An indigenous language family, Quechua, the mother tongue of the Incan empire is still spoken widely today in the Americas.
Quechua is a language steeped in illusion for me. The Inca civilization used this language, but with no true written form based on its origins, it could have been lost to time. The only thing that could potentially be considered a written form of language for the Incas were the ornate quipus, or, the woven threads that expressed economic issues or important messages for rulers. Luckily this language has remained relatively untouched despite the damage the Spanish Conquistadors had caused not only on the words themselves but the Incan culture as well. The Spanish introduced many themes that the Incan population was sometimes forced to adopt, but overall, Quechua has stayed relatively original. Some words and phrases were adopted from the Spanish language as the decades progressed, but with some secluded tribes, these influences are nowhere to be found.
Why you may ask, is Quechua so important?
Throughout South America, 11 million people still speak Quechua, some only using that as their sole means of communication amongst themselves, as well as the outside world. For tourists, this may mean adding a few new phrases to their terminology. If you plan to hike, travel down the Amazon, or visit remote locations, you will more than likely run into these people in the form of guides, porters, or chefs. Outside of America, the general consensus seems to lean towards additional respect if you attempt to learn and speak the local language. You can also give yourself a pat on the back for doing something to better yourself.[caption id="attachment_143761" align="alignnone" width="624"] The spine of the Andes (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)[/caption]My first dive into Quechua has proven difficult. Quechua is like no other language save for the few added Spanish familiarities, but then again, there are multiple variations because of how segregated some sects are. In some areas of Peru, they may end up using a more original form, while in others, it could be highly influenced by Spanish. All forms of Quechua were not created equal, because you may get strange looks if you use the wrong variation.
Travel down into remote areas of the Amazon, and you will find a whole new world set out before you.
On a more personal note, keeping old languages alive can be highly important culturally. Applications like Duolingo are at the forefront of language learning software, as languages such as Irish (Gaelic) are seeing new life in a way they haven’t before. Breathing new life into any culture can be important to the world as a whole, as keeping a link to the past can be helpful in understanding it, as well as better preparing for the future. Keep part of the spirit of the Incas alive, take the time to study Quechua. You may end up using it at some point when you visit Peru.