PERU - THE LANGUAGE AND THE PEOPLE...
Perú is a country on the west coast of Latinoamérica, with one of the most fascinating historical, cultural and social tales to tell. Lets meet the language from past to present.
There are 20 countries around the world that use Spanish as their official language. Perú is one of them. The story of Spanish is well known: created on the territory of Spain, it crossed the Atlantic ocean along with the spanish ships going to the lands of central and south America. The ships brought groups of people that saw opportunities, the people established colonies and the colonies expanded on the earth, on the local religions and on the languages of the native peoples.
What are the languages spoken in Perú?
Nowadays, Spanish is one of the official languages of the country and the mother tongue of more than 80% of Peruvians.
But interestingly enough, the trail of History was not erased entirely. There are approximately 47 native or indigenous languages still in use, according to BBC, out of which, four are spoken in the Andes regions, and 43 in the Amazon.
Quechua stands out as the most spoken indigenous language in the country, with more than 3.3 million native speakers in Peru. Aymara is the second most common indigenous language, with over 440,000 speakers.
Of course, many indigenous languages from Peru are also prominent in other regions of South America. The most glorious example of this is Quechua, which is a language containing numerous local dialects and variants, and is actually spoken in regions of Ecuadro, Bolivia and Argentina as well. In total, there are 14 million quechua speakers in the continent, which makes it the most expanded native language of South America.
WHY DOES THE LANGUAGE VARY SO MUCH INSIDE THE SAME COUNTRY?
Peru being the third largest country of South America, but also happening to expand on a territory of gigantic variety, it is absolutely normal to include big varieties of language systems and peculiarities. A fact worthy of pointing out is the inseparable connection of the geographic conditions, of the land and the climate, with the inhabitants and, eventually, the reflection of their needs to the language they use. Or, in other words, the land forms the people while they try to form the land; the people need the language to communicate their reality; then, the language is influenced by the conditions of the land; and the circle goes on.
To make this concept more concrete, we suggest you to imagine an isolated village on the high peruvian mountains, a part of the breathtaking Andes. What the people there face is: agriculture, livestock, no internet (yes, there are still places with no internet), few faraway neighboors, lack of educational system and a cold climate.
Now imagine a person living in the capital, Lima, inside a poor economy but still, with all the comforts of the modern urban way of life. Probably working in the section of services, with access to the internet, big chances to meet new people every day, possible contact with foreign tourists, no particular preocupation about the weather conditions, etc.
Now let's try to picture how much specific vocabulary the people living in the village will need about the rural life, about the weather, the animals, the texture of the earth, the seasons of the year or the states of the precious upcoming crop. Knowing and communicating or not knowing can be a metter of life and death. On the other hand, the people living in the big city will need to keep up with a totally different vocabulary and communication references, that range from technology to business management to guiding teamwork or talking to an employer or to a client, or even a family member, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a simple friend... In such conditions, the broader the contact with people and the plurality of the roles that one needs to accomplish, the largest the palette of ways to describe and define human relations within the language system. Now zoom out: try to picture the way in which, through a process of years, such extremely varied needs eventually lead to the birth of differentiated uses of the same language.
In our case, this same process takes place in native languages and their variations but also in Spanish itself. Peru has coasts, a part of the amazonian rainforest and the Andes. The combination of extreme zones and the areas between them, creates a ideal scenery for language differentiation. And the differentiation itself, to the eyes of the global community is perceived as more and more valuable. Personally, I find very fortunate the fact the from an era of empires and colonisation we seem to be starting to face other cultures with respect, rather than just curiosity. From the cabinets of curiosities of the 16th century, it took us a long time to be concerned about the extinction, for example, of another 35 native languages that used to be spoken in Peru. But I guess, it's better late than never, right?