For many of us, our ability to speak Spanish or Portuguese is a huge part of our Latinidad. But with millions of people speaking Indigenous languages in Latin America, we know this is far from the truth. Spanish is, of course, one thing that unites most of Latin America together, but it’s a language that was imposed on us. It’s one reason some Mexican writers have rejected Spanish to write in Indigenous languages. For those of us who are interested in learning Indigenous languages, technology has become a serious lifeline.
We already use apps for dating and social media to checking the weather or shopping, so why not use it to help us get in touch with our deeper identity?
Several apps have sprung over the last few years to help us learn the Indigenous languages of Latin America. If you’re looking to take on a new language, here are a few apps you should check out:
With an estimated 1.5 million speakers, Náhuatl is the most commonly spoken Indigenous language in Mexico. Yet despite its prevalence in rural Mexico, there are still few courses or resources available for learning it.
The digital app “Vamos a Aprender Náhuatl” (Let’s Learn Náhuatl) offers learners the chance to approach the language as spoken in the town of Acatlán, in the southern state of Guerrero. In a self-taught manner, you can learn the numbers, greetings, animals, body parts, fruits, plants, and some verbs. The app – which is in Spanish and Náhuatl – also features quizzes to help users retain their lessons.
Kernaia has also developed an app for learning Mixtec, a branch of Indigenous languages spoken by more than half a million people. The app allows learners to navigate through 20 language lessons which teach greetings, numbers, and colors. The lessons are all set in the Santa Inés de Zaragoza community in the southern state of Oaxaca, and the app teaches people about the culture and traditions of the community.
The Kernaia project says that its mission is to create “an ecosystem of digital content for Indigenous languages.” To move toward this goal, the organization has created a similar app for Purépecha, a language spoken by nearly 200,000 people in the western state of Michoacán.
After the passing of Mexico’s Indigenous language law in 2000, languages including Purépecha were given official status equal with Spanish in the areas where it is spoken. Digital learning aids such as those offered by Kernaia are vital to heightening awareness of both the Purépecha language and the culture of the Purépecha people, who often experience poverty and marginalization.
As well as teaching words related to daily activities, Kernaia’s website says that the app offers a journey into “the space where they take place: the family, the community, the kitchen, the field, the celebrations, and other elements that represent the town’s identity and enrich our cultural diversity.”
Quechua’s one of the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas. PromPerú developed the Habla Quechua app “with the aim of inspiring Peruvian citizens and foreigners to use and take an interest in the Quechua language.” The app – which is available to English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish speakers – features quizzes and a live translator feature.
DuoLingo offers courses in more than 20 languages, including the Jopará dialect of Guaraní, which is spoken in Paraguay. There is also a course for Navajo that is currently in Beta. The app offers quizzes and immediate grading.
So what do you think? Are there any Indigenous languages you’d like to learn that don’t have an app yet?
Popular language app Duolingo offers language learning lessons in dozens of languages for dozens of languages. In English, the app offers 32 different language lessons, two of which are entirely fictional–Klingon (the language from “Star Trek”) and High Valyrian (a fictional language from “Game of Thrones”).
Of the many languages offered, Duolingo has yet to include Arabic, the fifth most spoken language in the world, among several others. In light of this information blowing up, Twitter users are sharing their feelings on the folks who are choosing to spend their time learning High Valyrian instead of spoken languages.
We had to download the app to see it for ourselves.
Yep. It’s real. It’s really there. So many people are stoked. It makes sense but there are so many languages that are real that make more sense to learn. Spanish, for example, which can be used in real situations.
The thought of being able to converse with their favorite GoT characters is thrilling to some.
So thrilling, that they are spending their time actually learning the language, created by David J. Petterson. He collaborated closely with Duolingo to get it off the ground and now here we are.
The language is without a doubt foreign to almost every human on earth.
It’s certainly challenging to get the hang of and to be honest, we didn’t get very far in our efforts to learn it.
FOX News even reported on the Duolingo offering, which led people to wonder.
Are people really going to spend their time learning a fictional language only spoken on television? Why would Duolingo spend time developing this learning tool for High Valyrian instead of Arabic or Farsi?
The predictions are true. People are putting more effort into speaking High Valyrian than learning Spanish.
This is not an isolated incident. We’re seeing the excitement for High Valyrian over Spanish all over Twitter.
We’re waiting for the psychologists to chime in on why this phenomenon is happening.
The thrill of speaking to millions of people seems to be less than the thrill of vaguely understanding a television language without subtitles.
Hundreds of thousands of people are reportedly learning High Valyrian on Duolingo.
We’re waiting… Real talk: there is no use for learning High Valyrian.
Meanwhile, Mandarin and Spanish, the top two most spoken languages in the world are seemingly less useful to learn for High Valyrian learners.
“Game of Thrones” may be a huge cultural phenomenon in this moment, but Spanish is the future, especially in the United States.
Plus, “Game of Thrones” is about to be over in less than a week.
After which, there will be no new content surrounding this fictional language. That’s it.
We applaud everyone who is committed to learning a language that opens relationships with actual human beings. 👏👏👏
What do you think about Duolingo’s choice to teach its users High Valyrian? Fun and games or a little problematic? Comment below!