a village child's first words are in either the Mopan or Q´eqchi´
language. The first time many middle-aged Maya and most village
elders heard English was their first day of school.
While today most Mayan youths have heard the English language prior
to their school years, that doesn't guarantee that they either understand
it or speak it themselves. What they are comfortable speaking is
either Mopan or Q´eqchi´.
The Mopan and
Q´eqchi´ languages are distinct. Few Mayans speak both
languages, but those that do assist by translating when necessary
and thereby bridging the communication gap.
The languages of the Mopan and Q´eqchi´ Maya have traditionally
been spoken and not written.
in Mopan Maya
beginning in the late 1960s, translations of Bible passages, followed
by complete translations of the New Testament in the late 1970s and
early 1980s, were made available to villagers through their places
of worship. Villagers who were interested in learning to read their
own language primarily did so through the efforts of religious groups.
Villagers, however, still speak their languages more frequently than
they read and write them
Academy of Mayan Languages
The Mopan and Q´eqchi´
languages benefited greatly from the development of the Academy of
Mayan Languages (Academia de las Lenguas Mayas) located in Guatemala.
Through the efforts of this institution, all 23 existing Mayan languages
were studied. The results included standardization of the written
languages and translations of Maya folklore. As a result of the institute's
work, corrections were made to prior translations. In fact, a new
alphabet was developed for the Q´eqchi´ language.