Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas
Two thousand years after its creation, the language of the legendary Inca Empire is still alive in the mouths of 8 million people; the heirs of an historic language that was fundamental for the formation of one of the world's most important civilizations. Spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia Ecuador and Peru - where it originated - it is the third most spoken language in South America after Spanish and Portuguese.
Although not many people know this, some frequently used words in Spanish come from Quechua: "cancha" (area for playing a sport), "carpa" (tent for camping) and "pucho" (colloquial name for a cigarette) are examples of words that have passed from the Andean language into Spanish. Nevertheless, and in spite of these words that the Latin American countries have in common, Quechua is not spoken in the same way everywhere. In Peru alone there are various types of this language, which has been recognized as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
A good example of these differences can be found in Áncash and Cusco. While the former was home to the important Chavín culture - creator of the impressive Chavín de Huántar complex -, the latter was the cradle of the Inca Empire. Although the Inca civilization spoke Quechua –the inhabitants of the Empire were actually called “Quechuas” and not Incas – there were variations that have lasted until today and which depend on location.
If there are various types of this ancient language in Peru alone, it is not very difficult to imagine that the differences between countries are even more marked. For example, the Quechua spoken in Ecuador is different to that spoken in Bolivia, where the accent and the words are more like Cusco.
Taquile island, Titicaca lake
Presence in Peru
Around 10% of the population learns Quechua as their first language in Peru, which is about 3 million people. Even in regions such as Apurímac, Huancavelica and Ayacucho, Quechua is the first language for more than 50% of the population as their first language. However, and although many people do not know this, Lima is the city where Quechua is most spoken, with about half a million people from Lima being Quechua speakers.
With more than 2000 years of history, Quechua has now conquered the virtual and television world: newscasts, children's programs, videos on YouTube, virtual magazines and Internet radio are broadcast wholly in Quechua, thus allowing the language of the Incas to survive the passage of time. The Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua (Academy of the Quechua language) has played a very important role in this noble work. The Peruvian counterpart of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language is devoted to the research, promotion, diffusion and recognition of the Quechua language. In practice, its work is focused on Qheswa or Cusco Quechua. It should be noted that its main headquarters is in the city of Cusco, Peru.
The Quechua of the future
Quechua was for a long time linked to the indigenous population and those of peasant or provincial origin, which led many people to reject the opportunity to learn it. However, the ancient language of the Incas has recovered its value and relevance in recent years: many Peruvians whose first language is Spanish are currently seeking to get closer to their roots by learning this fascinating language that united the territories of five Latin American countries in its day, and which enabled one of the wonders of the world to be constructed.