FK&Y’s Anna Livingstone discusses the challenge posed by ‘dying’ languages, witnessed on her recent travels in South America
Data from the UN in 2009 showed that there are 270 million people in 90 countries who identify as indigenous, making up 5% of the global population and 15% of the world’s poor. While travelling in South America for the last 5 months, I came across many diverse cultures and the indigenous languages that accompanied them. While this was a wonderful experience, I noticed that public services and systems within the continent appeared to operate primarily in Spanish. However, many of the people conversationally speak different languages. I wondered if this caused any problems politically or structurally within the continent. The centre of the old Inca Empire, in modern day Peru and Bolivia, is where one indigenous language, Quechua, seemed to be commonly spoken as a first, and sometimes sole, language. In this blog post, I will explore indigenous languages in education and the fate of Quechua.
The politics of language in Latin America has been dominated by a push towards colonial assimilation in the twentieth century. It is only in recent years that there has been a policy shift that focuses on recognising indigenous and linguistic diversity. While linguistic rights are now being recognised officially on the continent, implementation has been limited with one issue being underlying racism towards indigenous peoples. (more…)