Forget Spanish and French. Starting in the spring semester, Ohio State University is offering classes in Quechua, the language of the ancient Incas.
Why learn Quechua? The language is ancient, but it’s far from dead. The Inca Empire may have collapsed after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America, but the language lives on throughout the Andes. About 10 million indigenous people still speak some variation of Quechua, which is often classified as a language family rather than a distinct language because it contains so many different dialects, some of which are not quite mutually intelligible.
In fact, Quechua is an official language in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.
Robert Robison, the university’s program manager for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, told student newspaper The Lantern that the school wants:
“to provide opportunity for students who want to do some research with the Andean cultures there. Also for our regular literature and Ph.D. students, it’s important. A variety of folks across campus are interested. If you want to do any sort of research of Andean people, you would need to know Quechua.”
Knowledge of Spanish is helpful when learning Quechua because the two languages have been spoken side-by-side for centuries, and Quechua contains many Spanish loanwords. In countries where Quechua is spoken, local versions of Spanish also contains loanwords from Quechua.
Would you like to learn Quechua? If you don’t live near a school that offers classes, here are some online resources that can help you get a basic grasp of the language:
My Language Exchange: Connects native Quechua speakers who want to learn another language to people who want to learn Quechua.
Avatar Languages: Private language lessons with a teacher via Skype for $19 per hour.
Quechua.org:uk: An overview of the history of Quechua with links to different language learning resources.