Quechua in the Classroom

For one month, Awamaki was lucky enough to host 15 students from Lakeside High School in Seattle, Washington to come down and volunteer with us over the course of three weeks. A team of them were able to create some blog articles for us about various aspects of their experiences, this is one of their finished products!


By Sophia

Allin p’unchay!

Having spent a total of four hours learning the language of Quechua, I cannot be considered someone who knows everything possible about the language. However, here I share my elementary impressions of the language.

Quechua is the primary language spoken in the weaving communities where Awamaki works. Described as sweet, this is a language with few direct word-for-word translations and abundant words full of syllables. Its sweetness is adeptly exemplified by the phrase for ‘thank you’ – ‘urpiy sonqoy,’ literally meaning ‘heart of dove.’ No language is complete without its appropriate share of long words full of syllables. Yet, you will not have to learn much before you encounter some intimidating phrases. How are you?: ‘imaynalla kashanki.’ I’m good: ‘allillanmi kashani’. Thankfully, you pronounce it like it looks except for the double L, which makes a ‘y’ sound. If you speak Spanish you will recognize this unique trait. Quechua is not a written language, so, all written forms you see in this blog or elsewhere are simply how you pronounce the Quechua word based upon the Spanish alphabet, not the language itself.

Urpiy sonqoy for reading!

The form of Quechua I have been learning is a form of Southern Quechua, specifically the Cuzco dialect. With about 6 million speakers, Southern Quechua is the most widely-spoken indigenous language in the New World. That being said, there are many different dialects, and therefore spellings, of Quechua, and many people also know a combined Spanish-Quechua form. Part of our Quechua education involved asking our homestay families just outside of Ollantaytambo the Quechua translation of various Spanish terms, and vice versa. Some families were hesitant to share their knowledge as they may be familiar with the Spanish-Quechua mash-up, not the original Quechua terms.

Regardless, Quechua is a valuable language to learn. Our school group will be visiting the weaving community of Patacancha as part of service learning with Awamaki, where Quechua is the primary language spoken. Little Spanish is spoken there, so every Quechua vocabulary word will be valuable. Through my knowledge of the language, I will be able to have a deeper understanding of the weaving traditions of the village.

Now, you too, can say you are learning Quechua. How do I say that in Quechua, you ask? ‘Noqaqa runasimi yachaqmi kani.’