Saving Peru's indigenous languages

Published by Andina.
Translated and adapted by Corey Watts.

Peru is home to 47 aboriginal languages, 16 of which face extinction. The government has announced a serious funding commitment to turn the trend around.

Saving Peru's indigenous languages

(Photo: Andina/Difusión)

The central government has committed S/. 100 million soles to maintain and revitalize Peru’s diverse languages, Andina reports.

The Peruvian Congress officially recognized Peru’s aboriginal languages for the first time in 2011. Since then the budget allocation for indigenous languages has increased more than 30-fold.

The United Nations Cultural, Educational, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) reports that Peru is home to 47 official indigenous languages, with more than four million speakers in total. Many, however, are spoken by small groups of people, mainly in the Amazon and Andes. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Peru had hundreds of languages.

Until recently, over 60 per cent of Peruvian students had a teacher who could not speak their language.

The law is intended to promote linguistic diversity made all indigenous languages official languages of Peru, not just Quechua.

In 2011, the Ministry of Education (Minedu) established a special directorate, Digeibira, to promote biligualism in rural communities.

Digeibira’s head, Elena Burga, said the agency has worked hard to catalogue and map the status of aboriginal languages across the country, and to train teachers.

“It was a huge job. Now we have 20,129 intercultural bilingual schools, of which 17,035 have a native language as their mother tongue,” said Ms Burga.

Ms Burga said that Digeibira has now registered and evaluated 48,000 bilingual teachers.

“We are working to ensure our languages ​​are not lost. Of the 47, 16 are in serious danger of disappearing.”

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