If you want to connect with life in the Andes, there is no better way to do this than to learn some Quechua. And contrary to popular belief, learning a bit about the language is not as difficult as you think. Picking up a few words will go a long way towards helping you develop deeper relationships with locals.
A few words can go a long way. So get out to the streets, talk to locals and start learning the slang
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It can feel intimidating when we start our first steps towards learning a new language, but it can never be understated how important learning a few simple words can be for allowing you to have a deeper experience while traveling. Not only does learning a few words of Quechua help locals to understand that you care about, and value, their culture, and traditions. More importantly, you bring great value to yourself and your experiences. By simply learning a few simple words and phrases, it's inevitable that you'll get a unique feel for the Andean cultural context. For example, the Quechua language is full of onomatopoeia, words and phrases that sound like that which they refer to. By simply letting yourself feel how words move off of your tongue, you'll develop a more profound relationship with the Andean lifestyle.
The best way to start picking up common Quechua words and phrases is by cruising the streets, and asking locals how to say phrases or words in Quechua. When people realize your genuine interest in learning about their native language, they will be very likely to want to help you out in any way that they can. The best place to go in order to start learning phrases and practicing them is in the local market.
Ground yourself in Cusco and take some classes
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If you search through facebook message boards dedicated to the Cusco area, it won't be too hard for you to connect with a Quechua professor. Private classes do not cost very much. If you are looking for a recommendation for a great professor to start your work, please feel free to contact me, and I'll be happy to help.
Another great way to start Quechua classes is by grounding yourself in Cusco for an amount of time and taking classes from an institute. There are many institutes that teach the language, but one of the best is through the Casa de Bartolome de Las Casas.
Move in with an indigenous Quechua speaking family
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If you have more time to spend in Peru, this is a great option. There are many possibilities to live with and connect with local indigenous Andean families if you travel outside of Cusco, and into the Sacred Valley. If you are looking for a place where you can live alongside otherworldly travelers, while also connecting with a family who is very open to helping you learn Quechua, you can't go wrong by staying at this article that I wrote about Casa Camacho.
Go to a bookstore and get a Quechua bi-lingual dictionary and a language book. Or get online and watch some Youtube videos
Though this is a less engaged method for learning the language, there is a wealth of information available online about the Quechua language. A great place to start is to watch this video, which goes in-depth in explaining fascinating details about the Quechua language: