Many nations have several indigenous languages, some of which became extinct because of non-use, while others still existeven though the number of speakers is dwindling. However, there are also languages that still have quite a number of speakers, although they are afraid to use the language to avoid discrimination.
This is the case with the Peruvian language, Quechua, which turned out to still have about four million speakers in Peru. Quechua is an Inca empire indigenous language. In order to revive the use of the language and make it popular once again, a broadcast station launched a news program, Ñuqanchik, which is broadcast entirely in Quechua. In the language, “Ñuqanchik” means “all of us.”
The broadcast aims to reach the millions of Quechua speakers and those who understand the language, which is an effort to end the marginalization of indigenous language speakers that has been going on for centuries.
The daily news in Quechua language was launched just this week, and Marisol Mena, the show’s co-presenter believes that it is a historical achievement – a result of their struggles to make the initiative a reality and to reach more indigenous viewers.
Historians trace the language to Peru’s civilizations that existed 5,000 years back. Some 13% of Peruvians can still speak Quechua fluently, while some 10 million still understand the language. Many of them just stopped speaking the language as parents did not teach the language to their children. They switched to Spanish for acceptance and to prevent being mocked by other people.
The Incas dominated several parts of Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador, and in these places, a total of eight million people still speak Quechua in several regional varieties. Among the indigenous languages spoken in the Americas, Quechua remains as the most widely spoken.
The language is seldom heard, if at all. However, it is the language that is the origin of English words such as alpaca, llama, condor and puma. Vicuña, quinoa, quinine, pampa, lima (bean), lagniappe, jerky, guanaco, guano, gaucho, coca (cocaine) are also derived from Quechua. The news broadcast will be the first time that the language will be heard on radio stations or national television.
A national language
In 1975, Quechua became one of the official languages of Peru. However, it became more a symbol of social rejection and discrimination than anything else, according to Hugo Coya, director of the TV and radio institute in Peru that headed the initiative. He said it is difficult that he’s the one to answer the question of why programs in Quechua language were not done before.
In a World Bank study done in 2014, Quechua speakers are among the poor in Peru and about 60% of the speakers are those who do not have access to health services.
Over the past decade, Peru has enjoyed strong economic growth, although the mining activities also caused several land disputes that affected the indigenous communities.
Fernando Zavala, Peru’s prime minister, said that Ñuqanchik is an effort to bring up the cultural and economic gap between the Spanish and Quechua-speaking communities. The PM believes that this will change the relationship between the state, the people who speak a language other than Spanish and the government. Likewise, the program is seen as a tool to promote understanding.
Peru’s vice-minister of intercultural affairs, Alfredo Luna, says there are also plans to have news programs in other Peruvian indigenous languages, including Aymara, Awajun and Ashaninka.