of the 3 vs. 5 vowel debate. They simply don’t know the first thing they are talking about on this issue, I’m afraid. So whatever they may say, seriously you should not take any notice of them on this issue.
This would be harmless enough if only they did not insist on considering themselves the unique authority on the language, as the more senior members love to present themselves. Many people working with Quechua end up seeing their “we speak the real, pure Inka [sic] Quechua” attitude as in many ways actually damaging the resurgence of Quechua far more than helping it.
On this subject, particularly if you do plan to meet the Academy, this article is highly recommended reading to get yourself forewarned:
Marr, T. (1999)
Neither the State Nor the Grass Roots: Language Maintenance and the Discourse of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua.
Click here to read the full text of this article, hosted on an Argentine Quechua website.
in: International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism vol. 2: 3,1999 pp. 181-197
Freeland, J. (ed.) - Special Issue on Indigenous Language Maintenance in Latin America
The article is based on an interview with the former president of the Academy, who still seems to pull a lot of strings there, and whose views would appear to be highly representative of those of the ruling clique of the Academy’s governing committee. There are plenty of quotes from him, giving a real insight into the Academy’s way of thinking. Be warned: the Academy member in question comes out with some outrageously arrogant and entirely uninformed stuff, only sadly this is only too typical of the ruling committee.
There is also a native Quechua-speaking linguist from Peru who is currently (December 2002) finishing off his Ph.D. on the subject of the role of the Cuzco Quechua Academy and its counterpart in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I suspect his work is likely to come to similar conclusions. Contact me for more details.
The result of all this is that most professional linguists working on Quechua have a rather dim, if not to say despairing, view of the Academy, and not surprisingly its relations with linguists are generally very poor. The Academy has a BIG problem with linguistics.
I have my own views on this, and if you want to hear more then you may click here to email me and I’ll send you them. In particular if you’re a linguist heading for Cuzco, there are warnings and a request you really should be aware of!
Now you’ve been suitably forewarned, it may be safe to give you the link to the Academy’s website (not that there was much on it the last time I looked). http://www.unsaac.edu.pe/CUZCO/RunaSimi/
The Academy office telephone number is: + 51 – 084 ‑ 221671
At this point it’s time to put back some balance into this account! While there’s little point in heading to the Academy to study Quechua linguistics, I repeat what I said above. If you want to meet an interesting bunch of professionals who speak clear, careful Quechua, this is a place to go. Steer clear of linguistics and their members are generally friendly, welcoming, helpful and generous, and I do recommend you get to know some of them. See the list of useful contacts in Cuzco above, some of whom are at the Academy.
Moreover, even on the professional side there has of late been something of an attempt, especially on the part of the “Young Turks” of the Academy who recognise the need for more linguistic professionalism, to reform the Academy from within. This still hasn’t got very far though.
Particularly if you’re a linguist, you could do a lot of good. Even if you know little Quechua, these members of the Academy will probably be very interested in you (at least for kudos value!) As a gringo linguist they welcomed me very enthusiastically. I arrived knowing no Quechua, and within weeks was giving two series of lectures on basic linguistics! I hope I began making some headway even with some of the more senior members into giving them some understanding of linguistics, and an appreciation that maybe they ought to take it more seriously. If you could do the same, you’d be doing Quechua a big favour. The Academy desperately needs to earn some real respect. For better or worse it has the name and it could be very useful for helping Quechua’s status, but at the moment it’s totally sidelined by professional linguists, and what work it does do is often counter-productive because it’s so linguistically uninformed. You could be doing yourself a big favour too: giving a lecture makes for a great way of getting into the Quechua community in Cuzco! (By the way, you don’t have to be some expert: really, if you’ve done one term of any linguistics, there’s a lot they can learn from you!).
So despite the depressing aspects, and with all the provisos mentioned here, I still recommend any linguist heading for Cuzco to contact the Academy. You’ll just have to play it cool though! A tip, for God’s sake stay clear of the “trivocalista” position for at least the first few weeks (if you ever dare to discuss it at all!). Anyone interested in more details of my experiences of a few months learning Quechua and working with the Academy in Cuzco can email to ask me for it.
The Academy meets for a couple of hours at 10 a.m. every other Saturday, waiting outside the entrance to the Paraninfo Universitario on the Plaza de Armas. They were trying to move though, so maybe best to could contact members direct. See the list of useful contacts in Cuzco above.
NGOs Working with Quechua Villagers in the
There are some NGOs in the
Fundación HoPe (Holanda-Perú)
A Dutch-run NGO doing a great deal of work, particularly in bilingual education, in the Quechua communities of the Patacancha valley (the beautiful side-valley from Ollantaytambo): Huilloc, Patacancha, Yanomayo, Quelcanca (to use their Spanish spellings!). Currently working on publishing a collection of traditional Quechua folk tales specifically told by and intended for children, as a schoolbook.
Instituto Pedagógico CRAM
An NGO working directly in Quechua in education – the EBI programme, i.e. Educación Bilingüe Intercultural (the Peruvian programme – in Bolivia it’s called EIB!!!). Currently in the final year of a six year programme (CRAM II, named after the Canadian who set it up) to develop educational materials for all six years of primary school for the Urubamba area (the Sacred Valley, very near Cuzco). Funding comes from Manos Unidas, i.e. the city of Madrid, Spain. LaSalle is founded by and very closely linked to the Catholic Church.
They are based in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley (under two hours by minibus from Cuzco): from Urubamba bus station, go up the steps behind the bus station, head left and take the first street right. On the left-hand side going up the street you first pass Radio LaSalle, then get to the LaSalle College. CRAM II has offices in a building inside the college. The ‘co‑ordinadora’ of the project is Ruth Santisteba, though in Cuzco best first contact is Cesar Morante – for his contact details click here.
Traditional Weaving NGO
There’s now an NGO (full details soon) working to ensure the
long-term survival of the beautiful textile traditions of the
Porteadores Inca Ñan (‘Inca Trail Porters’)
An NGO aiming to monitor and improve conditions for the porters
working on the Inca Trail (be aware that of your US$150 or so, less than 10%
usually goes to the porter who carries all the food, fuel, camping equipment,
and so on. Some are as young as 14. Many people are – like myself – rather turned
off by the whole set‑up of the Inca Trail, with its compulsory guides,
porters and above all group sizes. You
may not want a porter at all, but it’s rigged that way and if you feel you’re
being ripped off, remember it’s certainly not them who are doing it. They get an even more bum deal than you
do! Contact the South American Explorers
Club office in
Computing Facilities in
If you’ll be studying here and need library and computing facilities, both the University and Bartolomé de las Casas have libraries and computing facilities. Alternatively there are computing facilities all over the place now in Cuzco, at the dozens of very cheap internet cafés. Prices are from 1.50 to 2.50 Peruvian soles per hour (roughly 50 to 75 US cents).
The university library I found pretty disappointing, at least for Quechua material. Bartolomé de las Casas has a much better library for Quechua materials, though not perfect, and you must pay join: 3 Peruvian soles per day (US$0.85), or 30 soles per month.
Cost of Living in
Peru in July 2002 is cheap by Western standards (Exchange rate US$1 = S./3.50). Just a few cost of living tips to give you an idea, in US$ and cents ¢. : local buses are 15¢, snacks like empanadas and fried yucca are 15¢, the most basic meal under 50¢, a quarter chicken and chips $1.30, a 260 cc bottle of Coke 25¢, and even the tourist trap restaurants around the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco offer flexible ‘fixed’ menu meals for under $3.
Hostels start at $3 per night in Cuzco. If you have a slightly higher budget, and want to practice some Quechua, I would recommend (if you like cats and dogs, and don’t mind cockerels waking you up early in the morning):
Hospedaje Sumaq T’ikaq
tel: (0051 - 84) 229127.
This is just behind San Blas church, five minutes from the main square in a nice, in a quiet, olde-worldy and pretty safe area of town. Clean and new, private bath, a wood‑burning fireplace in your room, basic cooking facilities. The owner is a delightful lady, Julia Silva Flórez, who speaks excellent Quechua, runs a weekly Quechua programme on a local radio station, and is keen to have English-Quechua exchanges. She charges up to $10 a night including breakfast, but $7 out of season. She’ll also negotiate on weekly or monthly rates for longer stays. In high season (June to September) this place can often be full, so you may have reserve your room in advance and bargain. Will supply you with firewood for an extra 4 Soles (US$1.15). Also recommended in Let’s Go guidebook.
There are three fairly large cities in Bolivia where Quechua is spoken by a fair proportion of the inhabitants – Cochabamba, Sucre and Potosí. However, as in Peruvian cities such as Cuzco, Ayacucho or Puno, it is pretty much a hidden language. Walk around the centre, in shops and offices, and you’ll barely hear a word; go to the popular markets, and the parts of town full of migrants from the surrounding villages, and there you’ll still hear a good deal of Quechua (though their city-born children generally end up pretty much monolingual Spanish speakers).
La Paz is in the Aymara-speaking area, though does have plenty of migrants from Quechua-speaking areas, so it’s possible to find teachers there (see below).
Quechua is perhaps most spoken in Cochabamba in Bolivia, though personally I find it rather less attractive than the other two: Sucre is a truly beautiful colonial city, Potosí immensely historical, and both have fascinating things to do nearby. Indeed, to practice Quechua you’re unquestionably best advised to get out of the city in any case, and head for small rural towns and, better still, remote villages. Consider the towns more as interesting bases for getting out to the countryside.
Around Cochabamba, I would recommend the Pocona – Inkallaqta – Totora area (en route to Sucre). Sucre is surrounded by superb villages and countryside: both the Tarabuco area, and the ‘Jalq’a’ area, around Potolo and Maragua, with craters, dinosaur footprints, Inca trails, and superb mid-altitude Andean scenery (e.g. the Chataquila ridge). (See the Bradt Publications book on Hiking in Peru and Bolivia).
Both areas are also famous for their indigenous traditions, not least their superb weavings – even if you’re really not a fan, make this stuff the one type you see! The wonderful, haunting Jalq’a khuru and saqra motifs (imaginary wild animals and underworld gods, red on black) are classic indigenous American imagery. A visit to the excellent ASUR foundation museum in Sucre is very highly recommended for background information on both these areas (click here or here for their website). Tarabuco has a famous, if rather touristy, market every Sunday.
and Private Classes in
It should be easy to find courses and private tuition in
The very professional linguistics department at the UMSS (Universidad Mayor de San Simón, in the centre) and the associated PROEIB (Pro- Educación Intercultural Bilingüe) are definitely your best points of contact, especially Pedro Plaza, the leading Quechua linguist in Bolivia.
The Cochabamba Academy are somewhat like their brethren in Cuzco – very convinced of their own expertise and pretty self-righteous about it at times, especially when it comes to their sadly completely misplaced ideas about alphabets for Quechua (see my other pages on this). But the académicos are still educated people with a real concern for and often great dedication to Quechua, not least one of the senior members of the Academy, Prof. Ángel Herbas Sandoval, tel. 4242979.
There is an office and classroom of the Cochabamba branch of the Quechua Language Academy in the city centre, on Calle 25 de Mayo (if I recall correctly!) between Av. las Heroinas and Calle Colombia. They frequently run Quechua courses. Like the Cuzco Academy, this is not run by professional linguists, but by keen, educated native‑speakers. From Westerners they may expect serious money for private tuition – serious by Bolivian standards at least.
There is a good Cochabamba Quechua website by Jean‑Luc Ancey, who has lots of personal contacts with the Academy.
There is also José Antonio Rocha, tel. 4293100, email: firstname.lastname@example.org who organised the ‘International Quechua Conference’ in Cochabamba in October 2002. See my events list for details.
Other People and
Teófilo Laime is also strongly recommended – see below on La Paz, but he also spends a lot of time in Cochabamba, especially from December to February. Click here for full details of how to contact him.
Apparently Luis Morató Peña used to, and perhaps still does occasionally, teach Quechua at the Instituto de idiomas “Tawantinsuyu” in Cochabamba, as well as at Cornell University (see below on courses in the USA).
The South American Handbook tells of a Quechua-speaking community near Cochabamba which may be of interest to learners.
Here are the contact details for a few experienced Quechua teachers in Sucre that I know of, all of them eager for work. Standard rate from schools and for private one‑to‑one tuition was 20 Bs (US$3) per hour in November 2002.
María Elena Pozo: tel. (04) 64 41802
Her husband checks his email daily: email@example.com
Recommended, teaches Quechua at the university, Quechua‑Spanish translator for NGOs, a native of Cochabamba (whose Quechua accent she still has!) but has now lived for many years in Sucre and knows that variety of Quechua too. The most clued-up of the people I met.
Primitivo Nina: tel. (04) 64 60785
Also teaches Quechua at the university, should be pretty good, experienced, and know his stuff fairly well.
Juan Tamares: (04) 64 62289
Recommended, from a village near Tarabuco, enthusiastic and pretty good. Teaches for the ‘Fox’ language school in Sucre. Last I heard (late 2003) he was in Ecuador though!
Eva María Paucar Calderón: tel. (04) 64 66397 firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaks Quechua from Tarija southern Bolivia, some knowledge of Cuzco Quechua too (from attending indigenista conferences there), pretty good but a few strange ideas about language…
I haven’t met these last two, but apparently they teach at the university too.
Rosmery Flores: (04) 64 62465
Gladys Zuna: mobile: 0711 74416
and Private Classes in
For both languages, I would strongly recommend Teófilo Laime, a native-Aymara speaking linguist at the linguistics department in the main university in La Paz (UMSA), who is also fluent in Quechua. He is very enthusiastic, very productive, works with his uncle on a weekly newspaper in Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní, has a fabulous library of Quechua and Aymara materials, and would no doubt be a good teacher of both Quechua and Aymara. He also knows a fair bit of English. Click here for full details of how to contact him.
Learning Quechua Elsewhere in
I have little information on other places. I refer you to this excellent website with full details of various courses in South America (and others all round the world).
While Lima is not a native Quechua-speaking place, it does have hundreds of thousands of speakers of Quechua from all over Peru who have migrated to it. Just one example, which might be useful if you need a basic but very friendly hostal to stay in in Lima: Hostal Huayna Picchu in Breña is run by a family whose older generation are from Cuzco and speak Quechua (the South American Handbook and Peru Handbook mention this hostal).
I also have a strong recommendation of a native-speaking Quechua teacher (Cuzco Quechua) in Lima, from Miriam Roseleur (from the Netherlands), to whom many thanks for the following detailed information:
I have found an excellent Quechua teacher who owns his own academy in Lima and gives courses as well as private classes. His name is Demetrio Tupac Yupanqui, he is originally from Cusco and speaks Spanish as well as Quechua as his mother tongues. He already has over 40 years teaching experience, and in Peru is well known as a teacher. He taught Quechua at Cornell University in New York, where he was involved in developing a new method for teaching. He also taught Quechua to Eliane Karp, the first lady in Peru, and other members of congress, and led courses on Peruvian television. He’s currently giving courses to the ‘poder judicial’. He is a man of age now, but with an impressive CV and still really active and enthusiastic in teaching! He is a really dedicated teacher. His academy Yachay Wasi (he is the only teacher though) is in Lima (Callao), at this address:
Mar del Caribe 232 - Cuadra 46 de la Av. La Marina
Telephone: 00 51 - 1 - 420-5037
His teaching method consists in two books with texts and exercises (the same method they developed at the Cornell University) it took me about 5 months to complete the course (frequency of two or three times a week). Because Quechua is not very popular among ‘limeños’ his classes aren’t really crowded. But it is also possible to take private lessons. He charges about 10$ an hour a person.
On his website you can find more information: www.yachay.com.pe/especiales/quechua/
In Tucumán, N.E.
I suggest you check the Argentinean Quechua links on my links page, and/or contact the following Quechua‑fan, who gives basic teaching in the language.
Ernesto Damián Sánchez Ance
(also a tourist guide specialising in pre‑Hispanic history of north‑east Argentina)
Av. Soldati 736,
CP 4000 – A.M. de Tucumán.
tel: 0054 381 4283874
You could also try to contact: Gilda Huayta Flores
Learning Quechua outside
Since I wrote my stuff below, another excellent page has been set up which has far more detail than here, so you might want to go straight to:
There is also another site here with details on Six U.S. Universities with Quechua courses
My general comments here are a bit outdated, though there are a few names here not mentioned in their website. I have no personal experiences of any of these courses, so I cannot comment on how good they might be. This is purely for information.
Courses in the
Various universities in the USA have courses in Quechua. The comments that follow are ones I’ve found at various places on the web, they aren’t mine. Most come from an open letter on the web by “Prof. Guillermo Delgado-P., who teaches at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the Latin American Studies Department, and who is a member of the board of the South and Meso-American Indian Information Center, Cornell University”. email@example.com
“There is another linguist of the name of Donald Sola who either taught or coordinates Quechua language programs at Cornell University.”
“You may also inquire Billie Jean Isbell for this information. Billie Jean, an anthropologist conducted fieldwork in Peru. She is tenured at Cornell.”
“Luis Morató Peña teaches Quechua at Cornell University, and in Cochabamba, Bolivia at the Instituto de idiomas “Tawantinsuyu.” Professor Morató has a series of Quechua textbooks in both Spanish and English, for the study of both the Bolivian and Cuzco dialects of Quechua. For information on these, and Quechua classes at Cornell, contact him at: Latin American Studies Program, 190 Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.”
There is now a Quechua course at Princeton, taught by Serafín Coronel-Molina, which should be good. (He’s a native-speaker, professional linguist, and author of the 2nd edition of the Lonely Planet Quechua Phrasebook.) Check on his website or email him for details.
“There is a Quechua program at UCLA, taught every summer session, I think under the Anthropology Department, the professor’s name is Jaime? Daza.”
“Quechua is taught at the University of Wisconsin by Quechua linguist Carmen Chuquin and Quechua translator Frank Solomon.” This link might have some information, since it’s the teacher’s Quechua page. www.wisc.edu/chaysimire/
Thanks to Michelle Eirinberg for this information:
There are Quechua courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are difficult to find because they are listed under Latin American Studies > Special Topics. I took two semesters there with the professor, Clodoaldo Soto, who teaches the Ayacucho dialect.
Indiana University in Bloomington
Thanks to Sherry Ann Hartman for this information:
Indiana University in Bloomington offers Quechua courses periodically. I took one from Francisco T. under the LTAM Latin American Studies program (400 level).
Mark Rosenfelder tells me that there are reputed to be courses also at the University of Chicago.
My overall impression is that the best place in Europe to learn Quechua is probably the Netherlands (see below), where there are various well-known Quechua linguists, among them Willem Adelaar and Pieter Muysken.
As far as I know, there are universities teaching Quechua in:
• the Netherlands: Leiden, see below for details; also perhaps Utrecht.
• France: Paris: INALCO, Département Afrique et Amériques. Also try to contact IFEA, the Institut Français des Études Andines, which has branches in the Andean countries, and presumably in Paris too. For information, César Itier is probably a good point of contact.
• Germany: Berlin and Bonn? This site may help: http://amor.rz.hu-berlin.de/~h0444wt3/
• In Spain: the professional Quechua linguist, Julio Calvo Pérez, author of this grammar of Cuzco Quechua, works at the Universitat de València in Spain, though I don’t know whether there is a Quechua course – his website may have details.
Thanks to Annelies Valgaeren for the following specific information (November 2002) on the Quechua course at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands:
At the University of Leiden in the Netherlands there’s a course entitled Talen en Culturen van Indiaans Amerika (TCIA), i.e. Amerindian Languages and Cultures. This combines courses about the archaeology of the Americas and courses on the languages spoken by Indians in the Americas. The languages taught, on various levels, are Nahuatl, Maya and Quechua. Quechua is taught by Simon van de Kerke, a linguist who lived with Quechua speakers in Bolivia for some years (and who is currently doing research on Leko). The Quechua course is taught on two levels: a basic level where you’re taught grammar and some vocabulary, and another level where you’re reading Quechua texts. More info may be available from the homepage of the university at .
In the U.K.
I understand at the University of Liverpool a course is taught by Rosaleen Howard-Malverde in the Latin American Studies department.
I am told Quechua is also taught in London and in St Andrews universities.
There are also certainly universities teaching Quechua in Japan, though I don’t know which.